Five days removed from very nearly splitting its series with Maryland, Penn State returned home in hopes of better fortune against a stalwart opponent.
However, playing No. 19 Michigan, the Nittany Lions could not find victory Friday night, falling 7-1 to the Wolverines.
The blue and white got off to a solid start, with Chelsea Bisi recording a single to advance pinch runner Shelli Rivard to second, but both were stranded after a pair of strikeouts from Michigan’s Meghan Beaubien.
Following a scoreless second inning that featured both offenses going down in order, Michigan scored the game’s first runs in the third when a double from Lou Allan batted in two. After reaching third base, Allan came across on another double to give the Wolverines a 3-0 lead.
Michigan kept the pressure on by loading the bases in the fourth frame, but the Nittany Lions’ defense held their own to strand all three runners.
Maggie Finnegan would reach on a walk in the latter half of that inning, but Penn State’s offense was held at bay to stay down by three.
Although pitcher Bailey Parshall and the Nittany Lions’ defense retired Michigan in order for the second time in the fifth, the same fate was suffered by the offense to keep the score as it was. This result would be repeated by both offenses in the sixth.
In the seventh and final frame, Michigan would increase the gap, with four straight hits to put three batters across and give the Wolverines a 6-0 lead. Logan Black then entered the circle for Parshall, but Michigan put one more across before the third out to increase its lead to seven.
Melody Coombs then allowed the Penn State offense to end on a high note, recording her third home run of the season to give the Nittany Lions a single run. Another hit came from Michelle Leone, but the third out came to end the game in a 7-1 defeat of coach Clarisa Crowell’s Lions.
Up and down day for Penn State defense
Entering the game leading the Big Ten with a combined batting average of .299, Michigan certainly seemed to be an intimidating challenge to stop.
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By the game’s end, that appeared to be the case, with the Wolverines recording eight hits en route to their seven runs.
The Nittany Lions’ defense did not struggle mightily, with all seven runs coming from two innings. Parshall recorded five strikeouts, and six Michigan runners were left on base.
The Lions also retired the Wolverines in order on three occasions.
With the defense having contributed to some of Penn State’s more successful outings, it certainly can give the team a chance heading into the weekend’s other three affairs.
Offense struggles to find momentum
One game after recording seven hits against Maryland, the Nittany Lions’ bats were not quite as efficient Friday, tallying three total hits throughout the game.
This could be attributed to Beaubien’s presence in the circle, who entered the game third in the Big Ten with a 1.41 ERA. Playing six innings, she struck out 10 Nittany Lions.
The Nittany Lions still find themselves in search of a way to consistently score runs after putting up six in total last weekend across four games.
Getting runners on base against Michigan is statistically a greater challenge for the blue and white than against most squads, but the Nittany Lions have three games remaining to erase the memory of Friday afternoon.
Greater challenge around the corner
Beaubien is not the only Michigan pitcher Penn State will have to worry about this weekend.
Alex Storako is also among the Wolverines’ best and is leading the Big Ten with an ERA of just 0.49 across 100 innings pitched.
She also has 177 strikeouts this season, a whopping 53 more than the next closest pitcher in the conference.
Heading into the weekend, it appears Penn State will need to use any and all of its offensive firepower to go toe-to-toe with Storako.
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