April 20, 2011
Site: State College, Pa. (Nittany Lion Softball Park)
Scores: #1 Michigan 5, Penn State 4; #1 Michigan 5, Penn State 4
Records: U-M (41-3, 9-1 Big Ten), Penn State (23-19, 5-7 Big Ten)
Next U-M Event: Saturday, April 23 -- vs. Iowa (Wilpon Complex), 6 p.m.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The No. 1-ranked University of Michigan softball team won its first test as the nation's top-ranked team, earning a pair of 5-4 decisions for the doubleheader sweep at Penn State on Wednesday evening (April 20) at the Nittany Lion Softball Park, home of Beard Field.
Junior third baseman Amanda Chidester (Allen Park, Mich./Cabrini HS) went 5-for-8 with two runs scored and three runs batted in, including the game-winning, seventh-inning home run in the opener, while junior leftfielder Bree Evans (Bloomington, Calif./Rialto HS) similarly posted back-to-back multi-hit games with a 4-for-8, two-RBI performance.
Senior RHP Jordan Taylor (Valencia, Calif./Valencia HS) earned the game-one decision, improving to 21-3 on the season with a eight-strikeout, seven-hit complete-game effort. Sophomore RHP Stephanie Speierman (Columbia, Md./Hammond HS) was solid in game two, similarly striking out eight while allowing eight hits and a walk through five innings to improve to 18-0. Taylor earned her seventh save of the season in the nightcap, striking out two in two relief innings.
The Wolverines gained an immediate advantage in the nightcap, pushing across three runs in the first to garner a lead they did not relinquish. After Evans and freshman leftfield Nicole Sappingfield (Norco, Calif./Norco HS) led off the game with back-to-back infield singles and advanced on a groundout, Chidester drove a deep ball high off the right centerfield wall, scoring both base runners on two-run double. Chidester came home herself two batters later when freshman catcher Caitlin Blanchard (Petersburg, Mich./Summerfield HS) singled to shallow leftfield.
Penn State narrowed the gap with a two-run bottom half of the first, but U-M responded with a pair of runs in the fourth to reassert the three-run advantage. Blanchard reached on an error, and sophomore shortstop Amy Knapp (St. Joseph, Mich./Lakeshore HS) made the Nittany Lions pay with an RBI double to left centerfield two batters later. Evans pushed across Knapp for Michigan's final run on a looping single to shallow leftfield.
The Nittany Lions threatened in the sixth, putting two in scoring position with no outs, bringing Taylor into the game, and after a quick popout, the Wolverine ace issued back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
PSU first baseman Kailyn Johnson made it interesting with a two-run, two-out homer in the bottom of the seventh to pull her team within a run, but Taylor got the final out in a groundout to second base.
The Wolverines needed a late rally to claim the opener, taking the lead on a two-run sixth before using a Chidester seventh-inning shot to secure the final margin.
Trailing by run through the middle innings -- after Johnson's three-run homer in the third -- Michigan used a two-out rally to push across two runs in the top of the sixth and steal away the temporary lead. With runners on the corners late in the frame, Evans capped an extended at-bat, featuring four straight foul tips, with a looping RBI single to rightfield to drive in the tying run. Freshman rightfielder Lyndsay Doyle (Channahon, Ill./Minooka Community HS) moved from first to third on the hit, and the extra base proved advantageous when she scored on a PSU fielding error in the next at-bat.
The Nittany Lions responded immediately, however, using a pair of base hits and a passed ball to knot the score at four apiece. After Johnson singled to lead off the inning, her pinch runner Alyssa Renwick advanced on a passed ball and a groundout before racing home on a line-drive single down the leftfield line.
After a quick out in the top of the seventh, Chidester connected with the first pitch of the second at-bat, bombing out the game-winning solo home run over the leftfield wall. The long ball was Chidester's 10th of the season -- a career high in the category -- and her third game-winning blast of the season.
With the Michigan lead reestablished, Taylor made little work of the Nittany Lion lineup in the seventh, issuing back-to-back strikeouts before forcing a 4-3 groundout to end the contest.
The Wolverines will return home this weekend, hosting Iowa at 6 p.m. on Saturday (April 23) and 2 p.m. on Sunday (April 24) at the Wilpon Softball Complex, home of Alumni Field. Both games will be aired live via BigTenNetwork.com.
Contact: Leah Howard (734) 763-4423