Nittany Lions Outmatched, Fall 4-2 to Wolverines
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- On a night without much offense for most of the game, there was a sense of finality as Michigan center fielder Sierra Lawrence blasted a two-run home run over the left field wall off the base of the scoreboard in the top of the seventh inning to give the Wolverines a 3-1 lead.
No. 2 Michigan (39-4, 16-2 Big Ten) would stave off a Penn State rally in the bottom of the inning to win 4-2, their 12th win in a row and 17th in the last 18 games. The loss snaps a three-game winning streak for Penn State (28-19, 13-5 Big Ten) as they were able to amass only two hits on a dormant night at the plate.
Much of the futility at the plate for Penn State was due to a career night from Michigan pitcher Megan Betsa, only allowing three baserunners and striking out a season-high 16 batters en route to her 19th win and 14th complete game. Betsa struck out all nine Penn State hitters at least once, something that has not been done to the Nittany Lions all season.
“Michigan is number two in the country for a reason and a lot of that is because of Betsa,” said Penn State coach Amanda Lehotak postgame. “We weren’t surprised at the high amount of strikeouts, our kids are just so jacked up.”
Alyssa VanDerveer was the lone bright spot on offense for the Nittany Lions as her second-inning bomb over the left field foul pole gave Penn State the early 1-0 advantage. The Wolverines answered in the top of the third with an RBI double from Sierra Romero, scoring Lindsay Montemarano who had doubled earlier in the inning.
The game remained tied at 1 until the top half of the seventh, when Lawrence’s home run coupled with an RBI single from Kelsey Susalla put Michigan up for good.
Penn State valiantly battled in the bottom of the seventh, at one point putting runners at second and third with one out facing a two-run deficit. Betsa promptly ended the evening with back-to-back strikeouts of Erin Pond and Shannon Good to seal the victory.
Not to be forgotten was the complete game from Marlaina Laubach, yielding eight hits and four runs, but she simply ran out of gas at the end against the powerful Michigan lineup. Nonetheless, Lehotak was still proud of the way her pitcher fought.
“Being a junior, in the past she kind of pitched around them, this was the first time she was like ‘I’m going after them’, and for her to be able to do that really set the pace and fed the team with confidence.
The Nittany Lions are certainly trending in the right direction in the Big Ten, and this performance was a certain indication of the growth of this team. Penn State was shellacked for 16 runs in five innings their last time out against Michigan in 2015, but they showed a lot of heart to keep this one close.
“We still don’t feel overly respected in the Big Ten, we just wanted to show from day one that we can play with them,” said Lehotak. “For us to strike early really sent that message that we are here to play.”
Penn State will get a chance to earn some of that respect Saturday in game two as first pitch from Beard Field is set for 1 p.m.
Tom Shively is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @t_shives.
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