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Bullpen’s Success Fuels Penn State Softball’s Recent Surge

After sweeping Purdue this weekend and climbing above .500 in conference play, Penn State softball is starting to show that it’s a team to watch this season.

Led at the plate by Cassie Lindmark and Big Ten Player of the Week Ally Kurland, the Nittany Lions now own the fifth-most wins in the Big Ten and sit in fifth place in the conference standings. However, the team’s success in the bullpen is more of a cause for celebration than its offense, which scored 26 runs in three games against Purdue. Rather, it’s the pitching that allowed only five runs against the Boilermakers, largely thanks to the success of Kylee Lingenfelter.

Despite being the only Nittany Lion pitcher with a losing record in the circle so far this season, Lingenfelter is bouncing back in a big way. Even with a rough patch early in the season, Lingenfelter has bounced well for the Nittany Lions as they entered Big Ten play. Since her now-4.24 ERA peaked in a March 11 loss to Delaware, Lingenfelter has consistently lowered it every game. In total, she’s seen a .77 ERA drop in just under one month.

Lingenfelter’s success is best noted by her seven-inning win over Purdue on Saturday in which she allowed just four hits and one run. It was her first seven-inning game since a performance against Cleveland State earlier in the season, and it’s a good sign that she’s playing her best softball right now.

Head coach Clarisa Crowell put it simply this week: “She’s very efficient.”

Lingenfelter’s status was unsure for the weekend after getting banged up in practice the week prior. All the same, she was able to throw a full game.

“She’s a tough kid,” said Crowell. “She came back and was gritty and she just did a great job.”

In front of Lingenfelter stands the trusty Bailey Parshall, who has a remarkable 13-4 record in the 2022 season. Parshall’s 1.43 ERA is shutting down opponents, often giving Penn State some close margin victories. Clearly Crowell’s favorite pitcher, Parshall has earned that spot by allowing just 82 hits against 132 strikeouts so far in 2022.

The two pitchers behind Lingenfelter and Parshall also deserve some credit. Vanessa Oatley and Lydia Spalding both have winning records, and the former came in to bail out Parshall when Penn State needed a quick fix. Spalding, a freshman, serves as a hint of what Penn State’s bullpen could look like when Parshall and Lingenfelter, both seniors, depart soon. Penn State certainly seems comfortable with its deep rotation, and it should be.

Both reserve pitchers have ERAs under 1.50, and while they’ve pitched fewer than 40 combined innings, they’ve proved to be comfortable backups. Across the board, Crowell says that the team feels lucky to have such depth at its disposal.

The Nittany Lions’ bullpen depth was put to the test in Sunday’s matchup against Purdue when Parshall allowed three runs early on. Crowell brought in Oatley to hold down the fort, and the Nittany Lions went on to force a mercy-rule win in the fifth inning.

For Crowell, putting Oatley in the circle wasn’t as much about Parshall’s struggles as it was about the alternative style that Oatley offers.

“They saw Bailey a lot,” she said. “I wanted to give them a different look, and it’s as simple as that. Vanessa throws a little different than Bailey.”

Crowell isn’t the only one noticing the pitching staff, especially following the Nittany Lions’ first Big Ten sweep since 2016. Penn State’s hitters are certainly feeling good when the pressure’s off while the team isn’t playing from behind.

“The pitchers allowed us to have a great day and get back out there on offense, Kurland said after the Nittany Lions’ wins on Saturday.

There is still plenty of the season left for Crowell and her team — five remaining series, in addition to a few mid-week matchups — but Penn State softball looks confident. If the pitching staff continues to keep the Nittany Lions in games, Penn State could put a run together for the first time in a long time.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a freshman journalism major at Penn State. He enjoys yelling into the void over things such as the Philadelphia Union, the United States Men's Nation Team (soccer), Eagles, and Penn State football, alongside whatever else comes to mind. Find (and disagree with him) on Twitter (Joe_Lister21).

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