After losing its first two games to open the season, Penn State came up short once again Saturday night.
On their second day at Sleepy Hollow Sports Complex in Leesburg, Florida, the Nittany Lions played a doubleheader again, this time against Purdue, with the games ending with scores of 6-5 and 3-0, respectively, in favor of the Boilermakers.
The first game started relatively quietly, with no runs from either team until the bottom of the third when Purdue batted in one run. The Lions proceeded to minimize the damage to enter the fourth down 1-0.
That’s when the offense started to heat up for the blue and white, with Dani Fey and Lilia Crouthamel recording hits. But both outfielders were ultimately stranded.
The Boilermakers added another run in the fourth, and followed it up one inning later when Cora Bassett notched a three-run home run to increase their lead to 5-0.
But then momentum started wearing a blue helmet.
The Lions thundered back in the sixth, with sophomore Kaitlyn Morrison recording a hit, stealing two bases, and being batted in by Kennedy Legg. Freshman Amanda Mack also reached base, having been walked in her first collegiate at-bat.
Crouthamel batted in two more runs with the bases loaded, cutting Purdue’s lead to 5-3 before any out in that inning.
Michelle Leone later recorded a single to load the bases again before Kathryn Rex batted in two more to tie the game at five.
Despite the surge, the comeback ultimately came up short, as Purdue scored the necessary run in the bottom of the seventh to take the first game 6-5.
The second game began similarly to the first, only it took until the fourth inning for there to be a score, with Purdue batting in two runs to go up 2-0.
The score would remain that way until the top of the seventh despite five hits from the Nittany Lions, with the Boilermakers adding one run more to increase their lead to 3-0.
Penn State did not respond, and the game ended at that score, with the blue and white falling to 0-4 on the season.
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In its first game action in 352 days, Penn State could not find the path to victory.
Hitting improvements present
After putting up two runs in as many games against Wisconsin, Penn State’s offense showed up in a big way in the first game.
Despite only scoring in that game’s sixth inning, the Nittany Lions recorded eight hits throughout the game, one more than the seven in the two games against Wisconsin.
Crouthamel recorded two hits in the first game and one in the second, bringing her total to four in as many games, enough to lead the team thus far.
The junior left fielder has made a jump since last season, with her four hits already equaling her 2020 mark in the category.
Legg recorded her second hit, while Fey, Liana Jones, Melina Livingston, Leone, Kaitlyn Morrison and Rex added their firsts of the season.
Despite the shutout in the second game, five hits there brought the total on the night to 13, a definite improvement from the night before.
Solid Debuts From familiar suspects
Despite the losses, Saturday night saw some more solid debuts from returning Lions.
Morrison was among them, recording two hits and two stolen bases. Morrison led the team in hits in 2020 with 23.
Logan Black debuted nicely in the circle, retiring all three batters she faced in consecutive order in the fifth inning. As a senior, this is Black’s second season with the Nittany Lions, having spent two seasons with Creighton.
Fey recorded two hits, and also scored one of the five runs of the first game.
Rex also delivered two hits and as many runs batted in.
Tough challenge ahead
At 0-4 and with 17 runs allowed, the Nittany Lions now will look to Sunday’s doubleheader against Northwestern to nab their first victory of the season.
The Wildcats appear to be a strong opponent, as they have an inverted record and have scored 28 runs across their games.
Penn State has shown its mettle thus far, but to land in the win column for the first time in 2021, much of the positives will have to come together on Sunday.
The hitting potential appears to be there, and with Saturday’s showing being better than Friday’s, the Lions will aim to ride the improvement into a third day.
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