Penn State looked to avoid a dozen straight losses to start the season Sunday.
Already dropping two games to Illinois this weekend, the Nittany Lions were looking to salvage the last game — but ultimately fell victim to the Illini again, this time 8-0.
Now riding a 12-game losing streak, the blue and white is in its worst form since the 2014 season — when it also tabbed a dozen straight losses by the end of the season.
Michelle Leone kicked off the game with a base hit to center but was left stranded as Illinois’ defense got the outs it needed.
Penn State had Vanessa Oatley on the mound, who has been arguably one of the squad’s most successful pitchers in the circle this year.
In the bottom of the first, Illinois’ Kailee Powell tripled and was later brought home on a sacrifice fly by teammate Bella Loya to make the score 1-0.
Dani Fey kicked off the top of the second for coach Clarisa Crowell’s team with a base hit, but nothing came of it, as the senior was thrown out trying to steal second base.
Leone walked with two outs in the third but was left stranded as Lilia Coruthamel struck out looking.
Penn State went down in order in the top of the fourth and, after a single started the bottom of the fourth for Illinois, Kylee Lingenfelter came in to relieve Oatley.
The junior got through the inning with the help of her defense. The runner was able to advance on a fielder’s choice and a single to right field looked like it might mean another run for the Illini until right fielder Maggie Finnegan gunned the runner down at home plate.
Illinois had runners at the corners with two outs in the bottom of the fifth after a pair of hit-by-pitches. Bella Loya delivered again with a single up the middle to give the Illini a 2-0 lead.
Bailey Parshall was brought in to keep the inning from getting worse but an error allowed another run to score making it 3-0. Another single kept the momentum on Illinois’ side and made it 4-0.
The next batter for Illinois doubled, which brought home another two runs to really blow this game open at 6-0. Another single into left tacked on one more as the inning then came to an end with the Illini having a 7-0 advantage.
Struggle to get runners in scoring position
For the first four innings of the game, Penn State couldn’t get a baserunner past first base and failed to string hits together.
Leone, a sophomore, got to first base three times with a base hit, a walk and an error but couldn’t advance any further either time.
The Nittany Lions could not get into a rhythm offensively as the team’s attempts to tie the game came up empty.
Nothing came of Penn State’s first runner in scoring position in the top of the fifth as it came with two outs and the subsequent batter was retired soon after.
A combined effort in the circle
Penn State made use of four of its main pitchers Sunday as Oatley started the game, and Lingenfelter, Parshall and Logan Black all saw time.
Oatley pitched three innings and allowed one earned run on four hits with a strikeout and no walks.
Lingenfelter pitched one and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs on two hits.
Parshall wasn’t given a warm welcome after relieving Lingenfelter, as the junior allowed three runs of her own on three hits including a two-run double.
That was all for Parshall, and Black came in to relieve her in the bottom of the sixth.
Black’s first inning didn’t go particularly well, as she allowed a two-RBI triple that ultimately brought the game to an end in the sixth inning as Illinois jumped ahead 8-0.
Time to regroup and retool
Leesburg, Florida, has not been kind nor forgiving to the Nittany Lions this season.
After dropping all 12 of its games in the Sunshine State, Crowell’s team will have nearly two weeks off to work out the kinks before it heads to Lincoln, Nebraska, on the 26th.
For Penn State, it all starts with the hitting after only mustering a run or less in five of the team’s six games over the weekend.
Stringing consecutive hits together or taking advantage of defensive mistakes is vital if Penn State wants to put this ugly start behind it.
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