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Penn State Softball Defeats Indiana 5-2

Penn State softball (23-6, 3-0 Big Ten) completed its sweep of Indiana (22-9, 0-3 Big Ten) 5-2 Sunday afternoon.

Haylie Brunson reached base three times and Michela Barbanente smacked her first career home run in the win.

How It Happened

After walking the leadoff batter to begin the top half of the first inning, Paige Maynard settled in to retire the next three batters she faced. In the bottom half of the inning, Emily Maddock hit a dribbler back to the mound and reached base on a throwing error by Sophie Kleiman. This was all the Nittany Lions were able to muster, however, as Maddock was stranded.

Sarah Stone provided the only offense of the inning for the Hoosiers as she hit a rocket to left field for a single. The base hit was followed by two weak groundouts, allowing Penn State to limit any damage and keep the game scoreless.

Brunson led off the Penn State half of the inning by drawing a four-pitch walk, taking a few close pitches, and not chasing anything out of the zone. After a flyout to left by Liana Jones, Gianna Poletti hit a weak grounder to third that was nearly turned for a double play, but Poletti just beat the throw to first. A single by Jiselle Hernandez had Barbanente come up to the plate with runners on first and second where she grounded out to first base to end the inning.

Maynard retired Brooke Benson with a weak groundout to third base for the first out in the top of the third inning as she continued to cruise through the Indiana lineup. Facing a 1-1 count, Cora Bassett smoked a fastball from Maynard and deposited it over the left field fence to give Indiana the opening run and a 1-0 lead. After giving up the home run, Maynard settled down and retired the next two batters to end the Indiana half of the inning.

With Penn State searching to immediately answer, Kaitlyn Morrison led off the bottom half of the third inning with a line drive double down the left field line. With a runner on second and no outs, Emily Maddock laid down a sacrifice bunt to get Morrison one base away from tying the game. Gabby Garcia delivered the game-tying RBI as she fouled out just behind third base, and Morrison rushed home. Continuing the Nittany Lions’ burst of offense, Maddie Gordon smacked a double into the left-field gap that chased Kleiman from the game.

Coming into the game with a runner already in scoring position, Copeland walked Brunson, giving Penn State runners on first and second. Jones took advantage of the scoring opportunity and drove Gordon home on a scorching single to center, putting the Nittany Lions ahead 2-1. Indiana escaped the inning without further damage as Copeland struck out Poletti on an offspeed pitch.

Having thrown seven innings in the first game of this series, Maynard was pulled from the game after just three innings and replaced by Mady Volpe. After recording the first out, Volpe allowed the next two batters to reach base. With runners on first and second, Chloe Geijer nearly hit a three-run home run, but thankfully for Penn State, the ball hit the 230-foot sign just under the top of the fence. Aly VanBrandt attempted to score but was caught in a rundown between home plate and third base, where Maddock tagged her out.

With runners still on base and two outs, Volpe got a fastball by Alex Cooper for the strikeout to escape the inning. As she walked off of the field, Volpe let out a scream of celebration.

Penn State continued to expand on its lead in the bottom of the fourth inning as Barbanente hit a line drive just over the left field fence for a solo home run to give the Nittany Lions a 3-1 lead.

Bridget Nemeth was called on to replace Volpe, and she didn’t disappoint, retiring the Hoosiers in order in the top half of the fifth inning.

In the bottom half of the fifth inning, the Nittany Lions offense continued to hum as Gordon reached on a fielder’s choice and Brunson was hit by a pitch. With two runners on, Copeland threw a wild pitch that allowed the runners to advance to second and third base. Now with both runners in scoring position, Jones worked a walk to load the bases with just one out. Needing some magic to work out of trouble, Copeland struck out Audree Mendoza for the second out of the inning and forced Hernandez to fly out to left field for the third out, exiting the inning without allowing a run

It was more of the same for Nemeth in her second inning of work, once again sitting Indiana down in order. The right-hander made a nice defensive play on a comebacker for the final out of the inning.

Barbanente continued her outstanding game by drawing a walk to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning. Unfortunately, she was thrown out by catcher Avery Parker as she attempted to steal second base. With no runners on, Morrison lined a double off of the left-field wall, giving the Nittany Lions another opportunity to expand their lead. Maddock nearly got a ball through the infield to score Morrison, but Cooper made a fantastic diving stop to keep her at third base as Maddock reached on the infield hit.

Penn State finally scored a coveted insurance run on the next batter as Garcia singled to right, scoring Morrison to put the Nittany Lions ahead 4-1. After Maddock advanced to third, she was driven in by a Gordon groundout, expanding the lead to 5-1. Now pitching, Cooper recorded the final out of the inning as Indiana aimed to rally.

Beginning her third inning of work and trying to secure the series sweep for Penn State, Nemeth forced a quick first out of the inning. Looking to spark a rally, Casey Kettleman laid down a bunt and beat the throw from Nemeth to reach base, where she advanced to second on a passed ball during the next at-bat.

Nemeth forced Benson to fly out to right field, and the Hoosiers were down to their final out. The right-hander forced a ground ball, but Hernandez couldn’t come up with the ball, and it snuck into left field, scoring Kettleman and cutting the Penn State lead to 5-2. VanBrandt made a nice diving play to record the final out, securing the three-game sweep.

Takeaways

  • Pitching was the story of today’s game for the Nittany Lions as they only allowed two runs on six hits. Despite only striking out one batter as a staff, the Penn State pitchers only allowed soft contact to keep Indiana from gathering any momentum on offense.
  • Penn State left some runs on the board as they left 10 runners on base. As the Nittany Lions move into conference play, leaving runners on at this clip cannot become a habit.
  • Brunson played an impressive game as she reached base three times in Sunday’s game, walking twice and recording a base hit in the sixth inning.

What’s Next?

Penn State will face Bucknell for Throwback Tuesday at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, March 26, at Nittany Lion Softball Park. The game will be streamed on BTN+.

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About the Author

Dennis Wilkins

Dennis is a third-year journalism major from Brick, New Jersey. He has a love-hate relationship with every team he roots for, especially the New York Giants. When he's not watching Jack Hughes highlights, he can be found playing golf or listening to music. Direct all complaints to him via email ([email protected]) or on Twitter (@denniswilkins27).

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