After enjoying an opening-round bye, Penn State (30-23) exploded for a five-run third inning Friday evening at Beard Field, as Amanda Lehotak’s Nittany Lions topped Nebraska 8-7 to secure a spot in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinals.
How It Happened
Junior Marlaina Laubach took the ball for No. 4 seed Penn State, surrendering only three hits and four runs over 4.2 innings of work in the Big Ten Quarterfinals. Laubach, Penn State’s ace arm in the circle, gave the Nittany Lions another masterful performance, as the Northampton, Pa., native picked up her 12th win of the season right on cue.
After giving up a first-inning run, Penn State’s bats came alive in the bottom of the third with a grand slam blast by sophomore catcher Alyssa VanDerveer to blow the game open. Third baseman Shelby Miller added a solo shot of her own with two outs to give the Nittany Lions a commanding 5-1 lead. No. 5 seed Nebraska (33-18) plated three runs in the top of the fifth, cutting into Penn State’s cushion when shortstop Alicia Armstrong was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and senior Mattie Fowler singled up the middle to score two more.
Freshman Maddie Seifert came on for Laubach with two outs in the top of the fifth and promptly got the Nittany Lions out of a difficult situation with bases loaded. Despite giving up three runs in the sixth, Seifert would steadily guide Penn State’s defense the rest of the way. The bottom third of Lehotak’s lineup responded with an emphatic three runs to answer Rhonda Revelle’s Cornhuskers, as Tori Dubois and Erin Pond delivered a two-run double and RBI single, respectively. Senior Macy Jones put together an impressive outing at the dish as well, finishing with a pair of singles.
Leadoff hitter Kiki Stokes gave Nebraska some last-minute hope in the sixth by ripping a three-run homer to right, making it 8-7 in favor of the Nittany Lions. Seifert retired Nebraska in order to close things out Friday evening and secure a Big Ten Semifinal appearance for the tournament hosts.
Player Of The Game
Alyssa VanDerveer | Sophomore | Catcher
The Hillsborough, N.J., native gave Penn State a sizeable lead with one swing of the bat, as her grand slam set the tone early and gave the Nittany Lions’ pitching staff some appreciated breathing room. VanDerveer finished 1-of-3 on the evening.
Penn State will face No. 2 Michigan on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with a spot in the Big Ten Championship on the line. If you can’t make it out to Beard Field to support the Nittany Lions, you can catch the game on Big Ten Network.