Penn State (23-33, 8-15 Big Ten) couldn’t make a repeat trip to the Big Ten semifinals as Breanna Wonderly and Illinois dispersed Nittany Lion batter after batter in a 3-0 result.
The Illini (37-17, 14-8 Big Ten) rode a first inning lead through the seven innings to earn a spot in the Big Ten semifinals Saturday against top-seeded Minnesota.
How It Happened
Penn State started strong with lead-off hitter Rebecca Ziegler singling and a fortuitous shank on Toni Polk’s bunt putting a pair of runners aboard in the first inning. Tori Dubois’ sacrifice moved them into scoring position, but neither Shelby Miller nor Kristina Brackpool, who had the bases loaded after Delaney Elling walked, could put a run across the board.
The Illini, on the other hand, used a lead-off single, a triple, and a suicide squeeze to go up 2-0 after the first inning.
That’s all the Illinois would need as senior ace Wonderly was lights out through the next six innings — letting just one more runner aboard while retiring the side five times.
In her final game, the all-time Penn State leader for appearances in the circle Marlaina Laubach stood strong — giving up just four hits and retiring the side three times. Illinois tacked on an insurance run in the fifth off of a lead-off error and a single to score the runner. Miller made a crucial double play at third base to close out the inning and keep the Nittany Lions in striking distance.
— Penn State Softball (@PennStateSB) May 12, 2017
The Penn State bats just couldn’t break down Wonderly, with Toni Polk recording the only hit outside of the first inning in the eventual 3-0 defeat.
Player Of The Game
Breanna Wonderly | Pitcher | Senior
Wonderly was untouchable after getting out of a first inning jam. The Illini star gave up just three hits in her complete game shutout.
That’ll do it for Penn State’s 2017 season. The Nittany Lions graduate six seniors, four of who were starters on Friday — Laubach, Miller, Brackpool, and Jessica Haug — while all played some role this year. Junior infielder Mollie Sorenson is also not returning.
However, the team does bring back its top three hitters, as well as a slew of pitchers that each shined during different potions of 2017.