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Lehotak Relishes Opportunity to Coach Against Sister

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10412684.jpegBy Alexis Shelton, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sibling rivalries have gone back through the history of time.  For softball Head Coach Amanda Lehotak, a sibling rivalry was taken to a new level over the weekend.

Lehotak is in her second year as the leader of the Nittany Lion softball team.  Born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, softball has always been a passion for her. She watched her older sister, Michala Cimino, who is 10 years older than her, play and grew inspiration to be just as successful as her growing up.

"Michala is actually my hero, I've looked up to her since day one," Lehotak said. "Growing up, going to all of her games, learning from her and watching her career when she won a national championship and being her biggest fan, I've learned a lot from her."

Cimino is currently the head coach at Bellevue University, which is located in Bellevue, Nebraska. The school is apart of the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics).

Over the weekend, both Lehotak and her sister met for the first time as head coaches in a friendly matchup between schools.

"The humble people inside of us say its no big deal its about the kids," Lehotak said. "But the truth is its a lot of fun we're a very competitive family. This is something we've always talked about doing and have always wanted to do.  The opportunity to actually do it is very exciting."

Competitive is definitely a word you may want to use when you look at the family. The athletic director at Bellevue is Ed Lehotak, who is both Lehotak and Cimino's father.

"Knowing my father, he's probably rooting for Michala. I say that because it's his school and he's always ranked like the top athletic director in that region," said Lehotak. "We've always been raised to be the underdog and so I know he sees them as just that. I actually see them as an equal opponent however. So knowing him just for the underdog way I feel like he's secretly going for his school."

But with so much talent and skill on both sides, one may begin to wonder if there's any ribbing going on between the two.

"We've both been on our best behavior. But I think the honesty is that we want to beat the crap out of one another," laughed Lehotak.

Despite the difference between the two--Penn State being a NCAA Division I team and Bellevue being in the NAIA--Lehotak wanted to make it clear that the team would treat their guests like they were a Big Ten team as well as having a few surprises for them.

They were given just that; when the team arrived on Friday, they were given their very own special locker room as well as multiple tours throughout the Penn State campus.

"They were given a tour of the football stadium," said Lehotak. "They also got to see the football locker room as well as run Beard field."

She noted that that the bus was full of family members from the Nebraska team. They were treated as family as well; as the whole Bellevue team including the family were treated to a special trip to the creamery and a dinner as well Friday night.

"They sold out their whole bus for this special occasion. We want to hopefully give them something that they'll never forget," Lehotak said.

The two sisters faced off twice on Saturday. It was an experience Lehotak will not forget.

"Michala and I talk almost everyday," added Lehotak. "Some of their team punishments are probably because of me. As well as some of my team punishments are probably because of her. Drills, how we motivate our teams, she's my go to. She's the one I go to [to] say hey I messed up or I'm thinking I'm doing this well. It's really neat."

Barbour Eager to Lead Penn State Athletics

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 18th of August cannot come soon enough for Sandy Barbour.

Introduced as Penn State Director of Athletics on Saturday afternoon, Barbour is thrilled to begin her tenure as the leader of an athletic program that aspires to continue its long history of excellence on and off the field of play.

"When you spend a professional lifetime serving institutions and most importantly students, you dream about coming to a place like Penn State," Barbour said. "You dream about the opportunity to lead a program like Penn State athletics. Why? Because it represents the opportunity to have it all: Athletic excellence, academic achievement, community engagement and fiscal responsibility. So thank you, Eric [Barron]. I am absolutely thrilled, over the top excited about this opportunity and about being the athletic director at Penn State."

A graduate of Wake Forest where she was field hockey team captain, Barbour grew up on the East Coast and has always had a deep passion for Penn State University and its athletic department. That's what drew her to the position when she originally spoke with President Barron about the opportunity.

Immediately, Barbour felt a connection with the people, pride and remarkable accomplishments of Penn State University and its athletic department.

"I love the 'We Are Penn State.' I particularly love what it stands for. It stands for family," Barbour said.

Barbour desires to see national titles in all 31 sports on campus. But first and foremost, she will strive to lead a department with student-athletes who are elite performers in the classroom.

"We are athletic programs again that are all part of a university," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes will be students first, Penn State is incredibly proud of the academic performance of their students and we will continue to be."

Eager to hit the ground running when she begins her duties as athletic director in 23 days, Barbour wants to learn from everyone in the department, especially the head coaches leading Penn State's 31 athletic teams.

"Unity doesn't mean one opinion, and I actually embrace that, embrace the diversity of opinion, diversity in a variety of different ways, and I actually think that will make us stronger in our ability to move forward," Barbour said. "As I said before, I have something to learn from everybody, and I'll be doing a lot of listening."

Numerous head coaches were in attendance at Saturday's introductory press conference. The coaches and athletic department staff then had a chance to mingle with Barbour at a private reception before she boarded a flight to Chicago for Big Ten meetings. The head coaches in attendance exuded great confidence in the future direction of the athletic department.

"There is a culture, history and tradition of tremendous academic achievement at Penn State and that will continue," said head football coach James Franklin. "I know it's important to our president, athletic director and all of our coaches. That will continue. I know we'll spend as much time as we need to so we can start building."


"I am truly thrilled that Sandy Barbour will serve as the next athletic director for Penn State," Lady Lions head coach Coquese Washington said. "Sandy is a strong, dynamic and passionate leader. She is also an incredibly smart visionary and strategic thinker. It is exciting to imagine all the ways Penn State University, and Penn State athletics in particular, will be positively impacted by her leadership."

"I loved everything I heard today," head women's hockey coach Josh Brandwene said. "She has passion, vision and just a great understanding of the Penn State community. Both as a head coach and as an alumnus, I am really excited to start working with her."


Barbour will return to California in the coming days to prepare for her full-time return to Happy Valley on Aug. 18, and the new leader of Penn State Athletics is fired up to get started.

"We are Penn State. I'm all in. I'm ready to get going," said Barbour.

 


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

2014 Coaches Caravan Day IX - Erie

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VIDEO: Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre | VIDEO: East Stroudsburg & Lehigh Valley

Erie Photo Gallery


ERIE, Pa. - After more than 2,000 miles on the road, the 2014 Coaches Caravan drew to a close on Thursday night on Penn State's Behrend campus during a sold out evening event.

Nearly 6,300 fans attended the 17 stops, which spanned across 13 locations in Pennsylvania, in addition to Baltimore, Washington, D.C., New Jersey and New York City.  In all, 11 different Penn State head coaches joined head football coach James Franklin during at least one stop since the Caravan began on May 1 in Pegula Ice Arena.

Thursday's finale featured a new lineup of coaches, which included Franklin, baseball's Rob Cooper and softball's Amanda Lehotak.  Director of Athletics Dave Joyner joined the group, as well, addressing the crowd prior to hearing from the three head coaches. Take a look through some highlights from the final stop of the 2014 Caravan.


Stop No. 17 - Erie (Penn State Behrend)

20140522_155416[1].jpgA sold out crowd inside the McGravey Commons heard from three of the newest coaches on the Nittany Lion roster in Franklin, Cooper and Lehotak. Cooper and Lehotak each finished their first seasons at the helm of their respective programs, while Franklin will lead the Blue and White onto the field for his first game on Aug. 30 in Dublin, Ireland against UCF in the Croke Park Classic.

"The reason we are able to do the things we do and have the success in the classroom and on the competition front is because of the support and encouragement we get from our alumni and fans," said Joyner.

It may have been the last stop, but the three coaches were received with great energy and shared the visions they had for their programs. They spoke about competition, academics and representing an incredible university as a whole.

"It is an honor to represent Penn State and we all want to do what is best for this university," said Lehotak. "Coach Franklin has an incredible vision and we need to help him achieve that by packing Beaver Stadium this fall."


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Thank you to the nearly 6,500 loyal Penn State fans and alums that made the Coaches Caravan a resounding success for the third-straight year.  And a big tip of the cap goes out to Fullington Trailways ace driver Gottfried Fodor, who did a superb job behind the wheel of the Caravan bus for the third-straight year.  We look forward to seeing the fans on the road again in 2015.

"This caravan has been outstanding," said Franklin. "These three weeks have really helped me build some great relationships with other coaches, our support staff, members of the media, and most importantly, our alumni and fans."




Miles Traveled:

Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles
Day VIII - 261 miles
Day IX - 426 miles


Total - 2,186 miles

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Nittany Lions' Growth Shows Promise for Future

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Habitz_10005307.jpegBy Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ending the season with a 6-2 loss against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament was not the ideal outcome for the Nittany Lions.  Nevertheless, despite this disappointment, the small successes that have accumulated throughout the year have had much more of an impact on the program and on its bright future.

As a first year head coach, Amanda Lehotak is proud of her team's efforts and growth this season.  The Blue and White finished with an overall record of 14-35, going 5-18 in the Big Ten.

"From the coaching aspect, we finished a spot higher than they did last year in the conference," Lehotak said.  "We had two less wins, but when you're best returning hitter is .253 from a year ago and you have three or four people hitting at .300 that have never done that before, have raised their batting average anywhere from 90 to 100 points in a season, you're moving in the right direction."

One of the biggest assets at the plate for the Lions this season was sophomore Karlie Habitz, whose impressive focus and determined also shined through in tournament play.  In last Thursday's game alone, the California native went 2-for-3, driving in one of the team's two runs.

Throughout her 48 appearances this season, Habitz batted .309 and recorded 42 hits.  Furthermore, the sophomore led the team in home runs (4) and RBI (35).

"Karlie did what she did all year," Lehotak said following the Ohio State loss.  "She just battled.  My favorite thing about Karlie Habitz at the plate is nothing really shakes her.  I feel like she keeps the same body language first at-bat, third at-bat.  She usually gets stronger as the game goes.  You always have a plan, and she stuck to her plan and was really successful."

While happy with her own performance, Habitz also recognizes the importance of this season for the team as a whole.  It was a season full of learning, testing, and building, which will dramatically help Penn State in the upcoming years.

"I thought we improved a lot on a lot of things," Habitz said.  "Hitters really started hitting the ball more, were more patient and had more quality at-bats, and our defense has really gotten a lot stronger this season.  We've taken some baby steps, some big steps, but overall, I think we should be better in the future."

Habitz was not the only sophomore to produce offensively this year, as Lexi Knief also had a standout season.  The centerfielder led the team with a .372 batting average and tied for sixth in the NCAA with triples after accumulating six in the 49 games she played.

"We went from the bottom offensively of all of the Big Ten to being middle of the pack," Lehotak said.    
"We have a couple kids that are top 10 in triples in the NCAA.  We did a lot of good things individually, so from a coaching standpoint, and the program and the future aspect, I'm very proud of the small successes that we had.  I know they did not equate to wins, but I think that happens.  As coaches, we have to continue to be better, figure out where we went wrong as a staff, and we will do that."

Next season, Penn State will return its top three hitters in Knief, Habitz, and Shelby Miller, meaning much of the team's offensive production will be carried over.  The three combined for a total of 62 RBI and accounted for 45 percent of the team's hits this spring, with a total of 137.

In addition, the Lions' top two pitchers, Marlaina Laubach and Macy Jones, will also return to the circle for Penn State this fall team.  With the conclusion of the 2014 season, Laubach and Jones earned ERAs of 3.64 and 5.35, respectively.

After playing hard for 49 games and leaving everything on the field, the Nittany Lions will begin to prepare for next season, hoping to come back stronger than ever before.  Penn State softball will continue to strive for success and to proudly represent their university.

"My kids," began Lehotak, "I appreciated how they played the game.  I thought they played the game with respect.  I thought they represented Penn State with pride and respect all year long.  We had so many improvements in so many areas.  I think the future looks good.  It's going to be a marathon.  It's not going to be a sprint to get the program where we want it and where we all want it to be at Penn State, but I am very proud.  Overall, we did a lot of good things, and I think my kids should walk out of here with their heads held high."

Seniors Shine in Softball Send-Off

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SeniorsSoftball2014_9986366.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - This past weekend's series marked the final regular season home stand for the lone three Penn State seniors, Kasie Hatfield, Liz Presto and Alyssa Sovereign.

The three seniors led the Nittany Lion offense as they combined to hit 6-for-14 with two walks, two runs scored and a home run over the weekend despite Penn State (14-34, 5-18 Big Ten) falling in all three games to conference foe Illinois (23-25, 7-16 Big Ten).  

"I'm very happy with how the seniors played today and all season long," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "I thought they played with guts and character and hard work. It was a great class. I feel very selfish in the fact that I'm disappointed I didn't get to coach them for four years."

All three seniors recorded a hit in Sunday's regular season finale.

For Hatfield, she managed to go out with a bang, crushing her second home run of the season, in her final regular season at-bat as a Nittany Lion on Sunday.

Hatfield fouled the first pitch down the line; a ball that Lehotak argued was in fair territory. She then looked at a changeup for a ball. The last pitch of the at-bat was right down the heart of the plate. Hatfield wasn't trying to hit a home run, but she put a charge into it, and the ball flew over the wall in centerfield.

"It felt great," said Hatfield. "To go out my last at-bat here with a home run is pretty sweet."

With that being said, senior day was Saturday for Penn State, a special moment for the three seniors and their families.

"I loved [senior day]," said Hatfield. "My brother has never been up here, and he came up yesterday to make it to one of my final games and senior banquet, so I was really happy with that. "

For Presto and Sovereign, the final home stand was full of emotions, but for Hatfield, the feeling was bittersweet.

"I think I have a different view because I am coming back," said Hatfield. "It's just going to be weird that I'm not playing."

That's right. The senior catcher will be returning next year as part of Lehotak's staff as a volunteer assistant. Hatfield thinks that playing catcher will translate well into being a formidable coach.

"I'm just really excited to learn because I feel like I know a lot about the game," said Hatfield. "I'm curious to see what exactly it is they do behind-the-scenes."

Lehotak joked about the idea of having her senior catcher as a coach next year.

"I think I hit my head when I agreed to that," said Lehotak. "We're very honored that Kasie [Hatfield] is choosing to stay on. Hopefully we can teach her a few things about the business side of softball. I look forward to learning from her, as well."

The season is not over, yet. Up next for the Nittany Lions is the Big Ten Tournament, which begins Thursday at Northwestern University.

Tenth-seeded Penn State will take on No. 7 seed Ohio State at 2:30 ET. Penn State will try to replicate last year's upset win as an 11 seed against sixth-seeded Illinois.

"Crazy things happen in tournaments," said Hatfield. "You never know who's going to win. We can come through, as long as we do what we're supposed to do."

Hawaiians Set Relaxed Tone for Penn State Softball

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Tupinio_Furuya_9972805.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The distance between Penn State and Hawaii is 4,766 miles, such is the rare trip that Penn State softball sophomores Reina Furuya and Maegan Tupinio both decided to make two years ago to receive a world-class education and play Division I softball.

With the average annual temperature 25 degrees higher in Hawaii than in State College, the looming question is why make the extensive trip east to wake up to snow five months a year rather than to the sounds of the ocean crashing up against the soft, warm sand?

"I just like the education system on the East Coast," said Tupinio. "It's different. My brother lives on this side of the country, so I've been here before. I just wanted to do something different, and I really liked Penn State. It's well known in Hawaii, so I wanted to do something that would make the people there [in Hawaii] proud of me."

For Furuya, her answer is similar to that of Tupinio's, but incorporates her freshman year in Happy Valley to evaluate the entire expedition.

"If you asked me a year ago I would've just said academics and softball, but now that I have a year under my belt, I love it here," said Furuya. "The whole atmosphere, including the academics and coaches, it's just fun to be around with football and watching other sports compete, it's just a fun college town to be around."

Three years ago both Furuya and Tupinio were seniors in high school. And, despite growing up just 11 miles apart - Furuya in Waipahu and Tupinio in Wahiawa - neither really knew each other until they both decided on Penn State.

That last sentence is not entirely true.

"I knew of her [Tupinio]," said Furuya. "I played against her. But I never really got to know her until I got here."

For Tupinio, her knowledge of Furuya is a little bit different. Because Hawaii is such small compilation of islands, both played against each other all the time.  

"I definitely knew Reina more than she knew me," said Tupinio. "She's a well-known player on the islands."

The two Hawaiians have helped each other adapt to the different environment up along the east coast of the United States, but the move from Hawaii to Penn State was far from a walk in the park.

"Oh my gosh! I do [miss the warmth]," said Tupinio. "No offense, but this winter was terrible."

Keeping in touch with family back in Hawaii has been a challenge that both have had to overcome. Each has had to deal with the six-hour time difference to talk to their loved ones. When it's Noon here in State College, the sun is rising in Hawaii.

Together, Furuya and Tupinio have brought their tropical culture to Penn State, culture that is rarely experienced in central Pennsylvania.

"I like just listening to the way that they talk," said senior Kasie Hatfield. "Even just the way they say certain words is really cool, so it's just fun to have them around."

If you ask Furuya or Tupinio, they will both agree that Hawaiian food is what they miss the most of home during their time at Penn State.

"I definitely miss the food at home," said Furuya. "I just love food so much. Here I can get burgers, fries and pancakes, but at home I can get the Korean, Japanese, Hawaiian food. Love it."

Their teammates aren't complaining though because Furuya and Tupinio have not only introduced them to new cuisine, but they also have a knack for finding the best local restaurants.

"The food that they introduced to us is really cool because they eat a lot of rice and spam," said sophomore Macy Jones. "They find the best sushi places in State College, too, so that helps a lot."

On the field, Furuya and Tupinio's relaxed, vacation-like mindsets have helped calm their teammates battle through frustrating mishaps.

"They're actually our calming forces," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "So when everybody else is bouncing off the walls, they're the ones just chilling and going with the flow."

Penn State wasn't always a certainty.

"When I first came here I thought everything would be so big, and I wouldn't really know people," said Tupinio.

Now, Penn State is a certainty.

"Everything here is well put together, and everyone is very close," said Tupinio. "I feel like I am a part of a family here, and I love it. I love the feeling of tradition and just the values that everyone has here."

The fusion of cultures, highlighted by the two Hawaiian sophomores has provided a balance among the team. A diverse balance that Lehotak thinks reflects the power of college athletics.

"You get so many people from different cultures and different areas of the country that teach everybody, whether it's about their culture or what they are about," said Lehotak. "It's awesome."

 

Nittany Lions Learn from Road Trip

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Laubach_9967393.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Road trips are never easy, especially ones that last nearly a week. Such was the case for Penn State (14-31, 5-15 Big Ten) who began its time away from home at Ohio State in a doubleheader back on Wednesday and then traveled to Minneapolis, Minn., to take on the No. 12 Golden Gophers (36-8, 14-5 Big Ten) in a weekend series.

Despite losing both games to the Buckeyes and all three games versus the Golden Gophers, there were positive learning points to take away from playing two competitive conference foes.

On Friday, the Nittany Lions, backed by another impressive start from pitcher Marlaina Laubach, fell to Minnesota, 1-0. The freshman hurler fell to 9-14 on the season but was terrific, giving up just one earned run on four hits, one walk and three strikeouts.

"She [Laubach] wasn't missing her spots," said head coach Amanda Lehotak after Friday's game. "She was crisp. She was attacking. She only had two or three misses that they [Minnesota] did not capitalize on."

The Nittany Lions faced a tough task at the plate against star senior Golden Gopher pitcher Sara Moulton, who went the distance while holding the Blue and White scoreless. Penn State managed just four hits off of the ace, but according to Lehotak, her team is hitting the ball well, but just needs a little luck.

"It's not like we aren't putting the ball in play," said Lehotak. "We've had some shots, but everyone has had ESPN catches against us all year. We just need a little luck. We have no luck. We have to earn everything right now."

Friday's loss was the Nittany Lions best-played game of the three-game series. If you look at the box score, it would seem as if Penn State won the game, but such is a learning experience for the young squad.

"The positives on Friday were that we kept the game really simple and competed every pitch," said Lehotak. "We can play with anybody. We beat them [Minnesota] in every category - that's just the crazy game about softball - we just had one costly error."

On Saturday, the story was a little different as the Nittany Lions lacked pitching depth and dropped both games of the doubleheader, 9-0 and 16-2, respectively.

"Saturday was a tough day obviously, but we did some great things," said Lehotak. "We stuck around their All-American pitcher a little bit, which was good to see. We just didn't have the pitching to go the distance for two [games] on Saturday."

The Golden Gophers chased sophomore Macy Jones in Game One of the doubleheader, scoring five earned runs off of Jones in four innings of play en route to the win. Offensively, the Nittany Lions stuck to the game plan but failed to register a hit off of Minnesota's ace, Sara Groenewegen.

"We just try to make them stick to the game plan of keep it simple, hit the ball hard and put the ball in play," said Lehotak. "There are quite a few at bats we're doing that, and it's just - I call it 'at 'ems' disease - where we hit the ball right at them."

In Game two of the doubleheader, Laubach took the hill for the second time in the series to try and quite the Minnesota bats again. Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers figured out Laubach and chased the freshman for six earned runs in just two innings pitched.

"Going into a second game where the opponent has already seen me once, it's important to really focus on spots of pitches rather than trying to get strikeouts or trying to get groundouts," said Laubach. "It's more of a spot issue just because the teams are very competitive, so you want to try to paint the corners as much as possible.

Being swept on the road is not part of the game plan, but Minnesota is a strong team with great pitching. For Penn State such an experience is one to learn from.

"This time of year we're still learning, and I want to see us get better every day," said Lehotak. "Defensively, pitching and offensively; there is still a lot to learn. I just want to keep getting better. We're never going to stop learning and never going to stop trying to get better each day."

Next up for the Nittany Lions is a home doubleheader against instate rival Pittsburgh (15-25, 6-15 ACC) on Wednesday with the first pitch at Beard Field set for 5 p.m.

 

Positive Pitching Provides Lions with Winning Chances

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Jones_9955498.jpegBy Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While falling to Ohio State in both games of Wednesday night's doubleheader was not the desired outcome for the Nittany Lions, the team continues to excel and improve in one specific and very important area: pitching.

Penn State (14-28, 5-12 B1G) dropped the first game of the series against the Buckeyes (22-23, 8-9 B1G) by a final score of 3-1 and finished the night with a 3-0 loss in game two.

"I think both pitchers pitched good enough to win," said head coach Amanda Lehotak following the performances of freshman Marlaina Laubach and sophomore Macy Jones.  "Marlaina again was very aggressive and attacked, and I thought Macy was the same way.  She attacked the whole time and went right after the hitters.  I was very happy with our pitching today."

Laubach made her appearance in game one, pitching a complete game.  Throughout the entirety of her time in the circle, the right-hander threw a total of 88 pitches and allowed only three runs on seven hits.

Just as Laubach, Jones also went the distance in game two against Ohio State.  The Virginia native threw 51 strikes during the game, accumulating three strikeouts and allowing only three runs.

"I think me and Marlaina did a really good job," Jones said.  "We did give up three runs each, but with a big hitting team like that I think that's good.  We hit our spots and were moving the ball like we're supposed to."

Since the start of the season, the Penn State pitching staff, which is led by both Laubach and Jones, has drastically improved.  These developments have added to both the competitive nature and overall confidence of the team.

"I'm very proud of our pitching staff," said Lehotak.  "They've come a long way.  They're competing, and they're pitching the best they have all year right now."

Nevertheless, solid performances in the circle must also be accompanied by offensive production, which the Lions struggled with during the doubleheader.  The Blue and White turned in eight hits in the first game, but only managed to record three hits during the second.

"First game, we had a lot of runners on base," Lehotak said.  "We just could not get the big hit.  It was just one of those games where we had opportunities, but we just couldn't punch one through.  Game two we were just very uncharacteristic.  Very rarely do we ever have nine strikeouts in a game.  We weren't attacking early, and when we were attacking, we were going after pitches that were not good pitches to attack.  We had a really hard time getting momentum, and I think we got frustrated.  We just couldn't get out of it."

"Our offense just wasn't there today," added Jones.  "We weren't putting hits together.  We were having good at-bats, but when we needed the big hit, we just didn't come up with it."

With both positive and negative takeaways from its games against the Buckeyes, Penn State will regroup and prepare for its next Big Ten matchup against No. 12 Minnesota.  The series will open with Friday evening's game one, which is set to begin at 7 p.m.

"The main focus is keeping the ball on the ground when we're hitting, putting the ball in play, and just working the counts with the pitchers," said Jones with regards to upcoming series.  "Defensively, our pitchers just need to keep doing what they're doing."

Lions Remain Confident Despite Weekend Losses

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Miller_9947016.jpegBy Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After dropping all three games of their weekend series with fellow Big Ten competitor Wisconsin (27-15, 9-5 Big Ten), the Nittany Lions (14-26, 5-10 Big Ten) are focusing on the basics and striving to keep their game simple and skilled.

Four errors over the course of the two days proved costly for Penn State, which fell by a score of 6-3 on Friday night and scores of 4-0 and 5-2 during Saturday's double-header.

"Both teams gave great effort and made some spectacular catches, but we dropped two routine pop flies," said head coach Amanda Lehotak.  "That's killer.  We couldn't recover.  We felt offensively, it was just a matter of time to score runs, and if we catch that [pop fly], then that could be a completely different ball game."

Agreeing with the remarks of her coach was Macy Jones who appeared in all three games, playing at first for games one and three and pitching game two.

"It was just a few key errors that ended up really costing us runs," said the pitcher.  "Sometimes they don't, and sometimes they do.  In that case, they did, and our offense didn't really show up the first game either.  I think sometimes errors are ok because you can get out of them, and sometimes they are really costly."

Although the Lions were unable to make some of the more routine plays, they had a number of impressive defensive catches.

Sophomore Reina Furuya and freshman Shelby Miller both made spectacular grabs in the second of Saturday's two games.  Furuya made a diving catch along the third base side, while Miller nabbed a soaring line drive, both of which helped to keep the game within the Lions' reach.

Additionally, Furuya, along with senior Kasie Hatfield, led the way offensively for the Blue and White.  Furuya recorded two hits in game two, and Hatfield reached base twice in game three.  Nevertheless, throughout the entirety of the series, Penn State was outhit by the Badgers 20-13.

"A lot of us were trying to do too much," said Hatfield of the team's batting struggles.  "I think a lot of us wanted to come through and be the one to hit a homerun instead of just doing the simple things and getting hits."

"I think we should have been attacking the pitchers more, and we were kind of being passive," added Jones.  "Instead of being hitters, we were being swingers."

Despite the fielding mistakes and cold bats, the Nittany Lions are still confident and ready for what the rest of the season has to bring.

With Jones and freshman Marlaina Laubach nabbing a majority of the pitching time for the Lions, the position is becoming much more of a strong point for the team.

Laubach started games one and three, going the distance for seven innings in both.  The right-hander gave up five earned runs on Friday and one earned run in Saturday's second game.

Jones also turned in a complete performance on Saturday, allowing only three earned runs off a homerun.

"I think I did pretty good, minus the homerun, which I don't think was a bad pitch," said the Virginia native.  "She put a good swing on it.  I think that I hit my spots well and all my pitches were working."

Looking forward, the Lions will travel to Ohio to take on the Buckeyes in a Wednesday evening double header.  Ohio State is currently 6-9 in the Big Ten and 20-23 overall.

When asked what the most important aspects will be leading into the match-up, Hatfield was very concise and definite with her response.

"Making the simple plays," said the senior.  "Trying to limit our errors and get back to hitting the way that we were hitting coming in to this weekend will be very important."

Confidence Drives Doubleheader Sweep of Bucknell

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Team_9935420.jpegBy Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Riding the hot bat of freshman Shelby Miller, the Nittany Lions (14-23, 5-7 Big Ten) swept intrastate rival Bucknell (15-20, 7-5 Patriot League) in Wednesday evening's doubleheader at Beard Field, 6-3 and 10-5. After a slow start to the season, Penn State has now won eight of its last nine games.

"We know we can win now," said Miller. "We've seen that we can do it, and we're doing it."

In Game one of the doubleheader, Penn State used a complete game performance by Marlaina Laubach to lead the Nittany Lions to a 6-3 win.

Laubach went the distance, throwing 118 pitches, while allowing three runs, two earned. The 5-foot-8 right-handed freshman walked just one batter and tied a season-high with six strikeouts. She improved to 9-10 on the season and recorded her eighth complete game of the year.

"We're much more confident as a staff," said Laubach. "We all have a lot more confidence in one another. When I'm on the mound, I go out and try to act the most confident that I can."

On the offensive front, the Nittany Lions scored in all but one inning in the first game.

Batting seventh, Miller was a perfect 3-for-3 at the dish, driving in one run and scoring another.

"We're kind of protecting her [Miller] down there," said first-year head coach Amanda Lehotak. "She's getting better pitches. She's kind of our second leadoff to get that bottom of the order sparked again."

The Blue and White carried the momentum into game two of the doubleheader, jumping out to a 9-0 lead after just two innings of play.

"Game two we attacked early, which was exactly what we wanted," said Lehotak. "The top of the order really came out and followed the game plan to a 'T' and when we do that we can put up 10 runs."

Like the first game, Miller was a big reason why Penn State was so dominant offensively against the Bison. The second baseman went 2-for-3 with a triple and four runs batted in.

"I was just seeing it, and my biggest goal today was just, and every time I go up to bat, was just to relax," said Miller. "Just take a couple deep breaths, go up there, and do what I need to do."

Unlike the first game, however, the Nittany Lions used a trio of pitchers to get past Bucknell. Christy Von Pusch, Marissa Diescher and Macy Jones took to the mound to combine to give up five runs, three earned, on seven hits, five walks and six strikeouts.

Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions host Big Ten foe Wisconsin this weekend for a three-game series. Nevertheless, according to Lehotak, adjustments will need to be made to get past the aggressive Badgers.

"Bottom of the order has to get on," said Lehotak. "We have a couple big holes. We have to take care of the ball defensively. Wisconsin is very aggressive. They are very top heavy in the top of the order, batting average, numbers-wise. They swing hard, and they're going to come right after us. Our pitching is going to have to hit their spots. We have to keep limiting our walks."