Recently in Softball Category
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Day in and day out, senior Alyssa Sovereign practices hard as she
strives toward perfection, an accomplishment she has nearly achieved in the
field during her time at Penn State.
As she works out the kinks in her personal game, many of
which deal with her transition from the outfield to second base, the California
native also makes her overall team stronger.
Her focus and high expectations are unparalleled, and both stand as
highly positive concepts for the Nittany Lions moving forward in 2014.
This season, Sovereign has a perfect fielding percentage through
16 games. In her entire collegiate
career, the senior has only made two fielding errors, one of which came during
the 2012 season and one of which came in 2013.
Despite these two errors, Sovereign maintained .981 and .984 fielding percentages
respectively during those years. Just as
she has been through the start of this season, Sovereign was also perfect in
2011, committing no errors during her freshman year.
Now with 164 games as a Lion under her belt, the
infielder prides herself on the .992 career fielding percentage she has
accumulated since 2011. Sovereign does
everything in her power to avoid mistakes, more specifically errors, and keep
her game as positive as possible.
"I hate errors
with a passion," said Sovereign. "I make
it a point to do everything that I can possibly do to not make an error. I understand that they happen, but I try to
make my errors in practice so that when I'm in game and game speed, it doesn't
While impressive field statistics are an important piece
to Sovereign's style of play, she has also demonstrated her abilities at second
base this season with 62 chances, 33 putouts, and 29 assists. While the senior is clearly comfortable in
her current role, her transition to second base from right field took a bit of
practice and determination.
Nevertheless, Sovereign willingly made the change, adjusted her game,
and has been doing everything in her power to be an asset to this Nittany Lion
"I needed to be
placed in a different role this year, so instead of being in right, which I was
the past three years, they needed me to fit in at second," said Sovereign. "I figured it out the best I could. I really just like to be out on the field, so
it doesn't really matter to me where I am.
Second is a fun position to play so I really enjoy it."
that while the switch initially took some getting used to, she adjusted quickly
because of her past playing experiences.
Before arriving at Penn State, Sovereign grew up primarily starting at
second base. In other words, the first
transition she experienced came during her freshman year as a Nittany
She maintained a
spot in right field for the majority of her career, until being moved back to
second base during second half of the 2013 season. Sovereign explained her switch back to the
infield was much like the concept of riding a bike, claiming that she just needed
to "relearn the mechanics."
Now that Sovereign
has settled into her position for the season, she has really placed an emphasis
on communication among the team while in the field. She identifies herself as the "talker of the
group," as well as the teammate who is constantly energized and trying to keep
everyone fired up. Her main goal when
taking the field each inning is "to get in and out as fast as possible," which
is directly related to this idea of effective communication.
a huge part of our game," said Sovereign.
"If our communication is at a high level, our game is at a high level."
In addition to being aware of and talking to one another
on the field, Sovereign believes the team needs to really concentrate on its
mental focus as the season progresses. The
entire game of softball is mental, from hitting to fielding, and being on the
same page as a team is key to elevating the level of play.
"The past couple
weekends we've really kind of gotten out of our game plan, and we just need to
get back into how we want to play and our focus and our mindset," said
Sovereign. "If we do that, we should
have successful results."
communication, focus, and the continued consistent fielding of Sovereign, the
Nittany Lions hope to raise their level of competition. Sovereign and the rest of her teammates will next
seek to further improve when they take the field March 14-16 in Clearwater,
Fla. for the Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament hosted by USF.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As a native of Sugar Land, Texas, Shelby Miller knew she wanted to leave
her home state when it came time for college.
She was ready to find a better fit and continue her softball career in a
The second she stepped foot onto Penn State's campus,
immediately seeing the people and the spirit, she was sold and ready to bleed
blue and white throughout her collegiate career. Now, a few weeks into the 2014 season, the
freshman is dominating at the plate and has really proved herself as one of the
Lions' key starters.
"Shelby is playing great, especially for a freshman,"
said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "She struggled a little bit this fall. Freshman usually come in and taste failure
for the first time, and she kind of went through that, but I give all the
credit in the world to Shelby. She
really grew up over break and the month of January, and she has shown great
character. She just is really learning a
deep understanding of the game, is being a tough out right now, and is really
doing great for a freshman at this level."
Miller currently leads the Lions' in hitting with a .429
batting average and has recorded at least one hit in each of the team's last
This past weekend alone, Miller went 2-for-3 against No. 5
Kentucky and drove in the team's only run of the game. Nevertheless, Miller does not like to
overthink these accomplishments, as she believes producing at the plate is a
"Batting is mainly about confidence," said Miller. "If you think you're going to get a hit,
you're going to get a hit. I know to
stay playing and to stay in the lineup, I have to hit and do my job."
While the freshman thinks of hitting in a mental sense,
her coach feels Miller's overall athleticism is the true key to her offensive
success. Lehotak also believes Miller's athleticism
is an integral part of the team's defense.
The freshman originally came to Penn State as an infielder, but has been
incredibly flexible, demonstrating her ability to play in a number of positions
for the Lions.
"She's probably one of our biggest well-rounded athletes,"
said Lehotak. "She's a triple threat
from the left side, which is super fun.
She can bunt, slap, and hit, which just opens up her field for success. We don't have a lot of that right now, so that
is a huge part of our line-up that we need and she provides. Then really, back to her athleticism, she
came here as an infielder. With her
being able to play so many positions, we can move her to the outfield right now
so she can keep learning the infield."
Miller's freshman status makes her stellar play all the
more impressive and really increases the overall depth of this Penn State
squad, which is something her coach truly appreciates.
"Whenever a freshman can come in and get playing time
right away, it just makes you that much stronger as a team," said Lehotak of
Miller. "Everybody loves freshman, but
you really don't know what to expect.
It's such a different level mentally, physically, and academically. For a freshman to be able to come up, step
in, and kind of grab and maintain that starting role is huge. It just allows you to do more with your
offensive and defensive lineup."
Headed into this weekend, the team will travel to
Virginia for the JMU invitational. While
Miller is very happy with her personal success, she has one major goal on her
mind for these next few games - winning.
"I want to beat everyone," said Miller. "We need to get our record back where it
needs to be, and I just want to go out there and blow out everyone. We need to get back to where we were the
first couple weekends."
Lehotak wants the same thing from her team as
Miller. She expects to see her team
fight and to see her team demonstrate extreme mental toughness.
"I just expect us to get back to the little things, doing
the little things well," said Lehotak. "I
would like to see some more fight from us.
The first two weeks, I really complimented us on our fight, and then
this past week, I felt like we got frustrated and lost our fight, which I think
is just part of learning and part of the grind.
Week three is always that week where you get kind of tired from all the
traveling and everything. Hopefully, we get
back to that grind a little bit and get back to our style of softball versus
letting outside factors of umpires and things like that take control of
us. We need to get back to controlling
what we can control and playing our style of ball."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - After dropping two of their first three games played
on Sunday and Monday, the Nittany Lions came out hungry, played intensely, and
were able to upset No. 21 LSU in their fourth and final game of the Tiger
The win marked the first defeat of a ranked opponent for
the Lions under head coach Amanda
Lehotak, who was extremely proud of her team's efforts and ability to stay
composed and competitive.
"I'm very happy with the overall weekend," said Lehotak
of her team's 2-2 invitational record.
"It was another weekend of learning and growth for the program. We keep
gaining some very valuable experiences of situation awareness that we are
desperately in need of and really only games can bring. We got a big win
against LSU, which was huge. That was a
very tough environment to play in, and I'm happy our team came away with that
Lehotak believes that the victory over the Tigers will
spark the team and give it greater confidence moving forward this season, which
will be a necessity for success.
"Coach [Joe] Guthrie was talking to the team about how
you always need that one key win to prove to yourself that you can compete,"
said Lehotak. "We're hoping that was it
because we've had some slow starts against the bigger teams like Northwestern,
the first LSU game, and even Arizona State.
It's been taking us about two innings to calm down, so it was good that
even though LSU came out and scored in the first inning, we came back and
finally realized the game doesn't change, no matter who we're playing. We just have to keep it simple."
While the entire team contributed to the victory, both sophomore
Macy Jones and freshman Marlaina Laubach were key to the positive
outcome. Jones tallied four hits across
the four games and drove in a total of five runs. She is currently batting .400 and received
all-tournament team recognition for her excellent play during the Tiger Invitational.
"Macy had a great weekend," said Lehotak. "She's been battling at the plate. What I love about Macy's play right now is
that she may have a bad swing or miss a pitch, and you could never tell. She's great in the count. She's awesome with two strikes, and she's
just very calming and very unselfish at the plate right now, which is
great. She's not letting the moment get
too big. She's keeping it simple and has
just been awesome. Being selected for
the all-tournament team is always an honor, especially with that steep of
competition. It just showed that she can
play with anybody."
While Jones assisted the team offensively, Laubach helped
settle the defense by pitching another solid game. With the win against the Tigers, Laubach is
now 4-0 this season and has pitched her third complete game.
"My favorite thing about Marlaina on the mound right now
is that she just attacks," said Lehotak.
"She's completely fearless and goes right after hitters. She's all about hitting her spots, and she
never looks shaken or scared, which is exactly what you need. She's growing up every game, and she's
getting better and better. She's just so
contagious for everybody and such a spark plug on the mound."
Overall, the split weekend serves as another stepping-stone
for the Lions as they continue to grow as a program. The team looks at every game as an
opportunity to learn and further its skills, helping it to become more
competitive and more skilled.
"I think the biggest takeaway is the fact that we can
play with anybody," said Lehotak. "We're
all learning about moments in that we have to keep the moments simple. I think the LSU series helped with that,
especially with losing game one and coming back and competing in game two. It really proved that it's all about the
now. Hopefully we can keep improving on
that. Offensively, hopefully we can keep
improving on unselfish at bats and really just working within our blueprint of
success. We just need to keep attacking
and keep playing fearless ball."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - If this past weekend's results
have anything to tell us about Penn State softball, it's that this season has
the potential to be incredibly successful.
Nittany Lion pitchers Marissa Diescher, Christy
Von Pusch, Macy Jones, and Marlaina Laubach combined for a 3-2
record at the Kajikawa Classic, where this season's pitching staff demonstrated
its impressive skills.
The four pitchers are preparing and planning for even
more success over the course of the season, as they all believe they can
achieve further by using their difference as an advantage.
think we have a lot of offsetting talents, so if you throw two of us in a game,
we'll really complement one another," said Laubach. "I think that throwing two completely
different style of pitching at a team in one single game is going to be
difficult for them to handle."
concept of diversity was reiterated by Laubach's teammate, as Diescher
explained the importance of surprising the opposition with multiple pitching
"It's definitely going to be a lot different from
previous years because the coaches want other teams to get different looks at
pitchers," said Diescher. "Macy and I
throw totally different, which is good.
For example, she'd go in and start the game, and then I'd come in and
finish it. It's just a totally different
look. We throw completely different
With such diverse pitching styles, the Lions often look
to pitching coach Megan Gibson for
guidance, which she provides them with on a daily basis.
"Coach Gibson has done wonders with all of us," said Von
Pusch. "It's great when you can go in to
her and just have a bullpen workout and get a nice tune up. Then you come out, and you're ready to
go. I think that she's definitely
prepared us all to go out and compete this season, and I think she's most
helped me with simplifying things. If I
think my screwball's not working, and I'm doing things completely wrong, she's
like, 'No, it's just one thing, one easy fix.'"
While Gibson provides these four student-athletes with
advice and tips, the Lions' pitching has already improved dramatically from
last season. A major problem during the
2013 season was a lack of mental focus, which the team has addresses and worked
on in the offseason. Additionally, this polished
mental focus has led to a sense of confidence among the pitchers, helping them
to throw more consistently.
"I think that, especially this weekend compared to the
fall, after watching film and stuff we picked up, overall as a team, a
confidence level," said Laubach. "I know
being on the mound and feeling the confidence behind me, feeling the confidence
when we're in the dugout and offense is in the box, is amazing. We're just radiating it right now."
Jones completely agreed with the remarks of her teammate,
as she has noticed the increased confidence among the pitching staff as well.
"Mentally, I think we've already improved a ton," said
Jones. "I'd say that's a big thing that
a lot of us are working on, and then just staying in the game for our team and
getting wins. This past weekend was just
fun. We tried a lot to bring a lot of
energy because as a pitcher the defense is always going to follow what you
do. I think after the first day watching
film, the next day we really picked up our energy and had a lot more fun."
Putting the opening weekend behind them, all four PSU
pitchers are ready and excited to participate in the Tiger Invitational this
Sunday and Monday.
"I think for me, personally, I just want to stay
focused," said Diescher of the upcoming games.
"I know that's for some other people too. We just have so much talent, and I know we
can pitch against the LSUs and the really good teams. I think it's just about staying focused,
staying locked in, and having fun."
The Nittany Lions will take on both George Washington and
Northwestern on Sunday, Feb. 16 before playing a two-game series against LSU on
Monday, Feb. 17 in Baton Rouge, La.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - With just a little over a week until the
first game, Penn State assistant softball coaches Megan Gibson and Joe Guthrie
are more than ready for the team's season opener under first-year head coach Amanda Lehotak.
Both Gibson and Guthrie are new to the school's softball
program. Nevertheless, both coaches have extensive experience in the sport, which
will be extremely beneficial for the advancement of this year's team.
Gibson is the team's designated pitching coach and spends
the majority of her time working in the bullpen with the team's pitching staff.
Before beginning her coaching career, Gibson was a softball player, picking up
the sport at the age of four. She
competed collegiately at Texas A&M University, which is where she first
considered the coaching side of sports.
"I didn't really know that I wanted to be a coach until
probably about my senior year of college," said Gibson. "Graduation snuck up on me, and I didn't
really know what I wanted to do, so I stayed on for a fifth year. That really, really got me hooked into the
coaching side of sports."
After playing overseas in Japan, and in the United
States' National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league, Gibson decided to get back into
"I was a volunteer pitching coach at Texas A&M University,
which is my alma mater," said Gibson when discussing her first official
coaching job. "Then from there, I got an
assistant coaching job with Coach Lehotak at the University of Texas San
Antonio. I was there for two years, and
then she brought me here."
While Gibson focuses primarily on the team's pitching,
she also does her best to help Guthrie with his obligations whenever
possible. Guthrie's main coaching roles
for the Lions are working on hitting, outfielders, and recruiting.
The assistant coach had a very unique transition from
baseball into the softball world. After
the completion of his collegiate baseball career at the University of Alabama,
Guthrie immediately took on the role of assistant coach at a local high
school. Following this experience, he
joined the military, putting his coaching career on hold for five years.
"Just as luck would have it, as soon as I got out of the
military, the first thing that came to me was going back into coaching," said
Guthrie. "All of my coaching experience early on was baseball related. I got into softball when I was working as a
pro scout in Florida. On the side, I had
a baseball and softball hitting business, just private instruction. That was really my first intro in the
softball world, and it sort of planted a seed into the back of my head that if
this ever came about I would definitely look into it. About two years later, a job opened up to
start a junior college program near where I was from in Alabama, and I've been
in it ever since. That was seven years
ago. It was just a lucky break on that
side of it. I didn't think I'd ever be
doing it, but I'm really glad that I did."
With such diverse backgrounds and experiences, the
coaches are excited to join forces and begin the next stages in their careers
at Penn State.
"You know, I've always grown up hearing and knowing about
Penn State sports and actually played against their softball team in college,"
said Gibson. "When she [Lehotak] told me
she was going to Penn State, I felt like this is the cream of the crop, and you
can't get any better than here. I told
everyone here that I didn't want to hear anything about the facilities. I
didn't want to see a picture, just because I had heard so much about it
already. When I got here, I was like,
'Wow. This is my office. This is where I get to come to work every
day. How lucky am I?'"
Guthrie explained that the idea of working with Gibson
and Lehotak was what originally drew him toward the program, as did the Penn
State brand itself.
"It [Penn State] has so much going for it academically
and athletically, but the national brand aspect to me is very important," said
Guthrie. "This is not something I have
learned since taking the job because I knew already, but you can go anywhere
and say, 'Penn State,' and people know that."
As far as the assistant coaches' expectations for this
season are concerned, both Gibson and Guthrie want to see the student-athletes
compete each and every day. The season
is long, but there are specific expectations that the coaches have for each
student-athlete. These various
benchmarks will help to gauge the team's overall progress throughout the
entirety of the season.
"I would say my expectations for pitching staff in
particular are just to compete," said Gibson.
"I will be very happy if I can just get them to compete on the mound and
understand the process of the season.
I'm sure there are going to be bumps in the road, but it's about just
getting over those bumps and not falling backwards. We need to enjoy the process and enjoy
learning and getting better. I think
that could go along the same lines with our team as well. The season is a long process. It's a marathon. You have to be nice and steady all the way
through it. I think if we could just get
them to really buy into that process and compete all year, I'd be really
By Gabrielle Richards, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- When newly appointed Penn State softball head coach
Amanda Lehotak stepped onto Beard Field for the first time, she was fulfilling
a life long dream. Coming from a coaching family, Lehotak has dreamed of
coaching at Penn State and making her mark in the Big Ten.
"This has been
a very humbling experience," said Lehotak. "Very few people in life have their
dreams come true, now that it has happened, I am just in awe."
collegiate softball career started at the University of Mississippi, where she
set a single-season hitting record. After playing two seasons for the Rebels,
Lehotak finished of her career at Nebraska-Omaha, where she became a third team
All-American and earned two first team All-North Central Conference selections.
After a very
successful career as a player, Lehotak took on a new position as "coach." Her
first head-coaching job was at Jacksonville University, where she led the
Dolphins to their first NCAA Tournament appearance, and she became the 2011
Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year. She coached the Dolphins for seven years before
becoming the head coach at the University of Texas-San Antonio.
"My coaching philosophy and my team philosophy are very different and always
changing," said Lehotak. "Each team needs something different, and that is our
job as coaches."
As a head coach
for UTSA, Lehotak's winning record was just as impressive as her team's
performance. Under her coaching philosophy and dedication, the Roadrunner's had
five players earn All-Southland honors, a Freshman of the Year, and a All-WAC
first team selection.
"At the end of
every season, I reevaluate my plans and my philosophy to hold myself
accountable," said Lehotak. "The players deserve that."
In July of
2013, it was announced that Lehotak's passion for team building and extensive
coaching experience would begin a new chapter, as she was named head coach of
Penn State Softball.
thing I did when I got to Penn State was stare at my field for 30 minutes,"
said Lehotak. "This is mine to build now."
Coming off of a
successful fall-ball season, coach Lehotak is happy with the team's progress
and excited for what the upcoming season will bring. She believes that their
success this fall as made them more confident for the spring.
truly impresses me. Their learning curve over these past four weeks has been
great," said Lehotak. "We don't have a championship in October, so this gives
us an opportunity to work on handling the ball and stealing the momentum from
the other team."
mission is not to just produce a winning program, but to create a sense of
community amongst herself, her coaching staff and the team.
always judge you on winning and loosing. But, we are just going to focus on our
family and whether or not we are meeting game goals and the goals we set for
ourselves, that is most important."
to the upcoming season, coach Lehotak is excited for the opportunity to coach
against some of her idols. She is most excited to coach against Michigan's
"For me, it is
an honor to share the field with a coach of that caliber," said Lehotak. "I am
excited to go through the grind and watch our team perform against these
Lehotak isn't on the field, recruiting or holding practice she enjoys spending
time with her family. Her love for her family is a part of her coaching
philosophy as she tries to create a family atmosphere with her teams. Lehotak
believes that there are four elements to successful teams - accountability,
honesty, positivity, and energy.
"Your team is
your extended family," said Lehotak. "These are the people who will be by your
side now and later in life, supporting each other is very important."
hopes that the lessons and the expectations that she has for her players for
practice and games will translate into their lives when they are no longer
wearing the uniform.
"I am big
believer in body language, eye contact and hand shakes," said Lehotak. "When
one of my players walks into my office and they don't look me in the eye when
they are talking to me, I tell them to leave and try again."
when a catcher's body language doesn't match her voice, I make them run the
drill again because confidence is key."
In an effort to
produce a confident team on and off the field, Lehotak added a list of words
and phrases that cannot be used to the team handbook.
"We have our
own language," said Lehotak. "You have to be careful with what you think and
what you say because it is contagious. We want to look confident and fearless,
even on our off days, so I hope that this method helps with that."
The Lions just
finished their fall ball schedule and will return to the field in the spring.
"I am very
excited for the upcoming season," said Lehotak. "Hopefully we will make Penn
State very proud."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Assistant coaches Joe Guthrie and Megan Gibson are introduced in the latest GoPSUsports.com exclusive video.
GoPSUsports.com recently caught up with new Penn State softball head coach Amanda Lehotak. Check out the interview:
New Penn State softball head coach Amanda Lehotak is finally on campus and GoPSUsports.com takes you through one of her first days.
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After nearly three months of play, Penn State
softball head coach Robin Petrini says that there are two words to describe her
2013 Nittany Lions.
The team ended its regular season with a 2-0 setback to Nebraska on Monday
at Beard Field and finish with a 15-33 record overall. But numbers and losses
aren't much of interest to Petrini after 48 games that she felt were played
hard and played well.
"We never took the field as a defeated team," said Petrini. "We always took
the field like, 'Let's go play hard.' And that says a lot about the character
of your kids."
And for a team that featured six seniors, four juniors, three sophomores
and eight freshmen, successfully coming together and working hard is quite the
Macy Jones, who is one of those eight newcomers, said that she bought right
into the Nittany Lion program even though she only expected to be playing a few
innings here and there. The freshman pitcher threw 166 of the 305 innings that
the team played and started 47 of the 48 contests.
"I think we grew the whole season," said Jones. "I think our record doesn't
show our potential and how good we really are and we definitely learned a lot."
Jones said that the rest of her team made her job much less stressful most
of the time too, as the Penn State offense scored a total of 206 runs to
support her whoever was in the circle.
"It's really encouraging. I don't feel like I have to throw a shut-out
every game," said Jones. "Even though we didn't score this game we usually get
runs across the board so it takes away the pressure."
Looking ahead, the 11th-seeded Lions turn to the Big Ten Tournament in
Lincoln, Neb. and prepare to face sixth-seeded Illinois in the first round of
play on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
Senior Cassidy Bell played her last contest at Beard Field on Monday
afternoon, but said that she's not giving up here blue and white uniform just
yet. The veteran said that the way her team has recently been pitching, hitting
and fielding, she doesn't see why it wouldn't make a postseason run.
"I think we are underdogs going into it but sometimes teams come into it
expecting to just walk over us but that hasn't been the case lately and that's
to our advantage," said Bell. "We have everything going right now so I think it
will be a good matchup."
Thursday's match-up will be the first between Penn State and the Illini
this year, but Bell said that she and her teammates won't prepare much
differently than they have been all season.
"We've just got to keep being 'pesky Penn State'," said Bell. "We keep
coming at you and we don't back down and that's what we've done all season.
We're good at never saying die."