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Penn State Softball Avoids Sweep Against Illinois

Penn State softball (8-39, 4-16 Big Ten) dropped both in a Saturday doubleheader to Illinois (33-16, 11-7 Big Ten), but found a way to snap its 11-game losing streak in an extra-innings battle against the Illini on Sunday.

The Nittany Lions lacked the pitching to keep up with Illinois’ aggressive offense in the opening two games. Senior Jessica Cummings changed that to help Penn State grab the third game — pitching five clean innings in relief down the stretch before hit Tori Dubois a walk-off home run in the ninth inning.

How It Happened

Game One

The series opened Friday night, but only made it through an inning and a half before a lightning delay. The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks to a Paige Johnson home run before the game was pushed to Saturday.

Madison Shaffer came on for relief for Jessica Cummings in the fifth and had a 4-2 lead in the sixth. She would give up a run and load the bases before Cummings returned to close out the game.

The Illini blew the game wide open at that point — scoring seven runs in total during the sixth and taking on another in the seventh to win 10-4.

Game Two

Despite a record crowd for the doubleheader at Nittany Lion Softball Park, the Illini jumped out to an early lead once again with a Kiana Sherlund solo home run in the first inning and four runs off one hit and a couple walks/hit-by-pitches in the second.

Illinois had an offensive showing against the Nittany Lions’ pitching combination of Ashton Mensinger, Madison Shaffer, and Jessica Cummings — putting up a total of 11 runs and 10 hits. Penn State couldn’t keep up, registering runs off a Paige Johnson two-run homer and a Gianna Arrizurieta two-run double, but never really staying in the game during its 11-4 loss.

Game Three

Penn State and Illinois went through four innings tied 3-3 thanks to an RBI triple from Meghan Williams and a couple errors from the Illini.

Jessica Cummings entered the game in relief for starter Madison Shaffer in the fifth inning, and the senior was the game changer for the Nittany Lions in her final game at Beard Field.

She pitched five straight scoreless innings — giving up just two hits — and setting up top slugger Tori Dubois for a walk-off solo home run in the ninth inning to close out the series with a 4-3 win.

Player of the Series

Jessica Cummings | Pitcher | Senior

It hasn’t been an easy season by any stretch for Cummings, but she closed out her Penn State career with a solid performance to set the Nittany Lions up to win on Senior Day.

What’s Next

The win gives the Nittany Lions a little more hope they can reach the conference tournament than they would’ve had heading to face two-time defending Big Ten Champions Minnesota (32-14, 15-3 Big Ten) next weekend.  The final regular season series begins Friday at 7 p.m., with games Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Penn State needs at least one win to grab the final Big Ten Tournament spot. With a win, it would clinch if Iowa sweeps Purdue and Rutgers doesn’t sweep Indiana.

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About the Author

Steve Connelly

Unfortunately, former editor Steve Connelly has graduated. Where is he now? He might be doing something related to that PR degree he got in 2019. Maybe he finally opened that sports bar named after one of his photos, the Blurry Zamboni. Or he might just be eating chicken tenders and couch surfing. Anything’s possible. If you really want to know, follow him on Twitter @slc2o.

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