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Penn State Softball Escapes Saint Francis 3-2 In Extra Innings

Penn State softball (33-12, 11-6 Big Ten) defeated Saint Francis (31-12, 18-0 Northeast Conference) 3-2 in nine innings at home Tuesday night.

Despite offensive struggles, the Nittany Lions went up 2-0 before seeing their lead slip late in the game. However, impressive pitching by freshman phenom Bridget Nemeth led the blue and white to the tight victory.

How It Happened

Nemeth got the start in the circle for Penn State, first throwing a ball to Kaylie Walters. Walters then grounded out to third, and one pitch later, Ashley Wruble grounded out to the shortstop Jiselle Hernandez.

After the two quick outs, Olivia Ulam sent the second pitch she saw deep into left field, where it hit off the top of the wall and stayed in play for a standup double. Nemeth left Ulam stranded by striking out Savannah Nash to end the top of the first inning.

Kaitlyn Morrison led off for the Nittany Lions and punched a 1-0 pitch to shortstop, where Walters made a diving catch for the first out. Liana Jones followed the highlight play by reaching on a four-pitch walk.

Maddie Gordon hit a pitch back up the middle at Saint Francis pitcher Grace Vesco, who turned and threw to second for a fielder’s choice out, while Gordon beat the attempted double play throw to first. Gaby Garcia then struck out swinging at a high fastball to bring the first inning to a close.

To begin the second, Lexi Hernandez flew out on a hard-hit ball to right field, where Gordon made an easy catch. On the fifth patch of the at-bat, Madelyn Wilson watched a fastball go by for a strikeout.

Rachel Marsden hit a slow roller to shortstop and outran Jiselle Hernandez’s throw to first base. However, Nemeth quickly got out of another inning with one runner on base, as she struck out Lauren Aubry in three pitches.

Haylie Brunson walked in four pitches to begin the bottom of the second inning, and Emily Maddock reached first on a bunt that no defender was able to field in time. With two on and nobody out, Jiselle Hernandez also laid down a bunt and beat the throw to first, bringing Brunson home and Maddock to third in the process.

After Maddock was tagged out at home and Jiselle Hernandez advanced to second, Vesco walked Gianna Poletti out of a full count. After battling back from down 0-2 in the count, Michela Barbanente struck out swinging for the second out, and Morrison did the same to end the inning with Penn State leading 1-0.

Ashley Orischak flew out to right field to open the third inning, but Walters got on base with a hard grounder up the middle. Wruble popped out to shallow center field, where Jones ran on to make the catch and Jiselle Hernandez ended the inning by fielding a ground ball and stepping on second.

Jones went down swinging, Gordon grounded out to the circle, and Vesco struck out Garcia to end a quick one-two-three inning.

In the top of the fourth, Nash grounded out to third before a Lexi Hernandez walk. Lexi Hernandez was thrown out at second on a fielder’s choice that allowed Wilson to reach first, and she caught the Penn State defense sleeping by stealing second before the play was dead. Then, Marsden hit a grounder to short, where Jiselle Hernandez mishandled the play, which Wilson recognized as she rounded third. However, Jiselle Hernandez gathered and threw to Garcia behind the plate, who tagged Wilson to escape trouble and end the inning.

Brunson walked in four pitches and advanced to second soon after through a Maddock bunt to start the bottom of the fourth. Nemeth stepped in as a pinch hitter, batting lefty, but grounded out to second while sending Brunson to third.

Poletti was also replaced by pinch hitter Brooke Klosowicz, who hit a high grounder in the shallow infield. Vesco made the short throw to first for the out, leaving Brunson stranded on base and keeping the score at 1-0 in favor of the Nittany Lions.

Aubry roped a pitch over the head of Nemeth into center field and Orischak was hit by her 23rd pitch of the season, the most in the nation, before Walters walked in four pitches to load the bases with no outs in the top of the fifth inning.

Nemeth worked her way back without allowing a run, forcing a Wruble flyout to right field and two swinging strikeouts of Ulam and Nash for three outs in a row. Barbanente struck out after chasing a pitch that was low and outside, but Morrison hit a one-out triple off the glove of Aubry in deep right field after a seven-pitch at-bat.

Jones put down a bunt and Morrison took off from third, beating the throw home to make the Penn State lead 2-0 as Jones advanced to second. Ulam made a diving stop of Garcia’s grounder and stepped on first for the final out of the fifth inning.

Lexi Hernandez singled up the middle on the second pitch she saw, but Wilson lined out to short and Jiselle Hernandez threw to first for a double play. Nemeth walked Marsden and Aubry in six pitches each before striking out Orischak for her sixth of the game to end the top half of the sixth.

It took just four pitches for Vesco to retire the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Brunson flew out to right and Maddock grounded out to third. Vesco walked Jiselle Hernandez in four pitches before a swinging strikeout of Poletti.

Still leading by two runs, Mady Volpe entered the game in relief of Nemeth in the top of the seventh inning. After seven pitches, Maddock fielded a ground ball by Walters and rifled it to first for the inning’s first out.

Volpe walked Wruble in four pitches but got her first strikeout when Ulam went down swinging. Nash then singled into the gap between third and short, getting runners on first and second with two outs.

Lexi Hernandez sent a ball deep off the left-field wall for a two-RBI double to tie the game at 2-2, sending the Saint Francis dugout into a frenzy. Wilson grounded out to end the inning, and the Red Flash entered the bottom of the seventh inning with a newfound energy.

Audree Mendoza pinch hit for Barbanente to open the frame, getting walked in four pitches before being replaced on base by Barbanente. Morrison bunted back up the middle and no play was made as she sprinted down the first-base line, advancing Barbanente to second.

Jones also put down a bunt and reached on an error by Orischak, loading the bases with nobody out. Gordon then stepped to the plate and hit a ground ball to third, where Jiselle Hernandez gathered and threw home to get Barbanente out as Gordon safely got to first.

The clean-up hitter Garcia struck out after swinging at three straight pitches, the last of which was in the dirt. Brunson grounded out to end the inning as Saint Francis strung together three outs in a row without letting up a game-winning run, despite having the bases loaded with no outs.

With an automatic runner starting on second base in extra innings, Nemeth reentered the game in the top of the eighth. The runner, Wilson, quickly advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Marsden. Aubry then flew out to center field, and Wilson elected not to tag up.

With two outs, Nemeth struck out Orischak with a called strike on the inside corner to end the inning. Lydia Spalding was placed on second base for Penn State, but she was thrown out at third on an attempted steal. Maddock then lined out to short and Jiselle Hernandez flew out to right for the third out.

Saint Francis began the ninth inning with Orischak on second and she got to third after a Walters bunt. Wruble and Ulam both grounded out to the left side of the infield, stranding Orischak on base heading into the bottom of the ninth.

Jiselle Hernandez was the automatic runner for the Nittany Lions, and they quickly had runners on the corners after she advanced to third and Poletti got to first with a successful bunt. Barbanente was dealt a strike for a delay of game, leading head coach Clarisa Crowell to yell at the umpires.

With the count at 3-1, the Red Flash had a long meeting in the circle to discuss an issue with the infield dirt. While several Penn State players danced with rally caps on, a couple members of the groundskeeping team walked onto the field with rakes in hand to fix the dirt.

On the first pitch after the delay, Vesco threw a pitch to Barbanente that bounced past Wilson, and Jiselle Hernandez raced home, safely sliding into home to win it for Penn State.

Takeaways

  • Nemeth worked her way out of trouble several times in this game, leaving multiple runners stranded on base at the end of multiple innings.
  • Penn State struggled to get its bats going, accumulating just three hits throughout the game.
  • The Nittany Lions battled through many issues off the field throughout the night, including controversial calls, issues with the field, and bad weather.

What’s Next?

Penn State will return to Beard Field for a weekend series against Michigan. The first game is at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 26, for the team’s “Wear White” game, which can be streamed on BTN+.

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About the Author

Michael Siroty

Michael Siroty is a freshman from Westfield, New Jersey, majoring in broadcast journalism. When he isn't writing articles or making TikToks for Onward State, Siroty is either taking a peaceful walk around Beaver Stadium or at his summer day camp job. You can contact him to discuss your sushi order or music taste on Instagram and Twitter @msiroty or by email at [email protected].

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