Penn State (29-23, 14-9 Big Ten) hosted Illinois in its final regular season series. The Fighting Illini (34-20, 12-11 Big Ten) started to find their stride late in the Big Ten season, winning their last three Big Ten series. The Nittany Lions couldn’t slow down the surging Illinois team, losing in two of the three games over the weekend.
How It Happened
The opening game of the series was postponed until Saturday. Once the matchup finally got underway, both pitchers showcased their prowess in the circle. Pitchers Marlaina Laubach and Breanna Wonderly gave up just three hits each through the first three innings of play, leaving each team scoreless.
Penn State finally broke through in the fourth inning after three consecutive singles enabled Macy Jones to hit a sacrifice fly to put the Nittany Lions in the lead. Illinois answered back in the top of the fifth with a pair of extra-base hits allowing the Fighting Illini to score two runs. The one-run lead was enough for Wonderly, who shut down the Nittany Lions in the final three innings to hold on for a 2-1 Illinois win.
Macy Jones hit a lead-off home run to start the second game of the Saturday doubleheader, but the rest of the game played out much like the opener with the pitchers in control. Wonderly came back out to the circle to pitch again, but Penn State replaced Laubach with Madison Seifert, who might have had her best game of the season.
Illinois tied the game in the third inning off of a sacrifice fly. Penn State retook the lead after Kristina Brackpool hit a two-run shot over the wall in the fourth inning. The Nittany Lions added to their lead in the fifth inning as Alyssa VanDerveer singled to center field, scoring Jones. Seifert pitched the complete game, giving up just one run off three hits to give Penn State a 4-1 win.
Penn State and Illinois wrapped up the series on Sunday. Penn State continued the trend of struggling to put runs on the board, but Illinois managed to take care of things on the offensive end. A number of hits and a pair of home runs gave Illinois a 5-0 lead after two innings.
Illinois settled down after the first two innings, but Penn State never managed to get going, tallying just three hits in the third game. After three-straight scoreless innings, Illinois put up another big inning in the sixth. The Fighting Illini scored four runs to go up 9-0, which was enough to trigger the mercy rule after they shut down the Penn State offense one last time.
Player Of The Series
Kristina Brackpool | Junior | First Base
Brackpool batted .375 over the weekend against a pair of Illinois pitchers that kept Penn State batters in check throughout the series. The junior first baseman also hit a crucial two-run home run in the second game to help the Nittany Lions edge past the Fighting Illini for the win.
Penn State will host the Big Ten Tournament next weekend. With the win on Saturday, the Nittany Lions secured the No. 4 seed and a bye to the quarterfinals. On Friday at 5:30 p.m. on BTN, Penn State will play the winner of Thursday’s Nebraska-Purdue game.