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Nittany Lions Looking to Carry Momentum into Michigan State

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By Anna Pitingolo, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After an 0-4 start to Big Ten play this season, Penn State is back on track thanks to two straight wins, and a series win, over Indiana last weekend.

As the Nittany Lions travel to East Lansing next to take on Michigan State, they are hopeful that that momentum will continue and the next three games will end in their favor.

"It felt amazing," said freshman catcher Destiny Weber, about the Indiana series win. "As a team we worked very, very hard and we went through a little rough patch with a couple of losses and we really pulled it out, we worked hard for it and it felt really good so we're hoping to take the wins into Michigan State this weekend."

Weber got her first career start behind the plate against Indiana and was part of the bottom of the lineup that combined for five of Penn State's six hits against the Hoosiers in game three.

After losing game one 6-1, there was a noticeable change in energy heading into game two for the Lions. Head coach Amanda Lehotak made some adjustments to the lineup, and that proved to be key in getting the win in game two.

"We're really focused on really just controlling what we can," said assistant coach Sarah Sigrest. "We've been working on hitting the ball hard and I think that anybody that came to our games can see we're not scoring a ton of runs. So we're just trying to do a better job at putting the ball in play and going back to the little details that we're not capitalizing on right now." 

The Nittany Lions will be riding the success of their pitching staff into Michigan State, which is led by senior Marley Laubach. Laubach pitched the final frame in game two when Lehotak called her in to relieve starter Madey Smith. Laubach entered the game with Penn State up just one run with runners on second and third with no outs.

 After forcing two fly outs and a groundout, Laubach got the save for the Nittany Lions. She followed up that performance by pitching a complete game in the finale on Sunday. 

"Marley's tremendous, she's the kind of kid who puts the team on her back," Sigrest said. "She'll say, 'hey, guys I got this, settle down, just give me some runs and we'll make it happen' and I think as a senior that's what she does. So I'm happy that she figured it out and found a way to win." 

The entire pitching staff has been a strong point for Penn State up to this point in the season, with Laubach leading the pack. With the matchup against the Spartans looming near, the coaching staff will have to make a decision as to who they want on the mound come game time. 

"Right now it's going to be between Smith and Laubach just because they've been the most consistent for us throughout," Sigrest said. "We have a lot of depth in the circle and I think we're just trying to figure out how we structure it. You've got to think of it in 21 innings instead of just the seven." 

Regardless of who's on the mound, there's no word on who will be on the receiving end of the pitches. Weber is one of three catchers to see playing time this season, along with Delaney Elling and Mia Monopoli.

"I didn't actually think that I was going to start [against Indiana] until game day but our other two catchers, Delany and Mia, are great catchers and we're just rotating through to see what works and what doesn't," Weber said. "Coach does everything for a reason and all three of us catchers are very supportive of each other so we just work together to make each other better."

The series against Michigan State kicks off on Friday at 4 p.m. with games on Saturday and Sunday set for 1 p.m. starts.

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