Recently in Softball Category

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the regular season begins to wind down, the Penn State softball team must prepare to say goodbye to another class of graduates. The Class of 2017 marks the first group to play for head coach Amanda Lehotak all four years. They come from every corner of the country and are looking to leave Happy Valley on a high note. 

Kristina Brackpool
The first baseman out of Valencia, California has started 169 games in her career as a Nittany Lion. She has been an anchor at first base the past three years and currently has a .289 batting average on the season. Coming to State College from the other side of the country requires a lot of travel, but that's exactly what Brackpool loves to do with her team. 

"My favorite memory is travelling all across the country and seeing how big our fan base is," Brackpool. "There's so many Penn Staters all over the country and no matter where we go, whether it's Texas or Seattle or Colorado, there's Penn Staters everywhere."

Brackpool will not be graduating this May and is instead staying for a fifth year. However, she'll still be involved with the softball program as an assistant to Lehotak for next season. Once she completes her degree next spring, Brackpool plans to go to medical school.

Jess Haug
Haug has only been a Nittany Lion for the last two seasons, when she transferred to Penn State after playing at Temple for one year. She also played basketball at Penn State Abington for a year. When she got to Happy Valley for her junior year, she walked on to the team, which has been her favorite memory in a blue and white uniform so far.

"My favorite memory was last year when I transferred here and ended up walking on to the team," Haug said. "Coach Tek gave me a chance and it ended up working out so I'm always appreciative and thankful for that opportunity."

As of now, Haug doesn't have anything lined up for post-graduation, but she plans on enjoying the summer while she continues to look for jobs.

 

Marlaina Laubach
Laubach has been a force on the pitching mound this season, and for much of her career as well. She's Lehotak's go-to pitcher and leads the pitching staff in innings played. From Northampton, Pennsylvania, she heads towards the final stretch of her career with a 3.49 ERA and 318 strikeouts. 

"Playing for coach Tek has actually been really fun, she has been pretty much my biggest advocate in my four years here," Laubach said. "She's always held me to a high standard and I really appreciate that so I'm successful because of her." 

Laubach, a psychology major, doesn't have any definite plans lined up for after graduation but hopes to enjoy the summer before she has to take her GREs for grad school.

 Shelby Miller
Miller came to Penn State from Sugar Land, Texas and has been a trusty hitter ever since arriving at Beard Field. Her career batting average* sits at .319 and sits in second place on the career RBI list with 118. Since arriving on campus four years ago, her favorite memory is when the team travelled to Texas to play and she got to show her teammates her home.

"My favorite memory from Penn State softball is when we went to Texas because I'm from Texas and I got to show everybody what Texas is about and the Texas food that I miss so much," Miller said.

Miller currently doesn't have anything lined up for after graduation, but she plans to take a year off and then apply for grad school so that she can hopefully become a physical therapist.

Mia Monopoli
The graduating redshirt junior catcher has played in 65 career games as a Nittany Lion, including 37 games and 25 starts in 2017.  Monopoli is hitting .206 this season with four doubles and five runs batted in.  Heading into her final home series, she has had some great moments in the Blue and White.  

"My favorite Penn State softball memory was getting to start the first home game my first year here," she said.  "It was such an honor to me, I've never smiled bigger.  Seeing my name on that big screen was worth every blood, sweat, and tear that ever went into my training" 

Following graduating the California native will be heading home to work in her hometown area of San Francisco, and there are she will be taking lessons from the diamond to her next path. 

"I have countless lessons that I will take away from softball but mainly I will take away how much a positive attitude can do for you," Monopoli said. 

 "You have to appreciate and respect the whole process," she added.  "And that goes for any job or passion!" 

Sam Shanahan
Shanahan has gone back and forth as right fielder and DP this season, and has succeeded at both. The Seattle, Washington native has played in 42 games this season, which are the most games in a season in her career. As she looks ahead to the future, Shanahan is looking to take the lessons she learned from softball with her in the real world. 

"The one thing I'll take from softball is you have to put in the hard work everyday to get the results," Shanahan said. "I definitely have understood what hard work takes and I definitely will take that into my future."

Shanahan plans on going to grad school after graduation so that she can one day become a registered dietitian.

Student Managers
Penn State softball also has two student managers that are graduating. Alex Comonitski and Jon Herzing have both been managers for three years, with Comonitski starting her freshman year and Herzing started his sophomore year. Comonitski took a year off when she studied abroad her junior year. 

After playing softball in high school and fielding some offers from small Division 1 schools, Comonitski came into Penn State hoping to be involved with the program somehow. 

"I knew that Coach Tek was new so I started emailing the secretary and I asked if they needed help in any capacity in the office or anything so that I could get involved somehow," Comonitski said. "And luckily because [Lehotak] was new and she had a whole new staff and needed student managers so I've been doing it ever since." 

Herzing originally worked for the grounds crew at Beard Field and when the team was looking for a new manager his sophomore year, he thought it would be a good opportunity.

"I think it's just the collective experience of all the people I've met and the experiences I've gotten to have, like travelling with the team," Herzing said. "I've gotten to see a lot of great places and I've really made a lot of good friends on all these trips and from being around the team." 

Senior Day will take place when the Nittany Lions conclude the regular season with a home series against No. 4 Minnesota. The six graduates will be honored before the series finale on Sunday, May 7 at 1 p.m.

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State dropped its final Wednesday night doubleheader of the season when it fell to Saint Francis 2-0 and 1-0.

Senior Marley Laubach and sophomore Madison Shaffer got the starting nods on the mound, both pitching a complete game. Shaffer had four strikeouts and only two batters walked in eight innings in game two. 

"I thought she pitched good enough to win," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "I thought she was competitive, she did a great job, her changeup was unstoppable tonight and I'm very proud of her."

Shaffer didn't want to take all the credit in game two, and pushed the accolades off to the rest of her teammates who all had strong defensive games. 

"Tonight the defense played phenomenal as a whole," Shaffer said. "They made some really awesome plays and that really helps me have confidence in myself when I know that they're on and making awesome plays." 

The Nittany Lions were able to hold the Red Flash to minimal runs in both games thanks to outstanding play from all three outfielders. 

Tori Dubois, Rebecca Ziegler and Sam Shanahan, playing left field, center field and right field, respectively, were all strong on defense. And it wasn't particularly easy in game one; with a 5 p.m. start time, the outfielders fell victim to a setting sun in Happy Valley, with the glare in their eyes the entire game. 

Ziegler had the most impressive catch of the game amongst the three, saving a hit in the top of the second when Saint Francis' Halle Marion hit a fly ball to left center field. Ziegler ran a good amount before making the diving catch to end the inning. 

"Our outfield has really come on strong the past two weeks and they've really helped keep us in games," Lehotak said. "There's a coaching saying that 'you're only as good as your outfield' and I think that's very true, you have to have a good outfield to be above average and they've been doing a phenomenal job." 

The Nittany Lions had to completely rebuild the outfield this season after losing veterans Macy Jones, Lexi Knief and Erin Pond to graduation. Lehotak took on that daunting task and found her replacements, all of who have so far filled in the holes well. 

The outfield has been a stalwart in nearly every game this season. Dubois and Ziegler aren't afraid to get down and dirty, constantly putting their bodies on the line to make seemingly improbable catches.

Penn State hits the road for a three game series against Maryland this weekend. Start times are 5 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a great week for head coach Amanda Lehotak's Penn State softball team.  After going 4-1 this week, the Nittany Lions improved to 20-26 overall, and 6-11 in Big Ten conference play.  It all started with a doubleheader sweep of Bucknell on Wednesday, and the squad carried that momentum into the weekend, taking two of three games from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Blue and White Weekend.

 

Marlaina Laubach has become "old reliable" for Lehotak, tossing another complete game shutout in game one against Bucknell, something that has become the norm for the senior ace.  But it was a redshirt sophomore who stole the show all week long.  Rebecca Ziegler has certainly gained the respect of her coach. 

 

"I don't know [if there's anything she can't do], and I don't want to find out," said Lehotak with a smile.

 

"Hopefully she keeps doing what she's doing.  She had a great weekend and she's been building and being consistent, getting better and better every week, and I think she's really starting to get a deep understanding of the game... I'm very happy with Ziegler," added Lehotak.

 

Ziegler was the hero in game two against Bucknell Wednesday, driving in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning with a single through the infield and going 3-4 in the game.  That was only the beginning for Ziegler's heroic week.  In game one of the weekend series against Rutgers, Ziegler blasted a rocket over the wall in dead centerfield to cut her team's deficit to just one run.  She would go on to hit a triple in what would be a come-from-behind win, with the exclamation point put on by a Tori Dubois walk-off home run.  After the game, Ziegler reflected on her solid performance at the dish.

 

"I just felt more in my zone, felt more relaxed.  As long as I stay composed and stay within myself, that's when I get it done," said Ziegler. 

 

Lehotak realizes she is fortunate to be able to have such a weapon batting leadoff.

 

"I think the leadoff spot in an offensive lineup is one of the most important parts so if you can have somebody that's a triple threat like her, speed, slap, hit a home run, hit doubles, she's just hard to defend," said Lehotak. 

 

Saturday's game was the least dramatic, with Penn State cruising to a 7-0 victory during a busy day for Penn State athletics.  Jessica Cummings did her best Marlaina Laubach impression, hurling a complete game shutout.

 

On Sunday, Ziegler decided she wanted to take home our player of the game honors for the second time this week, settling in in all facets of the game.  Ziegler doubled over the head of the centerfielder in the second inning, ripped an RBI single in the fourth inning to put the Nittany Lions up 3-1, and made a phenomenal defensive play. 

 

With a 4-2 lead in the top of the sixth inning, a Rutgers single looked like it would score a run.  Ziegler had other ideas.  Ziegler fielded the hit and fired from centerfield, throwing a laser right to catcher Mia Monopoli to gun down the potential crucial run.

 

Lehotak and her staff have really taken notice of the team's vastly improved play lately. 

 

"I've told them a few times this year that they've impressed me in a lot of different areas, and their fight and their belief in one another is the most amazing thing that I've seen," said Lehotak.

 

That fight has allowed the Blue and White to be able to hit Lehotak's goal of winning each week, something they will try and repeat as the Big Ten tournament looms. 

"We won the week.  It's what we wanted to do, and tomorrow starts a new week.  It's all about winning next week," said Lehotak. 

 

Saint Francis University comes to town Wednesday night for an out of conference doubleheader beginning at 5 pm.  Then, the club hits the road and travels to College Park for a three-game stint against Maryland, who is 2-12 in conference play this season with an overall record of 9-32-1.  If Penn State can get the sweep, they can get closer to .500 in conference play this season, which would lift them to the upper half of the conference standings with just one more regular season series before the Big Ten conference tournament.  

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On a chilly Blue and White Saturday, the Nittany Lions handily beat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 7-0 on Saturday to win their second Big Ten series of the season. The win comes after an extra inning scare on Friday night when the Lions won on a walk-off in the eighth.  Here are some takeaways from the Big Ten victory. 

Fast start paces Lions

The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 4-0 start in the first inning thanks to RBIs from Tori Dubois, Kristina Brackpool and Christa Wagner. Fast starts are something Penn State has not succeeded at this season, so head coach Amanda Lehotak was happy her team was able to get going early.  

 

"That has not been our comfort zone all year, so for us to jump out like that it was huge in momentum," Lehotak said. "I liked that it kind of took the pressure off the pitching and the defense a little bit. I think that was the first time we jumped out to a lead and I felt we were very confident and played really steady the rest of the game."

 

Dubois thriving on both sides

Dubois has been hitting well in the last couple of games, and continued that streak into game two of the weekend. After going 3-for-3 with two RBIs on Friday, Dubois finished Saturday 2-for-3 and added on another two RBI. 

 

The sophomore has also been putting on a clinic in the outfield as well, continuously making difficult diving catches to keep runs off the board. 

 

"That's just kind of Tori's style, she's kind of reckless a little bit, she's aggressive like that and that's what makes her good," Lehotak said. "She's athletic, she gets good jumps on the ball and the greatest thing about Tori is she's going to give you max effort every play. She's made really big catches for us and it just allows our pitchers to do what they need to do knowing their defense will give them max effort."

 

Offense generating hits

The Nittany Lion offense has been putting big numbers on the scoreboard lately, tallying 10-plus hits for the third-straight game and the 12th time this season. In Saturday night's game, seven of nine batters recorded a hit, with only one batter striking out.

 

What's Next?

Penn State closes it's weekend series with Rutgers on Sunday as the Nittany Lions look to complete the sweep of the Scarlet Knights. First pitch is set for 1 p.m.

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State fell down early Friday evening, as Marlaina Laubach uncharacteristically allowed five runs in the first two innings.  Despite the early runs, the tides turned quickly for the Blue & White thanks to the long ball and some clutch hits. 

 

The team took a 6-5 lead in the third inning, then lost, and regained the lead again to take the win. After being down 9-6 in the sixth inning, the Blue & White plated three in that inning, and would find themselves in an extra-inning battle tied at 9.  In the bottom of the eighth, Tori Dubois hit Penn State's third home run of the game, this time, a two-run walk-off to end it.  Head coach Amanda Lehotak was proud of her team after fighting the entire game and getting the 11-9 win.

 

"I've told them a few times this year that they've impressed me in a lot of different areas, and their fight and their belief in one another is the most amazing thing that I've seen," said Lehotak.

 

Player of the Game

Rebecca Ziegler

 

Ziegler ripped an absolute moonshot in the second inning, crushing a homer right over the 220-feet sign in dead centerfield.  That home run was a momentum-booster, as that cut the deficit to just one run.  Penn State would later take the lead before giving up four runs in the fifth inning.  In the sixth inning, Ziegler roped a line drive into the gap and made it all the way to third, driving in a run in the process.  Lehotak knows she is fortunate to have Ziegler's ability in the leadoff slot. 

 

"I think the leadoff spot in an offensive lineup is one of the most important parts so if you can have somebody that's a triple threat like her, speed, slap, hit a home run, hit doubles, she's just hard to defend," said Lehotak. 

 

As for her solid day at the plate, Ziegler said, "I just felt more in my zone, felt more relaxed, as long as I stay composed and stay within myself, that's when I get it done," said Ziegler.

 

Takeaways

  • Clutch hitting - Penn State did a nice job of not stranding runners on base.  In the second, Christa Wagner blooped a single down the right field line to score Gianna Arrizurietta who singled and advanced to second base on a wild pitch.  Ziegler's blast came with a runner on, and in the third inning, Delaney Elling came up big with a two-run single to give her team a 6-5 advantage.  Down 9-6 in the sixth inning, Toni Polk singled up the middle to score Ziegler from third, making it just 9-8 in favor of the Scarlet Knights.  Finally, Tori Dubois homered to win the game. 
  • Five-tool player - Kristina Brackpool showed some of her versatility on Friday night.  She knocked a home run over the left-centerfield fence, and put her name in the Penn State record books, becoming ninth all-time in program history with 19 career home runs.  She also laid down a sacrifice bunt in the third inning, allowing runners to advance to second and third for Elling, who drove both home.  In the fifth, she nearly notched her 20th career dinger, flying out to the warning track in right field. 
  • Hardcore fans - Blue & White weekend was felt at Beard Field Friday night, as a group of fans stood shirtless in the front row of the stands on the third base side, each with a letter painted on their chests spelling "Go State!"  It's that kind of dedication that makes Blue & White weekend special.   

 

What's Next?

The excitement continues in game two of the three-game series on Saturday, when Curtin road will be closed off for a Blue & White parade and celebration before the game.  The team is expecting a sellout crowd for Saturday's 5 o'clock contest, and the area will be rocking with the spring football game and a baseball game against Northwestern all taking place at the same time.  Penn State (19-25, 5-10) will look to continue its climb up the Big Ten conference standings.  

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A few weeks ago, head coach Amanda Lehotak's squad was scheduled to practice in Holuba Hall, an indoor sports complex shared by many of the Penn State varsity sports.  While the team waited for the football team to finish up practice in preparation for the annual Blue & White game, a coach came out and informed Lehotak that the team would be running late and working extra practice that night, forcing Lehotak and her staff to audible and find a different place to practice.

 

Yes, football dominates the equation when it comes to Penn State athletics.  But, the softball team knows that it has carved out an important niche in the Penn State athletic community, and it shows with team attendance this season.  It also showed last year when, on the same day James Franklin's squad took the field of Beaver Stadium for the yearly spring exhibition, Beard Field was also hosting a sold-out crowd. 

 

In 2016, while a crowd of 65,000 fans piled in to catch a first glimpse of what would be a Rose Bowl Nittany Lion football team, right across the street the softball team experienced its first sellout crowd ever at Beard Field, with over 1,100 fans rooting on the Blue & White on the softball diamond.  Coach Lehotak believes the fan support makes a huge difference in her team's on-field performance.

 

"There's a reason that we win more [at home].  The energy that people bring, I think fans can help [our] will to win.  I think that's what happened against Indiana.  I think that's what happened against Ohio State," said Lehotak. 

 

"For us to be at home to feed off the energy [of the fans], to feed off the music they're playing, the 8,000 people we expect to show up this weekend, I absolutely think that's a major advantage," added Lehotak.

 

Lehotak's theory seems to have some truth behind it.  Over the last last three home series, the Lions took two out of three contests against Indiana, and split a two-game series with the 25th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes, including a masterful pitching performance by Marlaina Laubach in game one, and swept Bucknell with some clutch hitting.  In each series, there were a huge number of fans rooting on the team, even in some brisk weather. 

 

The team has been playing much better of late, but there is one thing Lehotak knows her players can improve upon.  Eliminating that one bad inning, and putting together quality efforts in all three phases of the game - hitting, pitching and defense.

 

"We're starting to have all three elements playing really well, but now all three elements have to finish, versus letting the game slip away.  So that's going to be our goal going into this week," said Lehotak.

 

"I like how we played against Indiana.  I like how we played against Ohio State...Our one bad inning, whether it's the first, the fifth, the seventh, we have to stop that, so that's kind of going to be our approach; we have to learn how to finish," she added.

 

Continuing that climb to get over the hump starts Friday night, when Big Ten foe Rutgers travels to Happy Valley to play the Nittany Lions in a three game set, spread out across three days of Blue & White weekend.  The three game set will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, at 6 p.m., 5 p.m., and 1 p.m., respectively.

 

Saturday's pregame festivities should give the club a little extra morale boost on a busy day for Penn State athletics.  The buzz of Blue & White weekend will be on full display Saturday, with Curtin Road closed off beginning at 10am for the Blue-White Mini Carnival and Fan Festival, including a live performance by My Hero Zero scheduled for 11 a.m.  In addition to what should be a full house at both Beard Field and Beaver Stadium, the baseball team laces up the cleats against Northwestern at Medlar Field just down the road. 

 

It will be a busy day on the northeast part of Penn State's campus, but with an expected full house for all three games against Rutgers, the team should be primed and ready to continue their recent good play and move up the Big Ten standings.  

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Two late game rallies gave Penn State the doubleheader sweep over Bucknell on Wednesday evening with 1-0 and 6-5 wins. 

The Nittany Lions got big hits from some different contributors in both games to put runs on the board when they needed it most. Delaney Elling, Toni Polk, and Christa Wagner all had two-plus hits in the fourth inning or later.

"It's kind of been our thing all year, we've had some heroes and everybody's been a hero at some point," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "I think it just shows their work ethic, their belief and really, if you're a starter or non-starter, it's probably one of the hardest working groups we've ever had and I think that's really showing." 

Penn State was down early in game two, trailing 5-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth. But the Nittany Lions scored five runs in the final two frames, including a two-run homerun and 3 RBI from Elling and it was Elling who hit the single that scored Polk to send the game into extra innings.

Wagner scored two runs of her own when she came in as a pinch hitter for Mia Monopoli in the seventh. The freshman was 2-for-2 and scored the winning run off of Rebecca Ziegler's single in the eighth inning.

"Without Wagner, we don't tie it in the seventh and then come back to win it in the eighth," Lehotak said. "She's been working her tail off these past two months, so everything that she did today was completely earned. It was just waiting for her time and she got her time and she capitalized."

Lehotak noticed a visible change in her team's attitude heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, and credits that to the come-from-behind win. 

"I don't really know what it was, I think it happened defensively. But something, all of a sudden, the energy was authentic," Lehotak said. "I could feel that we were going to score runs, I don't really know how to explain it and I didn't necessarily expect it, but they did a great job. It's all about the fight, we just kept fighting."

Polk was the hero in game one, going 2-for-3, including an RBI triple to give Penn State the win in the opening game. 

Polk's triple came in the sixth inning when she rocketed a fly ball off the right field wall to score Ziegler from first. The ball was perfectly placed - a foot and a half to the right and it would have been foul. It was her third triple of the season and was her second hit of the game, giving her two of Penn State's three hits in game one. 

Polk also had a hand in the seventh inning comeback in game two, forcing an error at shortstop before advancing to second on the throw. The play scored Wagner to bring the Lions within two.

"We believed in each other as a team and especially [Madison] Shaffer fired us all up because she was throwing such a good game so I think that changed the momentum a lot," Polk said. "If a pitcher is doing a great job, it's the offenses job to score runs and help them groove even more so it's really important to score more runs to back good pitching."

The game one win ended a four game skid for the Lions, who hadn't won since they upset No. 25 Ohio State a week ago, 2-1.

Penn State continues its seven-game homestead into the weekend, when it hosts Rutgers during Blue-White Weekend. The three game series starts Friday with game one set for a 6 p.m. start.

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Any regular trip home is always something to look forward to, whether it's for a holiday, celebration, or just a random visit. But a homecoming is always a little bit different, with more excitement and anticipation in the air.

Head coach Amanda Lehotak has been itching to bring her team to her home state of Nebraska, and will finally have that opportunity this weekend when the Nittany Lions take on the Cornhuskers in a three game series.

The matchup marks the first time in program history that Penn State will play Nebraska at Nebraska. Since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, it's been a waiting game for when the Nittany Lions would travel to Lincoln. Lehotak, a native of Omaha, had been eager to circle the date on the calendar, and finally was able to do so when this season's schedule came out.

"Absolutely I'm excited, I'd be lying to you if I said 'no,'" Lehotak said. "And really, just because I do miss so much and I give so much to my job and the coaching and it's always in that season so to be able to go back and share it in front of the people that I love and that support me no matter what and love me no matter what is pretty special."

There's going to be a fairly large contingent on hand to watch Lehotak make her return to Nebraska, including lots of family. One special person in particular who will be on hand is Lehotak's stepdad, who has Alzheimer's, and has always wanted to see his stepdaughter compete back in her home state.

"It was always his dream for us to come back and play there, so for him to see that, hopefully he knows," Lehotak said. "But all my cousins, family, friends, high school buddies are all going to be there so it's going to be pretty cool. Literally everybody in my life lives in Nebraska except me and two other cousins so it's going to be awesome to go back and represent Penn State and play in front of them."

The trip back to Lincoln marks the second time that Lehotak has made her return to Nebraska after leaving the state. She started her collegiate softball career at Ole Miss, where she set the single-season hits record in 2001. After two seasons there, Lehotak transferred to Nebraska-Omaha where she garnered third team All-American honors as well a pair of first team All-North Central Conference selections before graduating in 2003.

"I just needed to go back home," Lehotak said of her decision to leave Ole Miss after two years. "I don't really remember my 20-year old answer versus now my 36-year old answer but I just remember that I needed to go back home and kind of grow up a little bit and UNO gave me that shot. I had the best of both worlds because I got to play in the SEC and then I got to go back and grow up a little bit with my family."

While Lehotak is getting ready and excited for her return home, she's not letting that get in the way of her and her team's preparation for Nebraska.

"On the business side as a coach, I think it's a big series for us," Lehotak said. "It's hard to play at Nebraska, they have one of the best winning percentages at home in the country so for us to go there, it's going to be quite the challenge so we're very focused on that, on how we can beat them at home because they're just historically tough to beat."

The only other time that Penn State has played at Nebraska's Bowlin Stadium was the 2013 Big Ten Tournament. That year, the Nittany Lions went 1-1 with a win over Illinois and a loss to Minnesota.

First pitch for Friday's game is set for 6:30 p.m. followed by a 4 p.m. start time on Saturday and a 1 p.m. start on Sunday.

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 25th ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in town for a doubleheader on Wednesday, it served as a good test for the Nittany Lions in front of their home fans as Big Ten play moves through the season. 

 

Senior pitcher Marlaina Laubach did not disappoint in front of the home supporters.  Laubach spun a gem in game one, hurling her seventh complete game of the year and stymying the Buckeyes offense, leading to her eighth win of the campaign and a 2-1 Penn State victory.  Laubach added in four strikeouts, to give her 55 strikeouts in 90.1 innings pitched this season, and she has gone the distance in every win she's tallied except one.  Despite her stellar performance in the circle all year, her head coach believed this was one of her finest outings.

 

"[Ohio State} doesn't strike out much, so for her to get some strikeouts looking, that's pretty impressive.  It was probably one of the best games I've seen Marly throw in a long time," said coach Amanda Lehotak. 

 

Even more impressive was the offense plating runs against a pitcher who no-hit them just one season ago.  The Blue & White got to the Buckeye ace Shelby Hursh in the fourth inning, as a Destiny Weber blast scraped off the top of the left field wall, missing a home run by inches but bringing home two runs.  Laubach did the rest, allowing only one earned run that didn't come until the top of the seventh inning.  Even in innings where Penn State didn't score, the team hit several hard lines drives to the outfield that ended up being caught, but they were right on top of Hursh all evening. 

 

The defense did its part as well.  With the sun glaring in the outfield, Rebecca Ziegler shielded her eyes with her glove and made two superb grabs in centerfield, helping to slow down a potential Ohio State offensive rally. 

 

Second baseman Gianna Arrizurieta served as the spark plug for the offense, leading off two separate innings with a single and a walk, respectively, to give her squad a chance for a big inning.

 

In game two, Penn State showed resiliency after going down early 9-2.  The team never gave up, rallying to cut the deficit to 10-7, the eventual final score.  Madison Shaffer pitched well in relief, going four innings and only giving up one earned run, giving the bats a chance to mount a comeback.  Even though a frenetic comeback came up just short, the team showed heart, something that Lehotak stressed has been happening all season, both at home and on the road.

 

"We're finally showing people who we are...to see them do that, it's kind of what they've done all year.  We're finally starting to find some holes [at bat], so I'm really proud of our offense."

 

"We had a couple of situations where we had the bases loaded," she added.  "We're right there, so sometimes, we just need to make one more play on defense or offense to bust through."

 

Splitting a doubleheader against a top-25 team is a nice way to begin a week that should prove to be an emotional one for the Lions.  On Friday, Lehotak leads her team against Nebraska on the road, a trip back to her home state.  The head coach has never played a game in Lincoln since she has been with Penn State.

 

With a possibility to get a few more Big Ten conference wins this week, things are looking up for a softball team that has been fighting and scrapping all season long.  The first game of a three game set is scheduled for Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET.  Friday's contest will begin at 4 p.m. ET, while the rubber game begins at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.  Penn State's next home game will be next week; a nonconference doubleheader against the Bucknell Bison at Beard Field.  

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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com 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.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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