Softball Breaks Out Broomsticks, Sweeps Franciscan

Photo (by Joel Nelson): Sophomore pitcher Sidney Shultz gets her sign in the circle during game two on Wednesday against Franciscan at Stewart Athletic Field.
Photo (by Joel Nelson): Sophomore pitcher Sidney Shultz gets her sign in the circle during game two on Wednesday against Franciscan at Stewart Athletic Field.

ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona softball picked up its fourth doubleheader sweep of the season on Wednesday afternoon, when it took two from Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference opponent Franciscan University at Stewart Athletic Field.

Hosting its final home games of the regular season, Penn State Altoona (19-12-1, 9-5 AMCC) prevailed 11-8 in game one before securing a 4-0 victory in the nightcap.

"Today, I think we found the formula for winning two games. We played pretty solid in both games, although we had a few defensive errors in the first game that gave up some runs," said Penn State Altoona head coach Joe Merilli. "Other than that, I thought that we had two really solid efforts today. We've got to keep it going now on Friday, when we go up to Hilbert."

In game one, Penn State Altoona relied on its offense to carry it through to victory. The Lady Lions plated 11 runs on 11 hits in the win, including hitting three triples to tie a program record for the most triples in one game.

Meghan Marasti (Harrison City, PA/Penn Trafford) went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and a walk, and Haley Giedroc (Howard, PA/Bald Eagle) was 2-for-4 with a triple, two runs batted in, and three runs scored.

Jessica Willits (Jersey Shore, PA/Jersey Shore) and Abby Showers (Philipsburg, PA/Philipsburg-Osceola) also had triples for the Lady Lions, with Willits also contributing three RBI and two runs scored. Emily Strouse (Beech Creek, PA/Central Mountain) also finished with three RBI.

Strouse got the start in the circle and pitched all seven innings to record her team-leading 11th victory of the season, improving her record to 11-2 on the year. The right-hander allowed five earned runs and struck out two batters.

The Lady Lions pounced on Franciscan early, getting five runs across in the bottom of the first inning. After Showers led off the frame with a triple to right, Ellie Leyo (Irvona, PA/Glendale) got her in with a sacrifice bunt to the third baseman. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded, Willits' triple to left drove in three more runs, and Strouse's RBI groundout to first base made it 5-0.

Penn State Altoona upped its lead to 8-0 in the second. After Kaitlyn Harmon (Sunbury, PA/Shikellamy) led off with a single and Leyo walked, Giedroc's triple to left-center scored both runners. Olivia Miller's (West Newton, PA/Yough) RBI single through the left side gave the home team an eight-run advantage.

Franciscan (9-11, 3-7 AMCC) got on the board in the top of the third inning when Allyson Weiss drove in a run with her double to left, then later scored on a steal of home to make it 8-2. The Lady Barons cut Penn State Altoona's lead to 8-3 in the fourth on Ally Kuntz's RBI groundout to second base.

The Lady Lions responded with a three-run bottom of the fourth. Strouse's two-run single up the middle got her team's ninth and tenth runs across, and Sidney Shultz (Runville, PA/Bald Eagle) followed with an RBI base hit to the pitcher to make it 11-3.

Franciscan put two more runs on the board in the top of the fifth on Kathleen Thompson's RBI triple and Anna Fluharty's sacrifice fly. The Lady Barons made it 11-6 in the sixth on a Weiss RBI groundout to shortstop, and they scored twice more in the seventh on Victoria Clute's sac fly and a Kuntz RBI single to right.

Strong pitching highlighted Penn State Altoona's win in game two, as Strouse and Shultz combined for a one-hit shutout of the Lady Barons.

Strouse got the start and pitched 3 2/3 innings, giving up just one hit and one walk while recording one strikeout. Shultz entered in relief, pitching 3 1/3 hitless, scoreless innings with one walk to pick up her fifth win of the year.

Strouse went 2-for-2 at the plate with one run scored, one walk, and one stolen base. Marasti was 2-for-3 with a run scored. Willits and Shiona Lonesky (Sasebo, Japan/E.J. King) had RBIs for the Lady Lions.

Penn State Altoona rolled the dice to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fifth inning. With one out, Strouse singled to left, moved up to second on Lonesky's base hit to right, and advanced to third on Harmon's sac bunt. After that, Strouse scored on a straight steal of home to put the Lady Lions up 1-0.

The home team added some insurance in the sixth inning. Marasti scored from third on Willits' sac bunt, with Willits reaching safely on a throwing error during the play. That error was followed by another Franciscan error that allowed Giedroc to score on the play. Later in the inning, Lonesky's RBI groundout to second made it 4-0.

Penn State Altoona softball closes out its regular season schedule with a pair of AMCC doubleheaders on the road this weekend. On Friday, April 27, the Lady Lions travel to Hamburg, N.Y. to take on Hilbert College in a twinbill starting at 3:00 p.m. The next day, Saturday, April 28, the team heads to Erie, Pa. to close out the regular season with a 1:00 p.m. doubleheader at Penn State Behrend.