Penn State Softball Swept At Nebraska
Penn State (16-25, 4-10 Big Ten) dropped even further below .500 over the weekend as Nebraska (19-22, 9-5 Big Ten) took all three games behind solid pitching performances from go-to starter Kaylan Jablonski.
The series served as Penn State coach Amanda Lehotak’s homecoming to Nebraska and the Nittany Lions had a chance to take the series, but they lost two late leads and struggled with infield errors in the sweep.
How It Happened
The Penn State bats struggled in Friday night’s opener. Nebraska starting pitcher Kaylan Jablonski retired the first 10 batters she faced, but the Nittany Lions found a bit of a groove from the fourth to the sixth inning. Putting runners in scoring position in each of the three innings, Penn State struck first with a suicide squeeze in the fifth to bring home Kristina Brackpool and make it 1-0.
Penn State senior Marlaina Laubach pitched a game worthy of a win, but infield miscues stifled her efforts. A bobbled grounder from Toni Polk, her second error of the game, allowed a runner on third, who was knocked in on an MJ Knighten sacrifice fly to tie it 1-1 in the fifth.
After Laubach made it through the sixth and seventh unscathed, Austen Urness hit a walk-off home run for her fourth hit in four at-bats to win it for the Cornhuskers 2-1 in extra innings.
Penn State returned for game two on Saturday, and had similar successes in the pitching circle through the first few innings. Madison Seifert got the start and held off the Cornhuskers through six innings, while the Nittany Lions built up a 4-0 lead off an inside the park home run from Tori Dubois, two RBIs from Brackpool, and an error that allowed another run to score.
A single, error, and walk loaded the bases for Nebraska, and it would score its first run of the game on another error. Laubach came in for Seifert, but she couldn’t stop the rally. With three errors in the inning, the Cornhuskers needed just two hits in the inning to take the game — winning on a walk-off error 5-4.
The Cornhuskers took no time in the final game of the series to jump on freshman pitcher Madey Smith. She made it through just one inning of work for her second-straight start as Nebraska used a pair of hits, an error, and a walk to take a 3-0 lead after the first. Laubach came on to pitch in the second, and didn’t concede a run through the next three innings.
Penn State finally got on the board in the fifth with a Dubois single to make it 3-1, but Nebraska struck back in the bottom of the inning. After an RBI double from Jablonski, the Cornhuskers tacked on another two runs on a fielding error from Polk. Albeit the play was much more difficult than some other recent errors, it’s still goes down as her eighth error in the last six games.
Dubois capped off a strong weekend with another home run in the seventh, this time over the wall to score three runs, but that’s as close as Penn State could get in the 6-4 loss.
A couple players stood out in the series, between Jablonksi pitching two complete-game wins for Nebraska or Dubois going 5-10 with two home runs and five RBIs for Penn State.
The thing that had the biggest impact on the series, however, was errors. The Nittany Lions racked up eight errors in the three games. In each of the series’ tight games, an error allowed either the game-tying or game-winning run to score.
Penn State is back at home for a doubleheader against Bucknell on Wednesday starting at 5 p.m. on BTN Plus.