By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Last season, the softball program boasted a talented and experienced outfield, featuring seniors Lexi Knief, Erin Pond and Macy Jones. This season, redshirt sophomore Rebecca Ziegler, in the midst of a four-game hitting streak, is picking up some of the slack.
Having sat out her freshman season due to injury, and backing up centerfielder Lexi Knief a year ago, head coach Amanda Lehotak knew Ziegler would be ready to go this year.
"She's been outstanding for us. I thought opening weekend, it didn't really show in the stat line, but she had a lot of quality at-bats. So this weekend, to see them kind of finally fall for her, I was really pleased...Having that spark in the leadoff spot is exactly what we needed from her," said Lehotak.
When you first meet Ziegler, you can see her passion for the game. Lehotak sees it too.
"Ziegler just loves the game. When you talk to her, she's just passionate about softball, baseball," Lehotak said. "She can tell you baseball stats of who's doing what, so I think its just a perfect storm in the fact that she's finally physically healthy, and I think she's just having a really good time playing the game right now."
Where did Ziegler develop her love of the game of softball? Part of that has to do with her family. Her older brother, C.J., was a first baseman at the University of Arizona before playing professionally in the minor leagues. Seeing him perform well on the diamond was where Ziegler got her fire.
"Growing up around a baseball field, seeing him dominate on the field, really drove me to want to be as good as him," she said. "He made me love this game, so watching him be such a force at the plate and on the field, that's who I aspired to be."
Now, playing for a Nittany Lion team heating up early on in the season, Ziegler can leave it all on the field manning the starting center field position. Her effort can be seen during the week in practice behind the scenes and in the cage.
"As long as I swing as hard as I can in the cages, it translates onto the field...I just try to improve every single at bat and try and make it better than the last time," said Ziegler.
Ziegler also has bought into the team philosophy this season.
"This year's theme is staying within the tribe, being a tribe, so as long as we do that, we'll be ok," she said.
Ziegler and her teammates will be traveling to Conway, South Carolina to take part in the Chanticleer Showdown this weekend. The squad will face off with Coastal Carolina, Campbell, Cleveland State and Morehead State, and Lehotak knows what needs to be done to continue the team's four-game win streak.
"Our defense needs to sustain and we need to keep doing a good job... Pitchers, were looking for them to attack," she said. "There were a couple of situational areas this past weekend where we kind of got lucky, so making sure we fix that, and, offensively we have to do a better job of making adjustments earlier."
With that in mind, Ziegler and the Lions are trending upwards in the early stages of the season, especially in the eyes of Lehotak.
"The mixture of having our youth be really mature and our seniors having the 'been there, done that' mentality, I think it's been the perfect blend."