Defense Leads Upstate Softball Over Penn State
Clearwater, Fla. – USC Upstate played flawless defense en route to a 2-0 victory over Penn State in the Spartans' first game of the day in the USF Under Armour Showcase softball tournament.
A day after taking a 3-1 win over No. 23 Syracuse, Upstate improved to 20-2 on the year with the win and got standout pitching from Hannah Alexander (Lexington, N.C.) and strong defensive plays from a variety of players to earn the win. Penn State fell to 7-12 on the year with the loss.
The defensive effort began in the bottom of the first inning. With a runner on first, second baseman Janna Lewis (Huntersville, N.C.) made a diving catch on a sacrifice bunt, then doubled off the runner at first. In the third, Penn State had runners on first and second with two outs when third baseman Kendall Settlemyre (Hickory, N.C.) made a diving catch on a foul ball for the third out of the inning.
Penn State had a runner on second in the fourth inning when right fielder Lindsay Kelly (Jacksonville, Fla.) ran at full speed to track down a fly ball in the gap for the second out of the inning as Upstate got out of the framer without allowing a run. Finally, Maddison Kieffer (Middleburg, Fla.), who had already made a strong play on a ground ball up the middle for an out, ended the game with a stellar effort. With the bases loaded and two outs, Penn State's Lauren Yao hammered a line drive that deflected off of Settlemyre's glove at third. Kieffer, moving on the play, raced over, picked the ball up and raced to beat the Nittany Lion runner to the bag for the force out at third to secure the win for Upstate.
The defense was solid and Upstate did just enough offensively to cash in on its opportunities and Penn State errors. The Nittany Lions committed three errors leading to two unearned runs for Upstate.
"Several of our players made some big plays for us when we really needed them," said Upstate head coach Chris Hawkins. "The pitcher we faced, Akamine, is extremely good. For us to have eight hits was very good. She had a very good rise ball and for us to stay on top of the ball and get some runs was a positive thing. Hannah was good once again and really battled."
Upstate began the scoring in the top of the fifth when Shellie Robinson (DeLand, Fla.) doubled to left center. Cheyenne Griffin reached second when her line drive to right was dropped, putting runners on second and third with one out. After a ground out made it two outs in the inning, Kelly singled up the middle to drive in the run and give the Spartans a 1-0 lead, and the eventual game-winning run.
Upstate added an insurance run in the seventh inning. Griffin again reached on an error and moved to second on Ashley Butler's (Laurens, S.C.) single up the middle. Lewis reached on a fielder's choice and Griffin scored from second after a throwing error by the Penn State shortstop to give the Spartans a 2-0 lead.
Alexander was solid throughout the game. She struck out six and scattered eight Nittany Lion hits. She improved to 12-1 with the win. Penn State starter Lisa Akamine also went the distance, striking out seven and allowing two unearned runs on eight Upstate hits to fall to 5-7.
Kelly led the offensive attack with three hits on the day.