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VIDEO: 2014-15 Year in Review with Sandy Barbour

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour to review a superb 2014-15 season for Penn State Athletics.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: 2014-15 Season Highlights

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the campaign in a season highlight reel.


Commemorating 25 Years of Penn State and the Big Ten

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Penn State has won 92 Big Ten titles, including 21 in women's soccer (16 regular season).



By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Just four months into his tenure as commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Jim Delany recalls an idea brought to the table by former Illinois President Stan Ikenberry.

It was October of 1989 when Ikenberry, who spent time as a senior administrator at Penn State earlier in his career, broached the thought of adding an institution to the Big Ten for the first time since Michigan State was invited to become a member in 1949.

The Big Ten then began a formal research process of an institution that would bridge a Midwestern league to the East.

The Pennsylvania State University was on the table for discussion as a superb academic institution with a rich tradition in athletic success.

Delany, whose sister attended Penn State as a graduate student, didn't need much convincing. He knew the level of potential a partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten could foster.

"The Big Ten hadn't changed in many, many decades, but I thought if the opportunity to expand presented itself it was a no brainer," Delany said earlier this week. "Excellent academics. Excellent athletics. And pointed towards the East Coast, I thought there was a lot of potential there. That was my recommendation at the time."

The process moved forward with the presidents and chancellors of the Big Ten institutions discussing the topic before news broke just before the holidays in December of 1989 that Penn State could be on its way into a new conference. Under the direction of athletic director Jim Tarman at the time, Penn State had been competing as an independent in football for more than a century, and the rest of the department had been a member of the Atlantic 10 since 1976.

When the news initially surfaced, women's volleyball head coach Russ Rose, who along with field hockey coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss are the two current Penn State head coaches who were on staff in 1989, was giving a presentation at the annual women's volleyball coaches convention (AVCA) about the importance of NCAA Tournament at-large bids for teams in smaller conferences.

"I remember talking in front of the group about the importance that not all of the at-large bids go to the bigger conferences and that there were good teams in other conferences even though they didn't have the same notoriety, said Rose. "We have a lunch break. I turn on ESPN at lunch, and I see that Penn State is going to be a member of the Big Ten. I come back. I say to some people that I would like to retract what I said about at-large teams."

The formal process concluded with a vote in Iowa City on June 4, 1990, at which time Penn State was officially accepted as a member of the Big Ten Conference. Twenty-five years have passed in a partnership that allowed both the University and conference to reach unprecedented heights on the field and in the classroom.

"From a broad perspective, at the time, my view was that it was a tremendous fit for both sides. And history has proven that," Delany said. "With all the other expansions around the country, I'm not sure there was one that benefitted both institution and conference as much as this did, largely because of the characteristics of Penn State were so well matched with the characteristics of the Big Ten."

The positive news zipped throughout campus shortly after the vote in Iowa.

"I remember hearing about the announcement from Mary Jo Haverbeck, from the Sports Information office," said Morett-Curtiss. "She told me about us going in and how it was going to have a major impact for women's athletics at Penn State."

It was an announcement that changed the landscape of funding and development for all of Penn State's 28 programs at the time, and it was a day Morett-Curtiss remembers quite well.

"Ironically, I had gone for a run that day on the trails near Sunset Park and as I'm running, I see someone walking in front of me and it was Joe Paterno," Morett-Curtiss said. "And it was that day, so I said to him, 'hey what's going to happen?' He said, 'I think this is going to be a really good thing for Penn State and the exposure all of the programs are going to get.'"

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The women's volleyball program captured Penn State's first Big Ten title in 1992, marking volleyball's first of 16 conference crowns.

 
Penn State's teams felt the impact of the Big Ten conference almost immediately.

"What it did for us when we joined the Big Ten is that it No. 1 it resulted in a reassessment of the levels of commitment we had to the various programs," Rose said. "We became fully funded when we joined the Big Ten. Prior to that, we were not fully funded. And we were not fully staffed. Entering Big Ten, collectively, for all of the sports resulted in us having a new commitment from the University to try and be competitive. From a volleyball perspective, we had been competitive prior to that, but playing in the Big Ten in women's volleyball made us better because the level of competition was better than we were experiencing in the Atlantic 10."

At the time, women's volleyball had just one assistant coach on the staff alongside Rose and nine scholarships to field a roster. Joining the Big Ten boosted the program to full funding and 12 scholarships.

"As I look at it now, we could have had some great teams if we had funding in the early years," said Rose. "That was just the way that it was.  When you take a job, that is the job you took. When we joined the Big Ten, a lot of us got a better job without having to move. But it's way more competitive. Recruiting is a lot different than what we had experienced in the Atlantic 10."

The same can be said for what Morett-Curtiss experienced within the field hockey program.

"The financial support from a scholarship standpoint was huge right away," said Morett-Curtiss. "And knowing our field that we were going to build was going to be a first rate facility."

The investment for success around the Big Ten stood out during Penn State's transition. Every institution and athletic program strives to be the best. It's a trait that has not changed during the department's 25 years as a member, and it's something that will be a trademark of the Big Ten for decades to come.

"The level of commitment to being good across the conference, everybody cared," said Rose. "I don't believe every conference across the country has that sort of commitment in all of their sports. I think that is one of the things that makes the Big Ten really unique. If they offer it, they care and they want to be relevant."

Penn State's time in the Big Ten has been marked by excellence in the classroom and on the field of play. In all, Penn State's programs have accounted for 92 Big Ten championships from 15 different programs - 76 regular season and 16 post-season. Additionally, more than 170 student-athletes have accounted for nearly 300 individual Big Ten titles.

Penn State student-athletes have earned more than 5,000 Academic All-Big Ten recognitions since it joined the conference, with its three highest totals during the past three years, led by 296 in 2012-13.

"Penn State's entrance into the Big Ten not only changed the intercollegiate sports landscape, it also changed our academic landscape and our future. Our size, our academic reputation and our athletic tradition matched up well with Big Ten schools," said Penn State President Eric Barron, who also noted that all Big Ten schools are flagship universities for their states. "The academic side of the Big Ten is known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the institutions together have annual research expenditures topping $10.2 billion -- more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined -- and they educate a total of nearly 600,000 students. The benefits from being part of such an outstanding and prestigious organization with such an expansive footprint across the nation are immeasurable."

The women's volleyball program earned Penn State's first Big Ten crown during the 1992 season, just one year after the team began competing in the league. The title marked the first of Penn State's superlative 16 Big Ten titles in women's volleyball, in addition to seven NCAA Championships since 1999.

Like women's volleyball, the women's soccer program has been a benchmark of success in conference play. The program became the department's 29th varsity sport in 1994. Since then, Penn State has won an unprecedented 16 conference titles, including a string of 15-straight from 1998-2012.

The football program claimed the Big Ten title in its second season of competition during an undefeated Rose Bowl championship campaign in 1994. Coach Joe Paterno's '94 squad became the first Big Ten team to ever post a 12-0 record. The '94 crown marked the program's first of three Big Ten championships to date (2005 and 2008).

The fall season of 2005 stands out as a monumental period in Penn State's history within the conference. Nittany Lion teams clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days. The list included field hockey, football, men's soccer, women's soccer and women's volleyball. Since the fall of 2005, Penn State teams have won 51 Big Ten championships (5.1 titles per year in a 10-year span).

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Penn State clinched five Big Ten titles in a span of 30 days during the fall of 2005, including one for the women's volleyball team.



It's impossible to quantify how the partnership between Penn State and the Big Ten altered the recruiting landscape for the teams on campus and how the recruiting gains equated to success on the field of play. But pitching a world-renowned education with an elite conference affiliation cultivated relationships with premier student-athletes.

"The name recognition was big for football, but when you see how many of the Universities and programs have been successful on a national level, I think that has greatly helped," Morett-Curtiss. "Exposure for all of the Universities within the conference has helped us all grow. Combining the academic side of what these Universities have with the athletics, it's a very powerful combination when we go out recruiting student-athletes."

A big piece to the exposure of Penn State teams during the past 25 years was the launch of the Big Ten Network on Aug. 30, 2007. More than 800 Penn State sporting events have aired live on the BTN since it launched. The benefits of the conference's TV network, which is in more than 60 million homes,  increased visibility across the country for the department in a way that cannot be measured.

"The Network was a major step for us," Morett-Curtiss. "Just having the opportunity to have games on TV so that little girls can watch and learn about the sport. It's helped, not only exposure for the program, but it's helped the sport grow. It's just a phenomenal avenue for us to showcase our University and the sport."

The BTN's impact goes back to what Rose talked about as one of the immediate impacts his program felt - funding. Not only did the BTN infinitely increase exposure for Penn State teams, it has played a paramount role in increased revenues for each institution.

"Certainly, the Big Ten Network has been instrumental in generating funds for the Universities and the conference and the bowl revenue sharing has resulted in more money for all of the schools and the conference," said Rose.

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In 2008, Penn State captured its third Big Ten title in football en route to a trip to the Rose Bowl.

 

While the competitive atmosphere is intense between teams across all of the conference's sports, each member institution understands that the individual success aids in the growth of the collective conference.

"I think the relationship has been a really positive one," said Rose. "There are a lot of similarities between the various Universities."

"Everybody in the Big Ten shares what they do and why they do it; best practices," said Dave Baker, Associate Athletic Director for Business Operations. "We share lots of ideas, at least from the business manager and ticketing perspective. We learn things from one another. And there aren't secrets. We all work together and try to help each other out...We all don't do things the same way. We all have limitations, but we are all looking to help one another out for the betterment of the conference.

"Some people would find it hard to believe that people in the Big Ten root for other Big Ten teams in the postseason, but we do. We follow what is going on...It is a cooperative spirit and a partnership."

Baker is one of just a handful of Penn State administrators and coaches who have been with Intercollegiate Athletics during the past 25 years. That list includes Jan Bortner, who was head coach of the men's tennis team in 1990 and has since transitioned into a role as an associate athletic director. Among the key changes Baker felt from the business operation centered on travel. Bus trips were the norm for Penn State teams in the Atlantic 10, but the geography of the Big Ten led to more plane travel.

A quarter century has passed since initial discussions of a new relationship took place and bonds were formed. Many things have changed significantly for Penn State, the conference and intercollegiate athletics nationwide, but it's been 25 years marked by growth stemming from a vision in 1989.

"Pennsylvania is a very important state. It served as a bridge to the East for us. It made our football offerings stronger," said Delany. "It has been excellence with national championships in a variety of sports. And I have always felt that the 1994 Penn State team was the best team in the country; no disrespect to Nebraska. When you look at the players that team had (five first team All-Americans on offense) and what that group accomplished. That team was the national runner-up. That was a tremendous football team. I've seen some very good basketball teams both on the men's side and the women's side. And obviously, the wrestling and volleyball programs have been dominant on the national scene."

Penn State has won a total of 27 national championships since joining the Big Ten, including three in 2013-14, and the department's collective success speaks for itself.

By no means was the integration in 1990 an easy one, but the partnership between the University and Big Ten is a match that enabled both sides to mutually prosper in a way neither side could have envisioned when the formal vote concluded 25 years ago today.


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The wrestling team began a string of four-straight Big Ten titles in March of 2011.





Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At the end of the regular season, the slate is wiped clean as conference foes battle head-to-head for the tournament crown. After losing three close games to the Terrapins this season, the retaliation of Penn State knocking Maryland out of the conference tournament would be sweet.

Ninth-seeded Nittany Lions (28-27) will take on eighth-seeded Maryland (27-26) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday. Evenly matched, both teams own a 9-14 record in conference play. First meeting in 1999, Penn State owns a 9-5 record all-time against the Terrapins.

Nittany Lion Bats on Fire

Penn State will need to stay dominant at the plate in order to fold Maryland at the mound. The team's aggressiveness has produced 434 hits this season. Forty-five of those were homeruns with six grand slams. Leading the team, Alyssa Vanderveer tallies 13 homeruns while Macy Jones follows with 10.

With a team-best .408 batting average and 71 hits, Second Team All-Big Ten honoree Lexi Knief has made her mark on Penn State's offense this season. Fellow honoree Macy Jones claims a .348 batting average for the second place spot for Penn State.

On the defensive side of the game, Marlaina Laubach, Jones, and Jessica Cummings are the backbone of Penn State's offense. Pitching 136.2 innings, Laubaugh leads the team with 12 wins and 84 strikeouts.  Jones trails with 7 wins and 36 strikeouts. Cummings tallies 76 strikeouts with 19 games started pitching 114.2 innings.

Terrapins Scout Report

In its first season in the Big Ten, Maryland owns a 27-26 overall record (9-14 in B1G). The team is hitting .306 on the season with 66 homeruns. Leading at the plate, Erin Pronobis has a .370 average with 57 hits and 12 home runs. Following Pronobis, Lindsey Schemieiser is batting a .364 with the team-high 60 hits.

The Terps maintained a strong pitching presence this season tallying 257 strikeouts. Schmeiser took the top spot with 19 wins and 170 strikeouts. She pitched 201.2 innings finishing only 18 games. Reliever Hannah Dewey's 57 strikeouts and 18 starts earn her a second-place standing for Maryland.

Next Up

Penn State will need to keep its hitting presence booming in order to move on in the tournament. If Penn State defeats the Terrapins, the team will take on No. 1 Michigan on Friday, May 8 at 2:30 p.m. ET. 

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's softball team is in Ann Arbor, Mich. to end the regular season by facing No. 3 Michigan this weekend. After a five-game winning streak, the Nittany Lions enter this series with a 28-24 overall record, including a 9-11 Big Ten record.

With the first pitch set for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Penn State and Michigan will be facing off in a three-game series.

In the past the Lions trail the series 56-7 against the Wolverines, but this time Coach Lehotak and the team are coming in hungry for the fight.

So far this season, the Blue and White have been making an explosive presence at the plate with a total of seven grand slams so far.

In those seven grand slams, two were during the same inning on April, 1 against Bucknell. Penn State is the sixth team in record Division I NCAA softball history to hit a pair of grand slams in one inning.

Some players specifically who have been leading the pack at the plate are Alyssa VanDerveer with three grand slams, Kristina Brackpool with two, Shelby Miller and Reina Furuya who each have one grand slam of their own.

Another Lion who has made a name for herself offensively is junior Macy Jones. She's leading the team with 41 runs, 99 total bases and is batting at .639.

"The team is back to keeping it simple at the plate and we're much better when our mindset is simple rather than trying to hard to get big," said head coach Amanda Lehotak.

With their bats ready to go, Lehotak is ready to lead her squad into the weekend and are hoping to end the regular season on a high note by showing Michigan a good fight for the wins.

Scouting Michigan

Michigan enters its final home series with a 45-6 record, 18-2 in Big Ten play. The Wolverines carry a .336 batting average with a great presence at the plate. Sierra Romero leads the B1G with a .468 BA and runs scored with 66. Kelly Christner trails for second place with 62 runs. The pair tallies 17 homeruns each.

 Megan Betsa leads the Wolverine at the mound with 22 wins and 244 strikeouts. Her ERA of 1.46 leads the conference. Fellow pitcher Haylie Wagner totals 101 strikeouts on the season.

 

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- This weekend was full of plenty of action at Beard field as the Penn State softball team dominated Rutgers for the first Big Ten three-game sweep of the season

 

To open up the weekend, the Nittany Lions secured a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth with junior Shannon Good's first career home run. Good was one of five Penn Staters to make a presence at bat during the first game of the series.

 

"I think this series was good for the team, Rutgers is highly respected team and when playing a team like them we have to always show we're willing to fight for the win," said head coach Amanda Lehotak.

 

The team honored three seniors before the start of Saturday's game, Meghan Bradley, Marissa Diescher and Alicia Walker.

 

Jessica Cummings, who was the team's star pitcher Friday night, continued to throw a great game on Saturday. She pitched the first five innings, then teammate Macy Jones close the game on the mound. Despite the Scarlet Knights getting on the board in the first inning, the Lions brought their batting game and ended the game with a 12-6 victory.

 

Freshman Alyssa VanDerveer lead the charge offensively with her 13th home run of the season and drove in three additional runs to help the Nittany Lions take the win.

 

"Rally innings are a huge part of our game, every time I get a hit I know I'm helping my team win," said VanDerveer.

 

Coming off of another victory over the Scarlet Knights, the Blue and White entered the third and final game hungry for the sweep.

 

Rutgers got on the board early and finished the first inning with two runs and four hits. After four innings, both teams remained scoreless until the Scarlet Knights widened the lead with a single home run by Sierra Maddox in the top of the sixth. Despite being three behind Rutgers, PSU entered the bottom of the seventh inning determined to fight.

 

At the top of the batting lineup, Jones singled and VanDerveer walked, however due to an illegal pitch both Jones and pinch runner Maegan Tupinio advanced to second and third. Pond stepped up to the plate and homered to right field, making the game tied 3-3 and giving the Lions back life in the game. Pitcher Marlaina Laubach prevented the Scarlet Knights from scoring in the eighth and ninth inning as the rest of defense made sure to stop any ball that came its' way.

 

Going into extra innings, Penn State and Rutgers remained tied until Knief singled to centerfield to send Walker home to finish the game and complete the sweep.

 

"Although we were behind, we never gave up. We pride ourselves on being a team that fights until the end and that's what gave us the win today," said Knief.

 

The Nittany Lions are 27-24 overall and are 9-11 in Big Ten play. This weekend also marks the team's 11th home victory of the season, the most since 2012.

 

"This series gave us some confidence I think we needed as we prepare for Pitt and Michigan," said coach Lehotak.

 

Although the Blue and White are done with home games this season, the team will travel to Pittsburgh on Tuesday for a mid-week matchup. This will be the second time Lehotak and the team will face the Panthers this season. The first pitch is to be thrown at 6 p.m. After Pitt, the team will take on the last regular season series against No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor for a three-game weekend. The first of the series is set to begin at 6 p.m. Friday night.

 

 

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State softball team split its doubleheader with Saint Francis University Wednesday night. The Nittany Lions dropped game one 5-4 then rebounded with a resounding 14-2 (5) victory in game two.

The gloomy skies and scattered showers threatened to shorten the night, but a little water wasn't enough to stop the two Commonwealth foes from completing both contests. The mixture of rain, wind, and chilly temperatures usually goes great with some defensive mishaps, but the stout PSU group only committed one error on the night.

In game one, Jessica Cummings pitched a fantastic game in the wet conditions. The freshman completed all seven innings while allowing only six hits and notching five strikeouts, but the Red Flash were able to push across five runs in the contest.

"I'm very happy with Jess. I think they only had really two hard hits the whole game," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "She has had a bit of bit luck. We call her the bloop queen. We haven't really played well behind her either, but she keeps getting better and better. If she's going to pitch her best ball, now's the time to do it."

Offensively, the Nittany Lions stalled a bit against three SFU hurlers. The team totaled five hits in the game, but they saw productions across the lineup as four different Nittany Lions recorded an RBI. Sophomore Shelby Miller continued her offensive onslaught with two of PSU's five base knocks. She has now risen her batting average to .355 on the year.

Penn State had a chance in the bottom of the seventh, but the late rally ran out of gas. After a pair of one out walks with the bases loaded, the Nittany Lions found themselves within one run with the powerful Kristina Brackpool coming to the plate. Brackpool, who leads the team in RBIs, put together a solid at-bat and fouled off pitch after pitch until finally popping up to end the game. She did, however, smack a double earlier in the game and added another RBI to give her 42 on the season.

"She's the one we wanted in that position," Lehotak said. "She's a deep ball threat and a tough out. We want a big hit from her every game and everything beyond that is a bonus."

The hits and runs that eluded Penn State's sticks in game one came out to play in game two. The Blue and White scored five in the third and nine in the fourth to put away the Red Flash. The 14 runs scored were the second most scored in one game this season for the Nittany Lions. The team hasn't amounted that many runs or finished off a team in five innings since April 4.

Macy Jones was the star for PSU at the plate and in the circle in game two. The junior threw all five innings while allowing one earned run and six hits. The win brings her to 7-3 on the year as her performance lowered her ERA to a team best 3.00. Just to add to her dominance, Jones slugged a no-doubter to right field in the third inning to give her 10 dingers this year. She totaled three RBIs and scored two more runs in the throttling of SFU.

Freshman Alyssa VanDerveer also added to her homerun total with a long ball in the third inning a few pitches after Jones smacked hers. She leads the team with 12. Lexi Knief and Kristina Brackpool contributed multi-hit games in the offensive show.

"It's a lot of fun," said Brackpool. "Scoring a lot on offense is the most fun you can have. The first game we struggled a little bit but the second game we came out and our hits came together."

"The first game I feel like we were really pressing," Jones said. "We felt like we should beat them so it made us not play our game. The second game we tried to focus on giving a lot of effort and playing our game and our style. The outcome obviously showed that that's what we need to keep doing."

Next Up: Rutgers

Penn State will play its final home series of 2015 this weekend against the Scarlet Knights. The eventful weekend includes Bark at the Park on Friday, Senior Day on Saturday, and the Pink Zone game on Sunday. It will be a fun-filled weekend, but the Nittany Lions have some work to do in the series as the end of the B1G season is rapidly approaching.

Rutgers comes into the weekend sitting at sixth place in the conference and winning six of their past eight contests. The Scarlet Knights feature seven hitters above .300, led by senior outfielder Jackie Bates who sports a .389 average. Bates also leads the team in RBIs (44), homeruns (16), slugging (.905), and runs (48). Her 16 homers is second best in the conference and her 48 runs scored is good for fifth in the B1G.

On the hill, RU boasts a powerful lefty in Alyssa Landrith. The senior is 14-8 on the year with a 3.19 ERA and 116 strikeouts. Besides Landrith, the Scarlet Knights aren't too scary in the circle, so getting to her early and driving her out of the game should be the goal of the PSU offense.

"The series this weekend is really important," Jones said. "It's our senior weekend so we really want to play for the seniors and get a good outcome for them. They're beatable so we just want to just play our game and take this momentum to the weekend."

"Rutgers is really good," said Lehotak. "I think they have seven hitters hitting over .300. I think it could be a couple of high scoring games because we're two very similar teams. Their pitching staff is giving up a lot of runs but they score a lot of runs."

Penn State currently sits at 11th place in the B1G, but a series win could vault them right back in contention for a playoff spot. Adversely, getting swept or losing the series might put the Nittany Lions in too big a hole. It's fair to say this will be the most important series for PSU so far this season.

 

 

 

 

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the regular season starts to wind down, the softball team is set to host the second to last home series on Wednesday, Apr. 22. The Blue and White will welcome Saint Francis to Beard Field hungry for a doubleheader sweep. Penn State enters the series sporting a 23-23 record going 7-6 at home.

Although Saint Francis isn't in the B1G, the Red Flash comes to Happy Valley with a 26-12 record. First meeting in 1990, Penn State leads the series 30-3 winning the last contest, 9-1, on April 2, 2014. 

Taylor Parsons leads the Red Flash with a .373 batting average earning 47 hits. Another offensive leader is sophomore Alexis Bower with a .296 batting average, four homers, and 34 hits.

At the mound, Blaire Lauthers and Ethel Santai lead SFU earning 12 and seven wins, respectively.

PSU is entering the doubleheader with determination to put on a show for its home crowd.

The team has been consistently aggressive at the plate with Lexi Knief, Macy Jones, and Kristina Brackpool leading the team with .410, .365, and .362 batting averages, respectively. Also making an impact at the plate is freshman Alyssa VanDerveer. With a .294 batting average, she is leading the team with 11 home runs. Brackpool and Jones follow closely behind recording nine homeruns each.

To match the team's powerful at bats, the Nittany Lions are staying solid on the field and at the mound. The Lions' top three pitchers are Marlaina Laubach with 74 strikeouts, Jessica Cummings with 59, and Macy Jones with 29. Laubach leads the team with 121.1 innings pitched earning 10 wins.

This team has worked hard to be a tough team both on the road and at home. With the dedication of the players and coaches, Penn State is fighting for a spot in the Big Ten Tournament.

Wednesday's series against Saint Francis is bound to be a battle as the first pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. followed by the second game at 7 p.m.

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By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When looking at any sports team there's a clear structure of people all working together to accomplish one goal. Some of those such as coaches and players become the face of the team, while behind them are the backbone of the team--the managers.

Managers spend countless hours compiling paperwork, charting team statistics, gathering equipment and any other tasks needed completed.

"Our student managers are a huge part of this team and family," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "It's amazing how much they do for us and how helpful it is having them."

The Penn State softball team has four current student managers, Jon Herzing, Nathan Sterner, Alex Comonitski, and Jordan Caffrey.

These four dedicate their free time to help the coaching staff and make sure the team is always game ready.

"You'd be amazed with everything those kids do, although they aren't officially on the roster they're a huge part of the team," said coach Lehotak.

Alex Comonitski

Currently a sophomore, Alex is one of the main student managers for the team and has been for roughly two years now.

Starting her first semester she was in contact with the softball coaching staff and quickly became a part of the team shortly afterwards.

Although Alex does a wide range of task to help out the team, her specific job is working with a program called "Right View Pro."

During every game Alex sits with the computer, recording every pitch, at-bat and defensive play. That's because after the game she combines all the data and with help of the software, creates various report-cards and stat sheets which show the team's performance during each game.

This program is especially helpful for the coaches and players to see how their performance is against various hitters or pitchers so they can continue to get better as the season progresses.

"Deciding to become a manager was the best decision I have made while being a student at Penn State," said Alex Comonitski.

"Going to the field everyday and having the feeling like I am a part of something important is the most rewarding part of the job," she added.

Growing up playing competitive softball, Alex feels grateful she's still able to play an important role.

"I have always loved the idea of a team and being one big "family." Its rewarding knowing that I found my place on this campus and the work that I am doing is a contribution to the success of the team. I'm also grateful for the things I have learned," Comonitski explained.

Jordan Caffrey

Alongside Alex is sophomore Jordan who also the most senior member of the student managers.

Jordan is originally from Effort, Pennsylvania near the Poconos and is a biology major with dreams of becoming a physician's assistant or coach in the future.

Similar to Alex, Jordan started his manager duties during freshman year. Growing up Jordan played sports and watched his own dad coach, so naturally managing a varsity sport interested him as soon as he stepped foot on campus.

"One of the best parts of being a manger is the amount of people I've met and things I'm able to do with the team, said Caffrey. "It's an amazing experience."

Being a biology major and involved in other activities on campus, Jordan always makes sure to mange his time properly, so he can travel with the team and be available every game and practice.

"Although it can be time demanding, I enjoy every minute of the job," said Caffrey

The softball team is a perfect example of just how much student managers can help a team, both on the field and off. They become not only important assets to the coaching staff, but they're an essential part of the team's overall blue print toward success.

"Our managers do so much, There's not a day that goes by without realizing how lucky we are to have them," Lehotak said.


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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a confidence-boosting doubleheader sweep of Ohio State, the Penn State softball team (23-20, 6-8) will travel to College Park, Md. for a three-game weekend series against the new kids on the block, the Maryland Terrapins.

The first pitch of the weekend will be thrown at 6 p.m. on Friday night, then the new conference foes will face off at 1 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday morning. The series finale on Sunday will be broadcasted live on the Big Ten Network.

Penn State enters the series riding some momentum, as the pair of wins on Wednesday night vaulted it from 12th to seventh place in the B1G. Adversely, Maryland has dropped three straight and six of their last eight, downgrading it to a three-way tie for the ninth position.

In their first season in the B1G, the Terps boast a 23-19 record with a 5-7 mark in the conference. After an abysmal 11-win season in the ACC in 2014, the Terps rebounded well and has exceeded expectations this season.

Leading the charge for the Terrapins at the dish are outfielders Erin Pronobis and Hannah Dewey. Pronobis ranks fifth in the conference with 11 long balls. She leads the team with 40 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .715. Dewey tops Maryland with a .388 batting average and a .556 on-base percentage. She also sees her fair share of time in the circle. The versatile sophomore has gone 4-8 this season in 24 appearances.

The clear number one for the Terps on the hill is senior Kaitlyn Schmeiser. In the team's 42 contests this year, Schmeiser has thrown a pitch in 37 of them. She totals 158.1 innings on the mound, and has worked her way to a 17-7 record. Her 3.31 ERA ranks seventh in the B1G.

The Nittany Lions will seek to counter Schmeiser with a bevy of offensive studs, highlighted by Lexi Knief. The junior has risen her batting average to an impressive .414 on the year while smacking 55 hits, fifth most in the conference. Macy Jones has also had a fantastic season as she sports a .461 OBP and a .630 slugging percentage. The junior has also cracked eighth homers and 30 RBIs.

A defining key to the series for Penn State will be limiting walks. Maryland has a patient lineup that has worked the second most free passes in the B1G this year, so the PSU pitching staff will have to pound the zone and force U of M to beat them with its sticks. The Nittany Lions have surrendered 159 bases on balls this year.

Another X-factor for the Blue and White will be Mollie Sorenson. The freshman has slowly moved up to the two-hole and has been incredibly efficient since B1G play began. Sorenson is batting .297 on the year, but she's hitting .417 in conference games with 20 base knocks and 12 runs scored. She will need to stay hot in the B1G to give the offense a boost this weekend.

 

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