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Nittany Lions Take Flames in Extra Innings

March 15, 2008  Clearwater, Fla.  RSS
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Sarah Ellis tied a season high, as she struck out seven batters against Penn State.

Sarah Ellis tied a season high, as she struck out seven batters against Penn State.

Liberty squeezed across a run in the top of the seventh inning to force extra innings, but a two-out single off the bat of Danielle Kinley gave Penn State a 2-1 nine-inning victory over Liberty, Saturday afternoon. The contest, played on Field 5 at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex, served as Liberty's first game on day two of the USF Under Armour Showcase.

With the victory, Penn State picks up its second victory of the day, following a 7-0 blanking of Dartmouth earlier on the day, and moves to 14-8 on the year.

The loss drops Liberty's overall mark to 2-16-1 and is the 10th in a row for the youthful Lady Flames' squad. The 10-straight setbacks are the longest losing streak since the 2004 squad dropped 11 in a row.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third when the Nittany Lions mounted a two-out rally to break the 0-0 tie.

After getting a strikeout and a ground ball to shortshop, starting pitcher Sarah Ellis surrendered a full-count double to the gap in right center to Ashley Esparza.

The first baseman was able to move to third following a wild pitch, as Ellis' offering to the left-handed Kinley sailed wide of the plate to the backstop.

The center fielder followed by dropping a double into the gap in left center, driving in Esparza to give Penn State the early 1-0 lead.

Looking like they might suffer their fourth-straight shutout, Liberty strung together a seventh-inning rally to tie the game and send it into extra innings.

Ashley Williams doubled to start off the frame with a one hopper off the fence in left. Amber DePasquale slapped one to short, allowing pinch runner Tiffani Smith to move to third base.

Penn State brought in one of its top starting pitchers to close out the game, but Jackie Hill's first offering to Jenna Eatmon was singled to center field, allowing Smith to cross the plate and knot the game at 1-1.

Liberty had chances to score in both the eighth and ninth innings. In the eighth, the Lady Flames got lead-off runner Cassie Hendrix to third on a sacrifice bunt by J'nae Jefferson. But Shannon McKain popped out to second and Bennett struck out swinging to end the frame.

In the ninth, pinch runner Dana Wheeler moved to third on Keely McMillon's sacrifice bunt just in front of the plate. But Williams fouled out to third and Jessica Leary was unable to reach an outside pinch, striking out to keep the score tied at 1-1.

But the Nittany Lions were able to come through in the bottom of the ninth to end the extra-inning affair. Sam Hovanec was stranded at second following Ashley Griffith's infield pop up, but moved to third on Esparza's ground out to second.

And for the second time in the game, Kinley drove in a run, connecting on her fourth hit of the contest by lofting a ball to right field to score the game-winning run.

Hill upped her record to 7-3 on the year, finishing off the last 2 2/3 innings by allowing just one hit, while walking one and striking out the final batters of the eighth and ninth innings. Kimi Wong started the first 6 1/3 innings of the game, allowing a run on two hits, while walking two and fanning four.

Ellis was the tough-luck loser, going the distance to fall to 1-7 on the year. The junior allowed two runs, one of which was earned, on nine hits, while walking three and striking out seven, tying a season high for strikeouts.

Liberty's pitchers have recorded performances worthy of victories of late, allowing three or fewer runs during five out of the last six contests. However, the Lady Flames offensive has mustered four or fewer hits during 12 out of the last 13 contests to keep the scoring to a minimal amount.

Liberty finished the match-up with the Nittany Lions with a trio of hits. Williams was 1-for-4 from the plate, while Eaton and Courtney Johnson were both 1-for-2 during their times at the plate.

For Penn State, Kinley recorded almost half of the Nittany Lions' nine hits, going 4-for-5 with two RBI. The squad's remaining five hits were scattered amount a quintet of players.

The Lady Flames will conclude their second day at the USF Under Armour Showcase later on this afternoon, when they face UT-Chattanooga. The contest against the Mocs is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m., once again on Field 5 at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex.