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Offense Leads Nittany Lions

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions pushed across eight runs on 11 hits, defeating Big Ten opponent Michigan State Friday night in the first outing of this weekend's three-game series. 

The Nittany Lions knew going in that they would likely be set for another back-and-forth, high-scoring outing with the Spartans. True to history though, Penn State head coach Amanda Lehotak is proud of the fight she saw from the Nittany Lions.

"I liked how we held our emotions," Lehotak said. "I thought we had a lot of great answer innings. They scored right away, we bounced back right away. Both sides as you saw, historically, will throw different pitchers and I thought everybody kept their composure and did what they had to do.

Proud to see production from one through nine, Lehotak praised the Penn State hitting performance.

"Delaney [Elling] was excellent, Tori [Dubois] was excellent and Toni [Polk] was excellent,  so a lot of good things today," Lehotak said.

Offense by the Outfield
Penn State was led offensively by its three outfielders in Dubois, Polk and freshman Dani Fey. The trio combined for a total of five hits and five RBIs, so they came up huge for the Nittany Lions at the dish. After allowing three runs in the opening frame, Polk's two run triple to right field gave Penn State a 4-3 lead in the first. 

"It was huge," Lehotak said of Polk's big hit. "I think Toni's been a little frustrated lately so for her to have that and to be able to breathe a little bit was excellent. This is what Toni does. She was relaxed at the plate and looked calm. She had two huge at-bats for us tonight."

Dubois hit her sixth home run of the season as her long drive to left field in the fourth inning pushed the Penn State lead to 7-3.

"She's our best hitter and we wanted to get her a minimum of four at-bats but maybe five at-bats," Lehotak said. "We wanted to make them uncomfortable a little and make them pitch to her no matter what."

Dubois scored two runs as she set the table from the lead-off spot in the order.

"It's definitely different spot in the lineup but I liked leading off and providing a spark for the team," Dubois said. "I enjoyed leading off."

The right fielder Fey also had her share of success Friday, collecting an RBI on a base hit. Fey got on base twice from the eighth spot in the order, fueling the offense from the back end of the batting order. 

Cummings Closes it Out
Despite being taken out of the game after the third inning with just three runs allowed, Cummings was once again called upon to pitch in the fifth inning with the game on the line. The senior from Maryland did not disappoint. She worked out of a jam with runners in scoring position to end the fifth and only gave up one run (unearned) in the final 2.2 innings she pitched in relief as she helped lead the Nittany Lions to victory in the circle. 

What's Next?
The Nittany Lions and Spartans will conclude the series Saturday with a doubleheader starting at 2 p.m. at Beard Field. 

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With two outs in the seventh inning and Penn State trailing by a run in its March 28th matchup with Kent State, head coach Amanda Lehotak called upon a freshman off the bench to pinch hit with the game on the line. It was catcher Haley Vallejos, who represented the Nittany Lions' last chance to complete its comeback.

 Vallejos, after a long at-bat, calmly hit a line-drive single that led to the eventual game-tying wild-pitch just one batter later. Lehotak showed great confidence in her underclassman as she did not hesitate in choosing Vallejos to bat in crunch time.  

"Honestly, she's really great in those pressure situations," Lehotak said. "She broke up a no-hitter against Texas A&M and kept that inning going verses Kent State. She really excels in those positions." 

"As a pinch-hitter, I just try to take my best three cuts," Vallejos said. "I try not to think too much and I just try to keep my head clear and do what I do." 

Despite registering a total of six hits and two doubles so far on the season, including her great success as a pinch-hitter, Vallejos believes her strength as a player is defensively behind the dish.

"Probably my framing (of pitches) out of everything," Vallejos said when asked about what she believes is the best part of her game. "Also, my ability to call pitches, too." 

"I like being able to control the field and being able to go at my pace," she said about the being a catcher. 

 Lehotak is utilizing Vallejos' good defense and high IQ as a catcher, as she has not only appeared in 22 games there in her first season as a Nittany Lion but has also been the starting catcher in 14 of those games. 

"Haley's been a spot starter here and there. She's coming back from an injury, which kind of delayed her progress...We expect Haley, over the next four years that she is here, to be really special," Lehotak added. 

As for her transition from a four-year letterman in Chandler, Arizona to a being freshman playing in college softball's Big Ten Conference, Vallejos credits her teammates, especially senior infielder Gianna Arrizurieta. for making the process easier.

"I think every girl on the team has helped me tremendously in everything that we do, including school, softball, and my personal life," Vallejos said. "Everyone cares, so for me that helped a lot." 

"Probably Gianna because she is a role model on and off the field," Vallejos said when asked who she looks up to on the team. "She's just someone you can go to, no matter the age difference."

Vallejos and the rest of the Nittany Lions will host the Michigan State Spartans for a three-game series at Beard Field this weekend. Game one will begin Friday night at 6 p.m.

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Tori Hackenberg showed up to Penn State softball's tryouts in the fall with hope and a dream of playing for the Blue and White. Although she worked hard and was determined to make the team, she was unsure if she did enough to beat out the other potential walk-ons to earn her spot on the roster. 

"Coming to tryouts, I didn't really know what to expect. I didn't know if I would make it or not," Hackenberg said. "I just knew I had to give it everything I had."

 That's exactly what she would do. Soon after tryouts ended, head coach Amanda Lehotak and her staff passed along the news of a lifetime: she was officially a Nittany Lion softball player. 

"It was absolutely a dream," Hackenberg said about cracking the team's roster. "I never thought that I'd ever be playing for Penn State. 

Hackenberg, along with sophomore Amanda Grieco, were the only student-athletes to successfully walk-on to the program this season. Lehotak talked about the work ethic of her newest freshman infielder Hackenberg. 

"We had walk-on tryouts in the fall and she came to the tryout and worked her butt off," Lehotak said. "She's a work ethic kid. Unfortunately, she got hurt in the second week and was out for a while, but she's working her way back in." 

Hackenberg, a Pennsylvania native who was a four-year letterman that won two state championships for Mifflinburg Area High School, made the decision out of high school that she would come to school in Happy Valley regardless if she had a spot on the softball team or not. 

"I'm really not that far away, but I never really envisioned myself being here until I came and visited the campus," Hackenberg added. "I said to myself: 'I absolutely have to be there whether I play softball or not.' " 

For Hackenberg, one added benefit of attending Penn State was its close proximity to her home in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, which is just over an hour from State College.

"It's great. I love that my parents can be here at every home game. I love that my friends come and support me," Hackenberg said. "It's just really great being so close." 

The veterinary and biomedical sciences major now has the best of both worlds - a school that is not only close to home, but one that gives her the opportunity to continue playing the game she loves.  Coach Lehotak talked about how great a fit Hackenberg is for Penn State.

"It's really fun to have a local kid that people can rally around," Lehotak said about Hackenberg. "She's doing great. She's seen more base-running time than anything. Her injury hindered some things she could do in practice, so she's still a little behind in that regard. It's great we finally have someone local to come in and scratch her way into the lineup for the next few years. "

As for her transition into collegiate softball, Hackenberg credits the upperclassmen for making the difficult process of walking-on easier for her.    

"I didn't know a lot coming in, especially being a walk-on. I didn't know the rules or know anything. I jumped right in and (the upperclassmen) helped me and taught me what I needed to know," she said.

When asked if she had someone in the program who she looks up to, Hackenberg didn't hesitate for a moment in stating her answer 

"Tori Dubois," Hackenberg said emphatically. "She's always there and if I do something wrong she's the first one to point it out. She's just always there for me." 

With her strong work ethic and a great role model in Dubois, the sky is the limit for the local product, and she is excited to see what the future in Happy Valley holds. 

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By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Michigan jumped all over Penn State early and often on Sunday at Beard Field, scoring six runs in the second inning in route to a 11-1 win over the Nittany Lions.

"Slowly we are closing the gap, and maybe it doesn't feel like it right this second but I will re-watch it again tonight and see that," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "We hit the ball well and to think from my first year we weren't even close. There is a gap being closed and it's not where we would like it to be but we are definitely getting there." 

Player of the Game: Tori Dubois 

Tori Dubois got Penn State on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning with a solo blast to left-center field. The home run was a no-doubter, and Dubois' fifth long ball of the year. She was the first batter Michigan reliever Sarah Schaefer faced on the day and just the second homerun Schaefer has given up all year. 

"For her (Dubois) she has been able to heat up and her resiliency and calmness at the plate have improved. As a junior now, so she's not getting beat on the same sequence any more. Yesterday she was frustrated because she felt like she got beat on the same sequence and knew what was coming," Lehotak said. "Today she was able to make that adjustment and that's the benefit of getting older and able to make that adjustment. I was happy for her to finally get one against them." 

Dubois raised her season batting average to .300 with the blast, finishing the day 1-for-2. She is also now leading the team in slugging percentage with .480.

Making Adjustments

"I thought Michigan made good adjustments, yesterday Madison (Shaffer) got them to chase more. Today they were ready for her, I'm assuming they knew we would go back to her. It's more that we really couldn't give them another look unfortunately right now. We have to rely on Shaffer and Jess (Cummings), and today she did enough to be effective not as great as yesterday. Her changeup was not quite as deadly, but Michigan did a really good job and they were ready."

In game two of the series on Saturday Shaffer shut down the Wolverines, hurling a shutout until the seventh inning. The Wolverines came out ready for Shaffer on Sunday, who also did not have the same electricity on her pitches. 

"We have a very quick turnaround going to Ohio State. Our biggest thing is for us is our defense. Our infield actually showed up this series especially in games two and three, so if our infield and defense can sustain where they are at is great," Lehotak added.  "Offensively we just have to find a way to put the ball in play more and find a way to take the changeup away early. We didn't take the changeup away at all against Michigan so we have to take that away to make them throw more of what we want."

Resiliency

Penn State's identity all season has been around never giving up and fighting until the last out, and the same was true on Sunday with the late homerun from Dubois.

"Obviously it was a tough day and we are disappointed we couldn't give them a better game. But the comeback is what they are all about, and always wanting to answer back. Whenever a team scores on us we always say, whether it's one or a hundred you have to get one to answer and they were just upset today that they weren't answering," Lehotak said.

Penn State returns to action on Wednesday when they travel to Ohio State for a doubleheader with the Buckeyes.

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Following a 14-2 loss in game one of the series, Penn State gave No. 17 Michigan all it could handle in game two Saturday afternoon. The Nittany Lions, led by junior pitcher Madison Shaffer, held the Wolverines' potent offense scoreless through the first six innings before Michigan hit a 2-run homerun in the 7th inning to break the 0-0 tie in a game that would finish 3-0 in favor of the Wolverines.

"I was really proud with how we bounced back (from game one)," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "It's what we've done all year. We have such good kids. They're fighters and they will never quit for Penn State. I can't say enough about Maddy Shaffer right now. She had a great game - a full seven innings. She pitched well enough to win. I don't know if we've had a pitcher go a full seven like that since I've been here, so I'm very proud of her."

Player of the Game

Who else but Madison Shaffer? The Pennsylvania native was dominant in the circle Saturday, as she only allowed two hits in the first six innings and registered four strikeouts as well. Although she gave up three runs in the 7th, Shaffer kept the Nittany Lions in the game with one of the top teams in the nation. She made big pitches when she needed them most, including a strikeout to get out of a bases-loaded jam with Michigan rallying in the 5th inning.

"I felt confident," Shaffer said after arguably her best collegiate performance to date. "My team played really well behind me today. It was awesome watching them make plays and it really helped me, too."

"I'm so proud," Lehotak said when asked about holding one of the top offenses in the nation to zero runs through six innings. "These kids have been fighting all year and we've just had some back luck, especially for them to go out and do that (against Michigan)." 

Shaffer registers her second complete game of the season after going a full seven innings Saturday.

Weber's Web Gems

Penn State played great team defense throughout the first two games against Michigan and didn't register an error the entire second game. Sophomore Destiny Weber was great defensively at the hot corner, as she made big plays all weekend, including a crucial double play to get the Nittany Lions out of a jam in the second inning of game one.

 "She was lights out," Lehotak said about her third baseman. "We knew we had to make a big play defensively and we got two huge defensive moments. One was Weber's double play and the other was to get out of the bases-loaded ja early in the game with no outs. It really shows our emotional composure." 

"I (take a lot of pride in my defense)," Weber said postgame. "As a team, we all take pride in our defense and we work really hard on it. We always take a lot of reps, so as a team we live by the fundamentals and just staying calm." 

Weber also contributed offensively, as well, notching one of the Blue and White's three hits on Friday night. A hit that came against Meghan Beaubien, who is of the most dominant pitchers in the country, posting under a 1.00 ERA.

What's Next?

The three-game series will continue on Sunday as the Nittany Lions and Wolverines will lace up the spikes one more time at 1 p.m. at Beard Field.

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By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although Emily Hudgins, a freshman infielder for Penn State from Wadsworth, Illinois has yet to make an appearance for the Blue and White due to injury, the decision to attend Penn State was simple- with everything adding up to the perfect place for her college experience. 

"The academics, you can't really get much better than this, the facilities are amazing, the coaches are great, everything is just great," Hudgins said.

Hudgins is a secondary education major at University Park, having been impacted greatly by a psychology teacher in high school. She hopes one day to have a similar impact on students as a teacher herself. 

Since arriving on campus, Hudgins has proven herself to her teammates off the field by taking care of the little things in practice making an impact on everyone in the program.

"Emily is phenomenal. Just an awesome teammate and awesome person. Unfortunately, she's been out for the year due to an injury which has been kind of devastating for our team. I applaud her on how she's handled it mentally, how she's been engaged," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "There's very few things she can do right now, but those few things she can do, she never takes a rep off and is always asking to work on the little things." 

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Every summer when the Penn State freshmen arrive on campus, it is the job of the upperclassmen to take the freshmen in and bond into a team. The groups always form differently, and some players connect closely with certain teammates.

 "The kids do a really great job and really kind of match up with the freshmen and they can ask an upperclassmen like Delaney and ask how to get to a class and the really help guide them. It's a pretty major adjustment period so they really help throughout that," Lehotak said. 

Hudgins provides further praise of the upperclassmen, adding that they have been instrumental in making the transition to college so easy. 

"The upperclassmen have been great coming in. They were all super welcoming and told us exactly what we need to do and answering questions before we even had then," Hudgins said. 

It is hard to watch games being out with an injury, but Hudgins believes she brings a lot of work ethic to the club, something she sees in many of the upperclassmen.

"Tori Dubois (Is someone I look up to). She works really hard every day and is a fierce competitor," Hudgins said.

Other players see the work ethic from Hudgins but also see an extreme attention to detail especially every day during practice. 

"When we are at practice the coaches watch the big picture and see how everything is going, but if you had something little you are working on and want someone to watch for it Emily is the person to ask," sophomore Delaney Elling said. "For example, working on leads and leaving early she is the person to ask to watch that. Emily is like the coach from a player standpoint, she is the player-coach of the team." 

Coach Lehotak sees similar strengths for Hudgins and appreciates all she does for the team in practice. When many players can lose focus on the team when injured Hudgins has thrown herself even farther into it.

"She is a great teammate and observes the game. Emily is a rare athlete where she loves the game so much she will do anything to be a part of it and just a great kid," Lehotak said. 

After splitting a doubleheader on Wednesday with Robert Morris, Penn State will head to Rutgers for its first road Big Ten matchup of the season. The team hopes to translate some of their recent home success to the road, having struggled away from Beard field so far this year. 

"This time of year it's kind of easy to prepare for compared to going into a tournament with five different teams. My staff and I have been watching film, and we play Rutgers every year relatively well," Lehotak said. "For us it's still going to be about Penn State, where we have to make sure we don't beat ourselves which I feel like has been the thorn in our sides. If we can take care of business do what we do well, we feel positive going into this weekend."

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Although Penn State split its doubleheader with Robert Morris on the diamond Wednesday night, another late Nittany Lion comeback gave the team a 9-7 victory in game one. 

"I'm happy to come away with a split tonight," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "We had another come-from-behind win in game one, so obviously we proved our character and fight. For whatever reason, we just have not played well in a doubleheader setting, and that has to be fixed. I don't know what we're missing with that and why we can't sustain (our play) for 14 innings. It's like we're really good for seven and then we die off, so that will be addressed somehow. Other than that, I like the fight."

Comeback Kids
Following an RBI triple by Toni Polk to make the score 7-4 in the bottom of the 5th inning, junior outfielder Tori Dubois came up with the bases loaded and gave the Nittany Lions the lead with one swing of her bat. Dubois hit a shot down the left field line that left Beard Park, giving the Blue and White an 8-7 lead.

"I think it's just something you work for and get ready for. We're always prepared," Dubois said. "To come up in the big moment I something I love. I love putting the ball in play for my teammates." 

"She's a magnet for those situations and she loves those situations," Lehotak said. "She's just the one you want in that position. She's calm and collected, and I wasn't surprised by (her grand-slam). You just feel good when she's at the plate no matter what." 

Shaffer Closes Strong
After entering the game in a tough situation with no outs in the top of the first inning, Shaffer was rock solid for the Nittany Lions. Despite giving up four runs early on, she didn't allow a run in the 5th, 6th, or 7th innings. She even punched out the side in the top of the 7th to close out the game. 

"I thought Shaffer in game one settled back down and did exactly what we needed her to do," Lehotak said.

"She was really good," Lehotak added. "I told she looked like herself this past weekend because she wasn't herself with the way she had been throwing. When we put her in for Smith in game one and she kind of looked shaky, but then you could see every inning she was starting to work out of it. I feel like she's back. This happens with pitching, but I'm glad to see her back going to a big weekend against Rutgers." 

Shaffer earns her second win of the season due to her seven strikeout, one walk performance Wednesday evening.

Player of the Game
Who else but Tori Dubois? The advertising and public relations major went 2-4 with four RBI in game one, hitting the program's first grand-slam since 2016. The clutch go-ahead shot was her second homerun of the season. Sophomore catcher Kennedy Legg also had two hits in game two, leading the Nittany Lions offensively in the nightcap. 

What's next?
Penn State will continue Big Ten play this weekend as they travel to New Brunswick, New Jersey to play a three game series with Rutgers.

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By Brian McLaughlin, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a slow start to the series finale against Maryland, Penn State came roaring back in the bottom of the sixth inning scoring three runs to tie the game. A home run off the bat Skylynne Ellazar put Maryland back on top and Penn State left the game-tying run on third in their final at bat in the seventh.  The Nittany Lions fell 4-3 to the Terrapins.  

"It was a great game at the end especially those last few innings. I think (there is a mutual respect between us and Maryland). For us it was a tail of two games, first four innings we fell flat, then kind of turned it on," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "Give Maryland credit they came in with a good game plan today, I thought one team made adjustments late in the end. If the win hadn't picked up I think Delaney's ball might have gone out. That's what it's all about on Sundays."

Here are some takeaways from Penn State's Sunday contest. 

Player of the Game: Gianna Arrizurieta
The senior shortstop for Penn State has struggled to start the year at the plate, but came through in clutch moments for Penn State on Sunday. In the top of the sixth inning she started a rally with a single before coming around to score, and in the seventh she once again led off with a single before being stranded on third base.

"Gianna has just been working really hard. She is just one of those poor seniors that has started off slow and wasn't really getting the results that she wanted, but now she is starting to find some holes," Lehotak said.  "She's just proves if you keep working the game will finally pay you back. The great thing about Gianna is she never changes her approach just working her tail off and she just finally found some holes." 

Cummings dominates Maryland
Jessica Cummings notched another performance in the pitcher's circle for the Nittany Lions, allowing just three earned runs and striking out five batters.

"The biggest thing is she is from Maryland so I think she really gets hyped up for Maryland," Lehotak said.  "I think in her whole career she's done really well against them. She just did a really good job handling her emotions, I thought she attacked the zone well. Again only two walks so only two on the entire weekend. That's what we need from her, she is at her best when she has that fearless mindset and just goes right after them. Hopefully the hardest part of the season is behind her and she just keeps getting better the rest of the way." 

Relentless Approach
Both home series so far Penn State has shown the ability to come from behind late in games which continued again on Sunday with the late game comeback. 

"They're fighters, you guys have seen us now back-to-back weekends, we never give up. They work their tails off and they believe in one another. I love that grittiness aspect of them, I love the fact that we are never out of the game until it's over," Lehotak said.

 Penn State continues its home action this Wednesday when they take on the Robert Morris Colonials in a double-header.

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Despite splitting its doubleheader with Maryland Saturday afternoon to open up conference play, Penn State played arguably its most complete 7 innings of the year as they took game one 8-3 in commanding fashion.

"We did what we had to do today," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "We got the split, but obviously we would have like to play better game two. I didn't like that we only had two hits in game two. Our effort was there but I was more disappointed in our focus. We did what he had to in game one, though. I really like how we played game one." 

Although Penn State dropped game two 8-0, there were many takeaways from the Nittany Lions' first Big Ten win of the year.

Player of the Game- Jessica Cummings
Senior pitcher Jessica Cummings was firing on all cylinders in the circle, throwing a complete game with seven strikeouts and no walks. Cummings was perfect through three innings and only allowed Maryland to get a total of five hits.

"I thought she was dominant game one," Lehotak said. "I think that was her first game all year where she didn't have a walk. She was great. I thought she went right after them and she made great adjustments. (Maryland) also made adjustments in the 4th when they scored, but I thought she came back really well. She kept attacking whereas all year that's when she's gotten a little passive, so I was really proud of her." 

Cummings improves her record to 3-7 on the year after notching her third complete game of the season. 

Offensive Fireworks
Penn State pounded out eight runs, including five in the first inning, on 11 hits to match Cummings' great performance in the circle. Sophomore Destiny Weber had two hits, including a line-drive two RBI double down the left field line to push the score to 5-0. Eight different Nittany Lions registered a hit in what was a very balanced offensive attack.

"Offensively in the first game I thought we were great," Lehotak said. "We came out swinging. I thought we were well prepared for (that game) and we handled it well. We dipped a little bit, which happens when you have an explosion like that in the first two innings. It was good to see us answer again after they scored. The maturity of that was good. I liked that we had good at-bats and we were putting the ball in play."

The Blue and White's eight runs was the team's second-best offensive showing of the year, just behind the ten runs they scored against Kent State last Sunday. 

Flashing the Leather
With Cummings forcing ground ball after ground ball on the mound, it was the Nittany Lions' infield defense that came up big. Penn State didn't record an error in game one and were almost flawless both in the infield and outfield, including junior Tori Dubois' impressive leaping catch in left field.

"I was really proud of them," Lehotak said about her team's great glove work in the first game of the doubleheader. "I was very hard on our infield this week. Last week I was really hard on offense, and this week I was really hard on our infield especially. I held them to a high standard and we did some things we haven't done before and their response was great. I was very pleased with how they played infield-wise in both games." 

What's Next?
The Nittany Lions and Terrapins will play the rubber match of their conference series Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

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By Brian McLaughlin, Student Staff Writer GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State softball finally returned home last weekend, taking the series against the Kent State Golden Flashes. Not only was it the first home series of the year for the Nittany Lions, it was also the first games at Beard Field for the Penn State freshmen, including Erin Murray.

Murray is an outfielder for the Nittany Lions, hailing from Great Falls, Virginia. For the Nittany Lion newcomer, attending Penn State was always an obvious choice.

 "I came here for softball camp when I was a freshman in high school," Murray said. "Just being here and being on campus and seeing the people I knew this was where I wanted to go to school."

 The energy Penn State has had so far this season has been spectacular despite a slow start. The return home has been a blessing for Penn State, taking 2-of-3 from Kent State in the opening series.

"I thought the kids played hard and I hope everyone got to see what we've been talking about away from home. We play hard, we fight, and we don't give up," head coach Amanda Lehotak said following the opening games against Kent State. 

That attitude is one of the most valuable aspects Murray brings to the team, and she hopes to contribute to that attitude moving forward.

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 "My biggest strength is my personality and being a good consistent teammate," Murray said. "On the field, in the batter's box I am willing to do whatever it takes to get on base, whether that's to get hit by a pitch or draw a walk or put the ball on the ground." 

True to her word, having just appeared in two games so far this season, Murray has seen just one plate appearance but got hit by a pitch and reached base.

All of the players on Penn State's roster have been praised for their work ethic and strong team chemistry, but one leader particularly stands out to Murray and exemplifies this team's attitude as someone she looks up to

"(I look up to) Toni Polk. She is very calm and relaxed and she is a good teammate to everybody and she works hard every day," Murray said.

The Penn State team broke through in the third game of the series against Kent State. The teams took extra innings before the Nittany Lions got the walk-off and clinching the series victory. 

"(Coming back on Sunday) was one of the best feelings ever. I loved it so much, the energy in the dugout was so much fun, it was unbelievable," Murray said.

Like many experiences as a freshman, everything is still new to Murray as she adjusts to her life on campus as well as on the field. Recently she had a switch off the field that helped her feel more comfortable. 

"I just switched to the College of Communications from the School of Engineering, so a big change for me," Murray said. "It was something exciting and new and different completely from what I had been studying before." 

Another first for Murray will occur this weekend with Penn State opening its Big Ten play against the Maryland Terrapins.

"As a freshman I'm new to Big Ten play, but I'm excited and nervous and I think it should go pretty well," Murray said.

The confidence is growing for Penn State with every game, as they are in the midst of a young two game winning streak. From freshman like Murray, to upperclassmen like Polk, this team has gone through lots of adversity early in the season but appears to be emerging out of it stronger than ever and ready to compete.

@GOPSUSPORTS

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