Recently in Softball Category

 

By Miranda KulpGoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. --  Sophomore Shelby Miller and freshman Alyssa VanDerveer led the charge as the Penn State softball team defeated Robert Morris 2-0 and 9-1 in Wednesday night's doubleheader.  

The Lions made their presence known at the plate. As a team, strikeouts improved from 11 in the first game to only two in the second. 

"I think comparing the two games, we seemed much more relaxed at the plate during the second game," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. 

In the opener, the blue and white got on the board early with a pair of runs during the first inning with a single by VanDerveer and a throwing error by RMU.

Although the Lions weren't able to increase those runs, the team stayed focused and determined to prevent the Colonials from scoring.

"I would say defensive play is extremely important. Sometimes during a game we're faced with a pitcher, like Robert Morris's, who knows how to keep off us the bases and that's when the team really needs to adjust our hitting approach and make sure we're staying focused on the field," said Lehotak.

Although two runs may not be the biggest lead, pitcher Marlaina Laubach threw an impressive game by only allowing one hit through RMU's first six innings. 

Ending the game with a 2-0 victory, the Lions took a break and came back with high energy and ready for a strong start for the second game.

"One of the biggest aspects of being a coach is making sure the team's energy is good," said Lehotak. "It's never easy playing back-to-back games and we want to make sure our players are feeling good for the start of the second game."

Penn State quickly got on the board. Reina Furuya was walked with bases loaded to set up a two RBIs by Mollie Sorenson.

"We started being aggressive early in the game, and I'm very happy with how we rebounded in game two" said Lehotak.

After tacking on another three runs, the blue and white increased the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Miller hit a homer to center field, bringing in two more runs to make the lead 7-0. 

"I mean it always feels great when you get a home run," said Miller. " To me though it matters more that I was able to help my team today and I think we all did a great job being aggressive on the bases tonight."

Following Miller's lead, Alyssa VanDerveer hit her sixth homer of the season in the fifth inning.

"We showed a lot of focus while at bat and made sure we were swinging at the right pitches and that helped us get a lead early in the game," said VanDerveer.

In the beginning of the season, the Nittany Lions made it a mission to focus on the team's toughness and aggression while at bat and last night's game proved the team is heading in the right direction.

"I think one key aspect to the team's victory tonight was the general attitude we all had," said VanDerveer. 

After Wednesday's sweep, Penn State will be back on the road with another B1G weekend series at Michigan State. The series will be a double header on Saturday followed by a Sunday matinee.

 

 

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After two months on the road, the Penn State softball team returned to Happy Valley to host the University of Pittsburgh on Wednesday notching a 3-1 victory.

Despite the cold, Beard Field was buzzing with excitement for opening day and the team came out determined to play its best for the home crowd.

"Between the weather conditions, first time playing at home, and facing Pitt which is an in-state rival, there were a lot of emotions in this game," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "I think there was great softball on both ends and I'm proud of the team for pulling out with the win."

The Lions were able to take the toughness they created on the road back to Happy Valley for Wednesday's home opener to show off all the hard work the team has encountered since the start of the season.

"It was great being able to play here after being on the road for a long stretch," said coach Lehotak. "We're starting a new philosophy this year were we set expectations of not losing at home anymore."

One player that specifically showed her toughness was outfielder Macy Jones. She was able to lead the charge by dominating the game both at bat and in left field.

With a slow start to the game, Jones battled at the plate and hit a home run to the center field to provide Penn State two RBIs at the bottom of the third.

"I was really excited to play at home for the first time all season and whenever we're home, we want to put on a good show," said Macy Jones. "Sometimes I get too excited and lose focus but tonight I was able to really relax which allowed me to concentrate on my game more."

Jones also made five outs in the outfield which kept Pitt off the scoreboard multiple times throughout the game.

"It was funny because Macy had a really tough day at practice when dealing with fly balls and for her to come out strong tonight shows a lot about how hard she's willing to work," said coach Lehotak.

Alongside Jones, Marlaina
Laubach pitched all seven innings for the blue and white. Laubach is a sophomore from Northampton, PA and ended the game strong with six strikeouts at the mound and zero errors.

Similar to Jones, Laubach was motivated for the first home game of the season.

"I think there is a notable difference when playing home," said Laubach. "It's so nice being able to say we're home and be able to play in front of all our families and friends," said Laubach. "This being the home opener we really wanted to showcase what we've been working on while on the road."

Rallying from the victory over Pittsburgh, the Nittany Lions will stay focused as they continue on with the season. Next up, the Lions will enter the Big Ten season, hosting Northwestern in a three-game series over the weekend.

"Tonight's win set the bar for us and with Northwestern being a such a good team I think that will motivate us even more to perform our best over the weekend," said Jones.

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -While some students would love to spend their summers in California, softball player Kristina Brackpool stayed in State College to improve her softball game instead of going back to her West coast home.

This being her sophomore year with the Nittany Lions, Brackpool is starting the year off with determination and drive.

Currently, Brackpool has the second highest batting average on the team and has started every game so far this season for the Lions.

"This summer I really dedicated myself to improving," Brackpool said.

She credits her summer here in Happy Valley for her massive improvement from last year.

"I stayed on campus this summer and it was the best decision I could of made for my game," Brackpool said. "I was taking some summer classes and then dedicating the rest of my time to working out. I was able to work with the team's strength and conditioning trainers and that was a huge help."

Last year, she blasted a solo homer in her lone at bat against Ohio State. She started 25 of 30 games and was batting a .197 which has improved to .340 this season.

Now, this season she is leading the teams in home runs with four so far this season and has a total of 14 RBIs.

"I think looking back on last season and where I am now I can definitely see how I matured as a player," Brackpool said.

The infielder isn't the only one that sees her handwork paying off, the coaching staff has noticed her improvement.

"It's like night and day when comparing last season to this one for Kristina," head coach Amanda Lehotak said...Even after our first few practices I immediately saw an improvement in how she was playing and carrying herself. She's one of our toughest players this year and she's a force to be reckoned with when she's either up to bat or in the infield."

Brackpool is living proof that hard work and dedication goes a long way. Although she's already shown a massive improvement from last year, number 52 is constantly trying to continue her growth.

"I'm honored to be on this team so I want to never stop trying to improve," Brackpool said. "To me Penn State softball is more than just a team, it means I'm part of a family and I'm going to go to practice everyday giving it my all not only for me but for this family."

The California native explains that although central Pennsylvania is much different than her hometown in Valencia, California, she fell in love with the school and its softball program right away.

"Being a student-athlete here at Penn State means so much to me. It's the big school feel I've always wanted with a family feeling you can't beat," Brackpool said.

"I have a family within my team but also out of softball, I like how all student-athletes and other students here support one another. I think that's why I feel in love with the school."

Outside of softball, Brackpool is majoring in kinesiology and wants to pursue a career in medicine.

"Whatever Brackpool puts her mind to, she will succeed at," coach Lehotak said. "The dedication she puts into softball shows what type of person she is and how she's willing to put in the work to get what she wants."

Currently, Penn State is 8-9 as they prepare to head to California for a tournament this weekend.

Brackpool and the team are excited to see what this weekend brings for the Lions as they get closer to the first home game later this month against Pitt on the 18th.

By Rich Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The frigid State College temperatures in February and March make it nearly impossible to play on Beard Field early in the softball season. Penn State competes in four star-studded tournaments far away from home before its first home contest on March 18.

Together, this season's tournaments total 25 games for the Nittany Lions, two of which against ranked teams. No one likes a 25 game road trip, especially to start the year, but Coach Amanda Lehotak only sees the positives of such a grueling schedule.

"One of the reasons I like the tough schedule is because of how good our conference is," Lehotak said. "We're ranked third in conference strength, so we need some quality experience before entering the conference slate."

Coach Lehotak and her team will gain a bevy of experience before conference play with notable games against strong SEC teams including Mississippi State, Arkansas, Missouri and Georgia. Freshman pitcher Jessica Cummings echoed her coach's philosophy on the tough competition.

"It's definitely an advantage playing so many quality teams on the road," Cummings said. "We have such strong competition in our conference so we have to get used to hostile environments. If we can handle the large SEC crowds in the beginning of the season, it won't even be a factor once we reach conference play."

Out of Penn State's 56 games this year, 41 are away from Happy Valley. That amounts to an absurdly lopsided 73% of contests taking place in unfamiliar territories.

Playing a ton of away games is tough in so many ways, but we genuinely enjoy it," Lehotak said. "To show our product, who we are, and how we've been representing Penn State across the country is everything."

No matter how fun and unique it is to play on a plethora of fields against storied programs, there's nothing like a rowdy home game at Beard Field. As the home opener quickly approaches, coaches and players are becoming more and more excited as every day passes.

"All they talk about is playing at Beard Field," Lehotak said. "When we have recruits in, I never have to tell them about our fans. When you hit a homerun it looks like it's going to Beaver Stadium, so it's really neat. We cannot wait to get back to playing here."

"It's going to be so exciting to finally play at Beard Field," said Cummings. "We already have so much confidence this year. We're so excited to show our fans how hard we've been working and hopefully that translates to a ton of home wins."

Success at home has become the backbone of coach Lehotak's cluster of goals in 2015. Her message is simple: home losses are a big no-no.

"We don't want to lose at home," said Lehotak. This is our house and we're going to protect it. We didn't play very well last year at home, so hopefully with all the grit we have and the training we've been doing, we will have a much better home performance."

The players seem to be buying in to this all-important objective as well.

"We don't hope to win at home. We need to," senior Maegan Tupinio said. "It's mostly a mental thing. We have to commit to the fact that we won't accept losing at home. If we do that we'll be successful and it'll be fun too."

"Coach Lehotak always tells us we don't lose at home," said Cummings. "We know how important it is to take care of business with our fans cheering us on. It'll be a great experience when we have our crowd there supporting us."

A key to home success will be composure. Even with such a small amount of home games, it's essential that the pressure doesn't get to the young Nittany Lions.

"One of the reasons I scheduled a midweek game before our first conference game is because last year we played a conference game first," said Lehotak.  "They were so amped up with so much energy to play in front of the Beards and all of our fans that they crashed. I thought it was vital this year to get that out of the way before we play Northwestern."

As for the process, the long road trip presents many challenges to student-athletes. In the span of 36 days, the team will travel to Florida (twice), Mississippi, California and Texas, which puts a severe dent in study time. Maegan Tupinio is all too familiar with losing time for school for time on a plane.

"Keeping up with school is the hardest part about playing so many road games," said Tupinio. "We come back at absurd hours at night and we still have to get up for school. It's definitely exhausting. We also have to keep our grades up in order to practice and play."

Cummings, on the other hand, is just getting used to the busy work load in her first year as a collegiate student-athlete.

"Keeping up with class is always a struggle," Cummings said. "We're given every opportunity we could ask for like tutors and team study halls. That was one of the reasons I chose to come here. The support to succeed academically and athletically is better than any other school I considered."

The Blue and White will continue its streak away from home on March 10 vs. Pacific.

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Named the seventh softball coach in program history in 2013, Amanda Lehotak arrived in Happy Valley with the dedication and passion to revamp the Penn State softball program.

Her first season with the Blue and White concluded with a 14-35 overall record and a 5-18 Big Ten mark, showing improvement by finishing a spot higher in the conference standings than the year prior. With her sophomore season now in full swing, Lehotak and her squad have big plans for the 2015 season.

"I think a big theme for this year is rebuilding, and really showing what this team has to offer," said Lehotak.

Currently 6-4 and off to its best start in six seasons, the team is showing what they have to offer; toughness and grit which enables them to fight until the very end.

Being from Nebraska, I knew I always wanted to be up North. I see a toughness in these players and the people here you don't see as much down south," Lehotak said. "These are some of the toughest girls I've coached so far and I can't wait to see what the season brings them this year."

Although Lehotak means business on the field, she also knows how to connect with her players as people.

"Coach runs the show expecting greatness while understanding how each of us work as individuals," said Furuya. "She recognizes each of our tendencies and can tailor her coaching toward our needs, which is awesome."

While she has a true intensity within her, the second year coach takes the time to get to know each of her players and understands there's no one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to coaching.

"She has a good type of intensity that can make us into a stronger team," said Furuya.

With the combination of her love for the sport and understanding of its players, Lehotak hopes to take Penn State to the next level.

"I think this season is going to be a good one for us. We have a lot of heart and we're rebuilding this already great softball program," said Lehotak.

Penn State travels to Mississippi State this weekend for a three-game weekend series against the Bulldogs. The Blue and White will continue its road swing until its first home game on March 18th against Pittsburgh. 

 

 

 

 

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When juniors Reina Furuya and Maegan Tupinio left the Hawaiian islands for central Pennsylvania they officially made Happy Valley their second home and quickly found family in their teammates.

"I think that's one of the great things about college sports," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "We grab players from all over the country and can see them form their own little family despite coming from completely different areas."

Both veteran players admit it was a culture shock coming to State College but each of them fell in love with the university and area immediately.

"Although I left a lot of my family back on the island I couldn't be happier here, coming to Penn State is one of the best decisions I've ever made," said Maegan Tupinio.

"I've always loved the East cost and knew at a young age I wanted to go to a school in this region, I love the pace and historical aspect of it all," she added. "Penn State has everything I ever dreamed of in a school and the fact I get to play softball at a Division I level only makes it better."

Not only is Tupinio dedicated to her sport, she takes her academics very seriously. Majoring in biological science, she plans on being a doctor one day.

"Maegan Tupinio is kind of our silent warrior. Although she's quiet, her impact on the team is essential," said Lehotak. "She takes school very seriously and is always giving her best at practice. She's one of the hardest working kids I've ever met, she may not say a lot but she always gets the job done."

Alongside Tupinio, another Hawaiian native rounds out the roster. Shortstop Reina Furuya left her hometown of Waipahu, Hawaii to pursue her collegiate softball career by being in the right place at the right time.

"I got really lucky with Penn State finding me," said Furuya. "The coaches were looking at a girl on my travel ball team and encouraged me to look into Penn State's program and I instantly fell in love."

With most of her family still in Hawaii, Furuya said with the support of her family and love for the sport moving so far away for school was exciting for her.

Currently, Furuya is majoring in energy business and finance, and makes sure she is always keeping a balance schedule, especially since the spring season is in action.

"It's sometimes challenging but I can't imagine not playing a sport in college," she said. "It's an instant family and we're all sisters on this team, it can be a grind but it's so much fun playing the game with my teammates."

Although she misses Hawaii sometimes, Furuya explains having another island native on the team is a constant connection to back home.

"In Hawaii we have this saying 'ohana' which means family, everyone from the islands is instant family so seeing Maegan is always a little reminder of my culture," Furuya explained.

Although they always have each other, both girls credit their teammates for making the transition from the 808 to the 814.

"I'm here with 21 other sisters," said Tupinio. "Although I miss my parents, my teammates always make me feel at home," said Tupinio.

Regardless of where anyone is from, when these players and coaches get together they create a large softball family.

"College athletics is all about meeting different people from different places while playing the sport we all love," said coach Lehotak.

Furuya and Tupinio will be back in action with their Penn State teammates this weekend when they take part in the Aggie Classic, hosted by Texas A&M in College Station. 

By Richard Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With piles of snow flooding Beard Field, one might be skeptical about softball season kicking off in just a week. Thankfully, there's not a flurry to be found in Boca Raton, Fla., where the Nittany Lions will make their 2015 debut.

In years past, there hasn't been much to be scared of in Penn State's dugout, but a deep, veteran outfield group this year should have opponents marking their calendars before the season starts.

Leading the charge for this year's group is junior Lexi Knief. She was named an All-Big Ten second team honoree in her sophomore season, while leading the Nittany Lions in batting average, slugging percentage, runs, hits, and doubles.

"Her competitiveness is what makes her special," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "She just has that grit and that 'it' factor. When she feels she's getting beat she gets better. She's fun to coach because if you push her she's just going to fight harder. I never want her to graduate."

Knief has earned high praises from the conference, her coaches and her teammates for her outstanding 2014 season, but she isn't dwelling on her past successes.

"Last year was last year," said Knief. "I don't really even think about last year. Stats are not relevant to me right now. I'm more worried about how the team is progressing and how we're going to start the season in Boca."

Knief has established herself as a star offensive force on the team and in the conference, but she can't do it by herself. In 2014, the seven other outfielders who saw the field recorded a combined .147 batting average. This year, the team will look to the junior transfer from Akron, Erin Pond, to provide Knief with some offensive assistance.

"What you're going to like about Erin Pond is that she has a little Lexi in her," said Lehotak. "Erin gets stronger when she gets punched in the face by the game. That's what the best athletes are able to do so well. She's going to be a huge asset for us in left field, especially offensively."

Junior Macy Jones is also turning some heads this preseason. Jones started in all but one game last season and recorded 22 RBIs, good for third on the team. However, she was unable to perform as well as she did in her freshman season, so she and coach Lehotak are hoping for a bounce-back year.

"Macy had a great freshman year, but hit the sophomore slump last year," Lehotak said. "Where she is now is far better than where she was all of last year, so we expect Macy to get back in the frame and repeat the freshman year that she had."

Another player to watch for this year is senior Alicia Walker. Walker has taken it upon herself to provide leadership and confidence to the outfield group.

"Personally, I want to improve as a leader," Walker said. "I've never been known as the most verbal leader. I'm more of a lead by example type of player, but as a senior I'm trying to take everyone under my wing and take more control as an outfield leader."

Senior Meghan Bradley, juniors Maegan Tupinio and Shannon Good, sophomore Mary Ward and freshman Mollie Sorenson join Knief, Pond, Jones and Walker. Freshman Rebecca Ziegler would've contributed greatly this year as well if not for a knee injury that knocked her out for the season.

"Everyone in the outfield is doing tremendously well right now," said Knief. "Everyone's working hard, and we got a great group of girls so it's anyone's game out there."

"What's great about our group is that we have a large group of outfielders," Walker said. "We're confident that no matter who's out there, everyone will perform well. Everyone works hard at practice. We're confident that whoever's out there will perform well."

The team begins their 2015 campaign at the Kickoff Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. Feb. 6-8, where they will play five teams in three days. 

By Richard Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Softball season is quickly approaching, and the Nittany Lions are eager to kick off their 2015 campaign. In two short weeks, Penn State will be on the field in sunny Boca Raton, Fla. for the annual Florida Atlantic University "Kick-Off" Tournament.

Head coach Amanda Lehotak and the Lions get a fresh start this year, and they plan to make the most of it. There's plenty to be excited about, including a young, tough-minded infield group.

"They're extremely athletic," said Lehotak. "They do exactly what they need to do, which is why I trust starting them. They make all the routine plays. If we can make all the routine plays and make a great play every now and then, we're going to be tough to beat."

The group boasts three freshmen, three sophomores, and two juniors, giving Lehotak plenty of options to mix and match with. Last year, seven infielders saw time on the field, so it wouldn't be surprising to see all eight players out there at some point in 2015.

Junior Reina Furuya, who started in every game last year, knows the importance of depth and versatility in the infield.

"Everyone brings their own skills to the table," Furuya said. "We have plenty of weapons and we're much more well-rounded this year. We always push each other in practice because we know all of us are capable of starting."

Coach Lehotak has been impressed with Furuya thus far. With a lack of experience scattered throughout the infield, it was imperative that someone took over as the leader, and that's exactly what Furuya has done in the offseason.

"I trust her," said Lehotak. "She gets it. She studies the game and she's always watching film. She enjoys that role and has really embraced it."

On the opposite end, the three freshmen are showing no signs of fear or uncertainty. Most notably, Gianna Arrizurieta has been turning some heads in the preseason.

"Her work ethic, her knowledge of the game and her offensive ability has far exceeded our expectations," Lehotak said. "Offensively, we did not expect her to have the pop that she has, or the mental toughness. That's a kid that can strike out on 3 straight pitches and on the next at-bat hit a rocket up the middle."

Another player to watch this year is sophomore Kristina Brackpool. As a freshman, Brackpool started 25 games and hit two home runs while compiling an impressive .987 fielders percentage.

"I'm looking for her [Brackpool] to have a big year," said Lehotak. "Last year, she was our own worst enemy mentally. This year she really has matured and worked her butt off, and she is far better mentally and physically than she was a year ago."

"My main objective is to play solid defense," said Brackpool. "We've been stressing it a ton this offseason. If we don't allow runs, we only need to score one and we should win every game."

Defense has been a major point of emphasis going into the year. The Lions were fifth in the Big Ten last year with 31 infield errors, but they are looking to improve.

"We want to be top three defensively in the Big Ten," said Lehotak. "I think we have the talent to do it. Even if we're starting 3 freshmen in the infield, we're sticking to that goal. Sixty percent of our practices are strictly based on defense."

The Nittany Lions are going to have to be stout defensively to succeed in the Big Ten, as five teams from the conference received votes in the USA Today/NFCA Division Preseason Poll.

Furuya has been stressing the importance of defense to the younger players herself.

"Defense is a game changer," said Furuya. "We can score 10 runs each game and still lose every single one if we can't defend. We have to play every pitch like it's our last."

Other strong contributors on the field include sophomores Shelby Miller and Sam Shanahan, along with junior Maegan Tupinio. Miller was one of just four Nittany Lions to bat over .300 last year, so expect her to carry the load offensively while Miller leads the way defensively making just five errors in 84 chances in 2014. Freshmen Alyssa VanDerveer and Mollie Sorenson will also look to make an immediate impact in any way they can.

There are unlimited roster possibilities for coach Lehotak, and she will be utilizing as many different lineups as she can. The ability to rotate infielders and sub in fresh legs when needed will be a huge advantage for Penn State this season.

Penn State will start the season Feb. 6-8 at the FAU "Kick-Off' Tournament in Boca Raton, Fla. as the team plays five games in three days vs. opponents Arkansas, FAU, LIU Brooklyn, Georgia Tech and Kansas.

By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With just a little less than a month left until the first game of the 2015 season, the Penn State softball team is entering the final stages of preseason prep before traveling to Boca Raton, Fla. for its first tournament of the year.

With a mix of new and returning players training since the fall, the Lions are determined to improve and are entering the season with high intensity throughout every workout.

Returning for her second year as head coach, Amanda Lehotak is ready to hit the ground running. She is preparing the team for the new season and new chance to make a splash in the Big Ten.

"I'm always eager to start a new season," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "We were really impressed with the team's work ethic this fall and I can already start to see some major improvements in some of our weaker areas last year."

Last year the Lions went 14-35 overall, but instead of dwelling on the wins and losses the team is using them to its advantage and learning from past mistakes to grow.

"I think this group is capable of doing great things," Lehotak said. "We have a good batch of fresh talent being guided by our returning players. Already they've shown a constant willingness to work hard and improve during the preseason and I'm looking forward to see that intensity continue."

This year, the Lions will be welcoming six new players, five freshmen as well as a junior transfer. Redshirt Freshman Mia Monopoli is expected to compete for playing time behind the plate and is looking forward to opening day.

"I'm more excited than anything to start the season," said Monopoli. "I mean there are obviously some nerves but I can't wait for the games to start.
We've been preparing since the beginning of the school year so it's crazy thinking the season is this close to officially starting."

While some of the players are entering their first season as Nittany Lions, others are returning to Beard Field ready for another slate of games.

Among the group of returning players ready to grow from last season is senior pitcher Marissa Diescher.

"I think this year is going to be a big year for the program," said Diescher. "We have a lot of talent this year and I'm excited to see how everything meshes together once we start the season. I'm looking forward to proving ourselves this year since last year didn't end exactly the way we were hoping it would."

The Lions will be starting the season on the road in California, Florida, Mississippi and Texas. The team won't be playing at Beard Field until March 18.

"We intend on giving it our all this season and really proving ourselves," said
Diescher. "Whether it's in a tournament or individual game we want to always play our best."

Although the season doesn't officially start until Feb. 6, the players have been getting both physically and mentally ready for months.

"The thing about being an athlete is you always want to get better both personally and as a team so we never really stop training," said Diescher. "My goal this season is to improve my individual game and help my team win as much as I can."

As the start of the season approaches, both the coaching staff and the players are staying focused and keeping intensity levels up during training and using last year's upset for motivation.

"As a coach, our biggest thing is to put the team in the best position to succeed," said Lehotak. "We see great potential these players and want to make sure we're providing them with the proper training and confidence to play at their best."


 By Alexis Shelton, GoPSUsports.com Student Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa--- Six years ago, Megan Gibson graduated as a student-athlete from Texas A&M. Today, she is the pitching coach for the softball team at Penn State.  Now, Gibson was inducted into the Texas A & M Athletic Hall of Fame. 


Gibson learned about her honor in a laughable way.

"I got a phone call from one of our alumni, who I believe is in the Hall of Fame already. She called me and left a message kind of in a panicking voice saying she needed to talk to me. It made me nervous. I called her back and she told me I was being inducted and I was just like, what? It was a comical situation, we laughed for quite a bit."

Becoming a successful coach wasn't easy for Gibson. There were a lot of challenges that she faced in her four years with the Aggies.

"There was so much that happened, said Gibson. "There were a lot of firsts. My freshman year we won the Big 12 Championship, which was the first time that ever happened. My sophomore year was a very difficult year, we overcame a lot and it was a lot of learning so that was our transitioning year. But, my junior year we made our first run at the World College World Series, and my senior year was just a great one."

Gibson has quite the history under her name, during her 2008 season, she was a National Player of the Week, and later that year went on to become the first Big 12 player to be named both Big 12 Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year.

She also led her team to win the program's second Big 12 regular season championships as well as making it to the final series of the Women's College World Series.

Two years later, she met with current Penn State head coach Amanda Lehotak at the University of Texas-San Antonio as an assistant coach before the duo made the transition to Penn State in 2012.

And, Lehotak couldn't be happier to have her on board at Penn State.

"Megan brings a lot of strength to our team because honestly, she is just a wealth of knowledge," said Lehotak. "She was an All-American because she was one of the best hitters of our game." 

"First base, outfield, pitcher. She's one of the few athletes that can teach hitting, she can teach pitching, and she can teach defense," she said. She just brings that championship mentality, she knows what it takes and how hard it is to get there. She's very universal."

Gibson's decision to coach was one that changed her life.

"I stayed on for my fifth-year at A&M for a semester," said Gibson. I had started grad school. I was really unsure of what I wanted to do. My mom actually suggested to me that I should be a coach."

"While I was there, I figured I'd help out with the team in my free time and there was this one girl that they asked me to help out with this one pitch. I remember when she got her first hit she came into the bullpen and was so excited. That was truly an amazing feeling."

After that, she went to play in a Japanese league for four years before coming back. She went back to Tesas A&M for a short period of time as the pitching coach before meeting Lehotak.

"She was wise beyond her years," Lehotak said. "I remember after first talking to her on the phone. I was praying that she would come coach with me," she added.

When asked what it's like coaching with her, Lehotak said, "I think we've become family. We've become a good tandem because we're similar but different. We're similar because we understand the difference between business versus personal. We're very good at keeping those two separate."

Lehotak also commented on how the two balance each other out.

"I'm kind of out-going and quick to react," said Lehotak. "She's more analytical and likes to sit back and relax. We're a good balance, she can come in the next day and tell me when I was a little too much. I think we work well together, we have great respect for one another."

Gibson was officially inducted into the Texas A&M Athletic Hall of Fame on October 31, 2014.