Petrini Looks to Depth and Youth to Fuel 2013

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It has been 228 days since the Penn State softball team's last scheduled contest on the dirt.

Since then the group has been swinging away and conditioning inside the confinements of their athletic facilities, but the time has finally come. Head coach Robin Petrini and her Nittany Lions open their 2013 season this weekend at the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M., and they are ready to go.

8575602.jpeg"A lot of teams started last weekend and there a few that did not so we're excited to get out there," said Petrini. "New Mexico State is a good opening weekend."

The team is coming off of a 2012 season that saw 18 wins and 32 losses. The Lions struggled to find consistency in the circle and at the plate, and did not get the chance to make a run at postseason play.

But this year, Petrini says things are looking up. Her coaching staff and her team are putting the past behind them, and focusing on what is right in front of them.

"We have a great mix of returners and freshmen," said Petrini. "We have more depth this year then we've had in many years so we're excited looking forward."

The head coach noted that that depth can be attributed to the return of all eight defensive starters and a pool of eight brand-new faces.

"The difference this year is that the freshmen that we've brought in have added so much to our roster," said Petrini. "These are kids that are ready to compete and to be on the field right now - people who are competing for starting positions. I think it's really going to do well for us."

The newcomers include catcher Karlie Habitz, infielders Christy Von Pusch, Maegen Tupino, Lexi Knief and Reina Furuya, outfielders Shannon Good and Taylor Abeyta and pitcher Macy Jones.

Outside of their roles as position-players, Petrini said that the freshmen add a sense of cohesiveness and flexibility to her lineup as well.

"I think our strength is going to be our offense - we're really deep offensively," said Petrini. "I hope to have depth off of the bench when I need it and we have more speed than we've had in a long time so I think our offense is going to be fun to watch.

The head coach said that having a fully-loaded roster allows her the ability to create inner-competition for starting spots, and ultimately keeps her athletes focused on succeeding at whatever they are asked to do.

Returning first-baseman and senior Kailyn Johnson said that she and her teammates see the incoming youth not only as added talent, but also as healthy encouragement.

"As seniors, we talked about how to move forward from last season and how to get a winning season," said Johnson. "Having [the freshmen] so wanting to be there and wanting to win it really helps us and keeps us motivated."

The Lions head to an environment where the air is much thinner and where Petrini says her pitchers will have to keep the ball down. The team will play five games in three days, starting on Friday at 1:30 PT.

"We're anxious to get on the dirt," said Petrini. 

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