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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was a gorgeous Blue & White Weekend in Happy Valley, and despite being a weekend typically known for its football and tailgating, James Franklin's squad wasn't the only Penn State team putting on a clinic.

Across the street from Beaver Stadium, the Penn State softball team earned their third Big Ten series sweep of the season as they beat the Maryland Terrapins 9-6, 4-0 and 5-3 en route to earning their spot in the history books. 

The win on Saturday was Penn State's tenth conference win of the season, making them just the eighth team in school history to reach that milestone. They reached the mark in the fewest amount of games (13), too, besting the record set by the 2002 team that did it in 15 games.

Senior Macy Jones started the weekend off strong for the Nittany Lions (24-17, 11-3 Big Ten), going 4-for-4 on Friday night, including two RBIs off her ninth homerun of the season. 

"Macy, like I've said all year, has been Steady Eddy for us," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "She's having some power numbers that she's never had before but really that's just because she's so confident and relaxed at the plate right now. She's seeing the ball really well, she's being aggressive [and] as a leadoff that's exactly what you want."

Jones credits her success to the four years that she's been on the team that have prepared her for this moment. 

"It's just that it's my senior year and I feel like I've been in this situation before and I know what to do so I'm more confident than I have been in the past," Jones said. "I'm really just trying not to think about it too much and am just envisioning myself having good at bats and swinging at good pitches and the results [have been] great but even if they weren't, you just got to keep going."

Jones' homerun was the first of three long balls hit in the fourth inning of Friday night's game, with Shelby Miller and Alyssa VanDerveer also each smacking a solo shot in the frame. VanDerveer also tacked on another home run in the first inning of game two to give Penn State the quick lead.

It looked like the Nittany Lions were going to cruise to the sweep early on in game three thanks to a three-run first inning. But the Terps battled back, much like Lehotak knew they would, and were able to tie it up in the fifth inning. 

"Once they scored, we believe in answer innings and we just had to answer so that was our focus," Lehotak said.

Penn State wasn't able to answer until the bottom of the sixth, when Lehotak made a decision that would play out pretty 'good'.

With the bases loaded and one out, Lehotak put senior Shannon Good in to pinch hit for Erin Pond, hoping she could score one of the runs on base. Good did more than that, and smacked a line drive up the middle, scoring two before advancing to second on the throw.

"Shannon's our best pinch hitter, I think she's the best pinch hitter I've ever had in my entire career and she's usually money in that situation," Lehotak said. "It was a good matchup for her and she's done that for the past few years for us so that's exactly why I put her in there and she did great."

The weekend marked the first time that a sellout crowd watched a game at Beard Field, as over 1,100 fans took in the game on Saturday. The fans were back in full force again on Sunday, making it the first back-to-back sellouts in Beard Field history. 

"Oh my god, it's amazing. If I could write a personal letter of the thanks to the fans I would," Lehotak said. "It means a lot, our kids work really hard, most of their games are away from here so for the fans that come out and support them and celebrate what they do, it was pretty special. I know the kids are very honored by it and hopefully the fans are proud of how we played."

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The shadows were just starting to cover a portion of the infield, as it appeared, at least briefly, that game one of the doubleheader vs. Bucknell Wednesday, would belong to the Bison.  Penn State's Shelby Miller had other ideas. 

 

The junior from Sugar Land, Texas launched a game-tying bomb over the right field wall halfway to Pegula Ice Arena in the bottom half of the sixth inning.  Miller shuffled towards the pitcher, Ichiro style, and unleashed a forceful swing, hitting her eighth home run of the 2016 campaign.

 

Miller wasn't the only Nittany Lion batting at the top of the order that produced.  Second baseman Mollie Sorenson, batting second in game one of the doubleheader, singled home the winning run in the bottom of the seventh, taking an incredibly important game from Bucknell in the process.  Penn State would not waste a dominating performance in the circle by Marleina Laubach, who tossed a complete game while giving up just one run.

Head coach Amanda Lehotak believes one of the keys to her team's success Wednesday was the timely hitting of the top of the order.

"One, two, three, they're usually the most consistent hitters.  So for them to keep coming through like they have been all year is a big part of our offensive plan," said Lehotak.

Lehotak was also thrilled with Miller's display of power.

"We don't talk a lot about power, but to have that power, we can tie it up like Shelby Miller did," she added.

Game one went well for the top of the order, but could they do it again in the second?  Yes, and it wouldn't take long.  In the first inning, leadoff hitter Macy Jones lined a single to open the game.  Sorenson would sacrifice her over after laying one down and Shelby Miller, who else, drove her in with a one-out double. 

Jones would later homer in the third, and Miller would score in the same frame, pushing the Blue & White's lead to 4-0.  Miller was happy to be able to start things off right for her team.

"It's very important in every game, to have [the top of the order] set the tone.  We're the first ones to go up there every first inning of the game and we really like to set the tone," said Miller.

When asked about the pressure of batting late in games, Miller showed off why she is someone the Lions can rely on in clutch moments down the stretch.

"We're in those situations all the time, the game is all about pressure," she said.  "It's different for me when I lead off, I don't put as much pressure on myself."

The key for Penn State down the stretch is to continue to get production from the top of the order, as the pitching and defense have held up well of late.  With two important victories against Bucknell, the Nittany Lions are one step closer to playing in the NCAA tournament.  The road continues over the weekend.  Penn State will face Maryland at home for a three-game series beginning Friday night. 

 

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There are seven seniors on the Penn State softball team, and in their time in the blue and white they have never made it to the postseason.

They, along with the rest of the team, are stating their case early as to why this may be their year.

The Nittany Lions swept their second straight Big Ten series when they beat Michigan State 8-6 on Saturday evening. It was Penn State's first back-to-back conference series sweep since 2011, when they beat Ohio State and Northwestern in two two-game series. 

Leading the charge has been senior Macy Jones, who has been consistently making big plays on both sides of the ball. Against Michigan State, she went 7-for-10 with six RBIs, including two 2-run home runs in Saturday's contest. 

"You never count on the long ball, that expectation can always be dangerous, but it came at the right times," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "And Macy Jones just continues to be steady Eddie, she's been great all year."

Both of Jones' home runs put the Nittany Lions back in the game after they had been trailing, with the second one giving Penn State a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

On defense, Jones made a diving catch in left field in the third inning to prevent the Spartans from scoring. The ball was falling right in front of Jones, who waited it out and dropped to her stomach to make the catch at the last second.

The Lions are on a seven game win streak, their longest such streak since they won 16 in a row back in 2006. With six of those wins coming in conference play, Lehotak says the seniors have been key to that streak.

"They [the seniors] don't feel respected in the Big Ten, so I think them just saying 'okay, we're here to do it, we're going to do it and this is how we do it', to me the seniors have really been guiding the ship in these last six games," Lehotak said.

Penn State exploded for 38 hits against Michigan State, with 28 of those hits coming in the first two games. Lehotak and her assistant coach Joe Guthrie were worried that after such a hot night on Friday their team would suffer from an "offensive hangover" and not be able to follow up in game three.

They were pleased to see that not be the case, with Penn State tacking on ten more hits, including three home runs. 

"They're level of focus has not wavered. They've been keeping it simple and they haven't got too big," Lehotak said. "Coming into today, Coach [Guthrie] and I were really worried. But really, they're just keeping it simple, they're celebrating what we've done but they're letting it go quickly. What they have done offensively is not easy to do so the fact that they can just keep the game simple, hopefully they can keep that rolling." 

The team is looking to extend their win streak as they head to Columbus for a doubleheader on Wednesday against Ohio State.

Lehotak knows that her team believes in themselves and that that is what will carry them to more success in the future.

"They've really come together, and I think they really just made that cognitive choice that they were going to do it this year," Lehotak said. "They believe in one another and you can see in the dugout that they're really just playing for one another. They just believe that they can compete in the Big Ten and they don't want to be stopped."

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - One weekend of Big Ten conference play is in the books for the Nittany Lions, and there are no blemishes on their conference record.  Penn State swept Rutgers over the weekend with an offensive explosion, scoring 28 runs in three days.

 

The Blue and White also made a little history, sweeping a series for the first time when opening on the road in Big Ten play.  The offensive burst may have been a result of State's ability to put up runs in the first inning, getting off on the right foot each day in Piscataway. 

 

"It's always good to score first to put the other team on its toes," said sophomore Mollie Sorenson, who drove in three RBI on Sunday. 

Penn State is 11-2 this season when leading after two innings.  Junior infielder, Shelby Miller, also believes in the importance of striking first.

"It just shows that we're there to play and it makes a statement."

Yet, it wasn't just the offense that clicked over the weekend.  The ladies in the circle also put up a tremendous collective effort and served as the backbone for the sweep.  The pitching staff worked through a few jams but surrendered little damage, getting the job done in pressure situations.  

"Our faith in the pitching staff keeps going up and up," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. 

"We've gone to much more, if you've noticed in the past five games, different looks [in the circle] unless somebody's rocking it, so the fact that they kind of buy into that, they're picking each other up and that's what we've been looking for all year," she added. 

Miller, a team leader herself, agrees with coach's assessment of the hurlers. 

"I have a lot of confidence in our pitchers; they're always working through adversity, and that's what we do to them in practice as well during the drills," she said.  "I know if there's a bases loaded scenario that no one's going to score." 

As has been the case all season, Lehotak will send many pitchers in during a single game to switch up the looks for the other team.  Depending on the situation, Penn State has so many talented arms that there could be a new pitcher every inning.

"Friday you can see five out of the six, you can see all six, or you can see one.  Kind of the same thing all weekend; it will be what I see and we will react to it," said Lehotak. 

Sitting at 14-14 overall, the Nittany Lions may be getting over the hump and are becoming more acclimated to each other as a team.  If this past weekend was any indication, things are looking up for the softball team this season. 

"It was the first time they were like, 'Oh, this is what we're supposed to do.'  I think the juniors and seniors really stepped up this weekend against Rutgers.  They took it to a different level of leadership.  I think if they keep that standard, everyone else will follow and that's how we'll maintain [success]," said Lehotak. 

It is certainly the right time of year for both the offense and pitching to be clicking, as it is mostly conference games from here on out.  This weekend, Michigan State comes to town, with the first game set for Friday at 6:00 p.m.  

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State offense was in need of a spark to get things rolling in the second game of a doubleheader against Robert Morris Wednesday evening.

The Nittany Lions had already dropped the first game against the Colonials 3-1, a game that saw them only amass three hits.

Enter Alyssa VanDerveer, who in the third inning hit a two-run homerun to provide that spark and jumpstart a six-run inning for the Lions. Penn State (11-14) went on to win the game 8-5.

The homerun was VanDerveer's team leading fifth of the season, and eighteenth of her career. It was overdue for the sophomore catcher, who before that had gone 0-for-3 over the span of the two games, including one strikeout and an RBI fly out.

"Sometimes in hitting you can be off a little bit, and in game one you could just tell she looked off," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "So for her to come back and calm down and get that hit I was happy with her.  She just kept battling and she competed the entire day; I was really proud of her [today]."

The inning started with what Lehotak calls a "cheat base hit": junior Shelby Miller hit a pop up right behind the pitcher, and a miscommunication between the second basemen and shortstop let the ball drop.

"Really I think that was just the momentum switch for us just to pour it on," Lehotak said. "They kind of got back on their heels at that moment and sometimes in the game we just need something to go your way, and that went our way."

With Miller on base, VanDerveer headed to the plate. She only needed to see three pitches before she found the one she liked and sent it to centerfield, where the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced over.

From there, Penn State had RBIs from Rebecca Ziegler, Macy Jones and Mollie Sorenson to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead going into the fourth inning. The Nittany Lions finished the game with ten hits from seven different players.

Jones has been one of the most productive players for the Nittany Lions this season; her 31 hits on the year rank number two on the team, just behind Miller's 33.

"She has been one of our most consistent players all year," Lehotak said. "To me, it's the mentality that she brings to the plate. I think it's that senior mentality of 'I've been there, done that'. Even if she has a bad at-bat she comes back stronger." 

The offense struggled throughout the first game of the evening, but it wasn't for lack of effort. Nearly every player connected with a pitch, but their hits were going straight to the fielders who were able to turn the easy out.

"In the first game, we only had three strikeouts. We had some really good hits, just right at people and sometimes the game just goes that way," Lehotak said. "Eight inches to the left or right it could be a tie ball game, but I tip my hat to them, they definitely beat us game one."

The Nittany Lions start conference play this weekend when they travel to New Jersey to take on Rutgers in a three game series starting Friday. Lehotak is ready for the challenges that the Scarlet Knights and the rest of the Big Ten will bring for the team in the remainder of the season.

"I like where we're at heading into conference [play]. The Big Ten Conference is brutal and some crazy things can happen in conference," Lehotak said. "It's a three game series on the road, which is always tough. But I think we're getting better, and I keep telling the kids that at some point, the way they're playing the game is going to pay off for us, so hopefully it'll pay off heading into this weekend against Rutgers."

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By Mike Gilbert, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Macy Jones was just looking for a good pitch to hit.  It turns out that pitch was one she would deposit over the wall.  Penn State was down a run early on Sunday against Hofstra, but Jones crushed a two-run home in the third inning run to put State up 5-2, a lead they would never relinquish. 

The Nittany Lions won the game 10-2 in five innings, improving to 10-13 on the year.  Yet Jones, who homered in two of the three games in the home stand, was modest after the game when talking about going yard.

"I just did my best and it went over," she said. 

After losing both games of a doubleheader on Saturday, the offense was clicking Sunday afternoon.  Head coach Amanda Lehotak decided to try a new tactic with the pitchers which helped result in a victory.  Lehotak had a new pitcher in the circle each inning, and that helped keep the Pride on their toes.  Jones was a big fan of the strategy.

"I love it. I hope we do it a lot more, with such a big pitching staff, 6 pitchers is kind of unheard of in softball, that can all throw solid innings, so I think if we use all of us like we did today it's going to be really good."

"As a hitter you want to see a pitcher multiple times so you can get used to seeing what they're throwing, so it really throws the other team off," Jones added. 

A big key for Penn State Sunday was the ability to put the ball in play, especially late in counts.  In the 4th inning, an error and two hits loaded the bases.  Lexi Knief then singled with the bases loaded, knocking in two runs, and a fielding error on her hit brought home a third PSU score.  Putting the ball in play put pressure on the Hofstra defense. 

"Sometimes you just have to put the ball in play especially with two strikes.  You'll hear our kids say two for you, one for us, meaning just make them make a play, make them catch-throw-catch, and today it worked in our favor," said Lehotak. 

Jones believes in the importance of forcing the opponent to make plays with their gloves.

"It's really important, especially if its on the ground, because they bobbled the ball a lot when we put it on the ground and that allowed us to score a lot more runs.  That's a big part of what we try to work on."

Of course, playing at Beard Field helps out as well as the Blue and White try and find their footing early on in the season. 

"It's so much better just for travel.  That was probably one of the most energetic, best, athletic day that we had on a Sunday all year because Sundays are a grind.  It's hard to win on Sundays. That's why we call it championship Sundays because it's all mental, but for our kids to sleep in their own beds for a week and not have to worry about flying and packing again it was pretty amazing," said Lehotak. 

After playing three games in two days, Penn State will have the luxury of having Monday off, something that is mandatory in the NCAA.  Tuesday will be a preparation day for Robert Morris, who comes to State College for a doubleheader on Wednesday.  Thursday will be a hitting day in practice, and then the team will hit the road to play a weekend series against Rutgers.  Conference play will take over for the rest of the season, as it is "go-time" in the Big Ten for Lehotak's squad from here on out.  

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Spring has finally sprung in State College, and nothing makes that more obvious than the start of the home slate of Penn State softball's season.

Already almost halfway through their season, the Nittany Lions return home this weekend after four consecutive weeks on the road, which saw them travelling to Florida three times and Mississippi once. They face Hofstra in a three game series, which starts with a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.

Head coach Amanda Lehotak is just as excited as any player about being back at Beard Field and finally having some home field advantage.

"It's the most amazing feeling, you have no idea," Lehotak said. "Finally being on your own field where you train everyday, to play in front of your fans where Penn State means everything to us is a great feeling and we can't wait." 

Her players share a similar sentiment about finally being at home, especially when it comes to the toll that travel can take after extended periods of time.

"We're really excited just to not have to travel those long hours and then being really tired," said senior Macy Jones. "And to play on our home field and what we're comfortable with in our cages and all that, it's going to be really nice."

No travel means that the team will be able to focus more on their preparation leading up to the series. It also means that they will be in the comfort of their own equipment and facilities.

"We have a little more time [to prepare] because we're not spending so much time traveling," said junior pitcher Marlaina Laubach. "It gives us a little more time to be at home, stay comfortable, we can hit in our own cages just like we do on game day. We can practice everything pregame but do it here on our field, so it's exactly like it's going to be on game day."

Playing at home will mean playing in much colder temperatures than the team has seen this season. With expected highs of 43 and 37 degrees on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, there's no counting out the affect that the weather will have on the game.

"It's kind of one of those things where you're either freezing or you're hot and about ready to pass out from the heat, so that's kind of the fun about being an outdoor sport," Lehotak said. "It's just the good thing is, whatever you're playing in so is your opponent. It does change things, sometimes it's hard to grip a bat or the ball type of thing, but we still have to play the game."

For Jones, gearing up for her last season at Beard Field is more exciting than it is sad. One reason is the amount of home games on the schedule this year.

"I'm not really sure if we have more home games than we've had in the past, but I just feel as though we do have a lot more home games," Jones said. "There are a lot of exciting things that we're doing this year so for it to be my last season it's a good thing and it's exciting." 

As the home opener gets closer, Lehotak is ready to see the fans at Nittany Lion Softball Park cheering on the team.

"I just think the atmosphere, the energy, playing in front of your fans and your friends, it's very different," Lehotak said. "We had a lot of come from behind wins last year and I put that a lot of because of our fans."

 

 

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - The Nittany Lions hit the road for one final tournament this weekend, as they head down to Oxford, Miss. to play in the Red and Blue Classic.

The trip will be the fourth weekend in a row that Penn State travels well outside of State College. All that travel can take a toll on a player's body, but the team is doing all that they can to stay fresh between games.

"It's pretty exhausting at times, but [I've] done it for four years now so I'm kind of used to it in a way and I can expect it," said senior Reina Furuya. "It's a lot of time management in terms of academics, working out, getting your recovery in and all that." 

Fellow senior Christy Von Pusch agreed, joking that "it's so much fun to travel in and out of State College." The pitcher also noted that while it may not be as difficult for the seniors, the underclassmen were in for a surprise. 

"Honestly, it's my fourth year so I'm used to it but I think that it's definitely shocked some of the underclassmen," Von Pusch said. "It's always rough, no matter how much you do it. Coming back to school and only being here for four days and then having another 12-hour travel day is exhausting, but I think our team has done a really good job of pushing through it and trying to stick to our game plan and doing what we do best."

With six games coming up on this trip (the team will also travel to Starkville, Miss. to face Mississippi State after the tournament), head coach Amanda Lehotak is ready to give her team a well-deserved break once they return home.

"We're going to get back Wednesday and give them a couple of days off and fire up for our home series against Hofstra," Lehotak said. "I know I'm a minority, probably, amongst coaches, but I actually thoroughly believe in rest, and we're kind of beat up, so I'm looking forward to the kids staying home, watching TV, sleeping in their own beds and getting ready for the second half of their season."

With the road trip being a little longer than usual, the team will use the upcoming spring break to their advantage. Those extra days on the road will give their bodies a break from the normal wear and tear.

"We have a few extra days but it's spring break so it won't be too bad," Furuya said. "We'll do extra reps when we can, but it's also a recovery time for us, so overall it won't be that different for us than usual."

Throughout the first couple of weeks, Lehotak has been pleasantly surprised with how well her pitching staff has been performing. With a combined 2.77 ERA amongst the six pitchers, Lehotak has high hopes for the rest of the season.

"They have done a phenomenal job managing the games," Lehotak said. "It's been really fun to watch the growth of Von Pusch coming on her senior year. To see the maturity of Marley [Laubach], she's really starting to shut it down and she's finally embraced who she is as a pitcher. [Madison] Shaffer and [Madison] Seifert are doing a good enough job as freshman. So I think our pitching staff has been a much-wanted surprise and they've been great."

Von Pusch credits the internal rivalry amongst the pitchers, who are all fighting for that starting position, as a big reason they are doing so well in the circle.

"Everyone wants that starting spot, even though we are pitching as a staff and we have that mentality, so I think that us fighting, it's sort of a competition within us and that is making us all great," Von Pusch said. "We're still able to pitch as a team going into games so that's definitely been one of our strongest aspects this year."

As the Nittany Lions head down South one final time, Furuya said the team is looking to get to the point where they can click on all cylinders before conference play starts up at the end of March. 

"We're just still trying to find the groove. We haven't really been strong in all assets at the same time so we're still working to find that momentum and go into Big Ten with a good feel."

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a slow opening weekend at the "Kick-Off Classic," the Nittany Lions exploded for 33 runs a week later at the Dolphin Invite in Jacksonville, going 4-1 on the weekend.

The shift in momentum came from a more relaxed team that found a way to capitalize on runners in scoring position.

"[I saw] the ability to calm ourselves in pressure situations," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "Our opening weekend, we had runners in scoring position and opportunities, but we were trying to be too big and win the game on one hit, where this weekend it was back to what we do well."

Leading the flurry of runs was starting catcher Alyssa VanDerveer, who had a team-high 6 RBIs. Lehotak wasn't seeing anything new from her, but rather she saw VanDerveer playing as if "she was back to her old self."

"Opening weekend, she had opportunities, but she was so big if you watched her swing," Lehotak said. "This weekend, to me, she really cut down her swing and did what she does well, which is shorten up and put the ball in play. When she stays within herself, stays balanced, she has a weekend like she did this past weekend."

VanDerveer credits not only her patience, but also the rest of the lineup for her impressive weekend. Batting at the bottom of the lineup has its perks when the rest of the team is getting on base.

"It helps having hitters earlier in the lineup getting on base and being able to move them in," VanDerveer said.

Senior Lexi Knief is hoping that the calmness and the ability to score runs that the team displayed in Jacksonville will carry over into Orlando. 

"Mostly we were just staying really calm. The first weekend we went out there, I wouldn't say we had the jitters or anything, but we might have been pressing a little too much. But this weekend we just came back to practice, we stayed calm and we did what we normally do," Knief said.

Lehotak is looking for the momentum of four wins to carry over into the Citrus Classic in Orlando this weekend. With games against Yale, Fordham, Notre Dame and North Florida, Lehotak is up for the challenge of another tournament on the road. 

Despite the successful weekend bringing the team back to .500 on the year, Lehotak knows that her team is not playing their best softball. And even so, she's okay with that.

"We're still not playing great ball, which I don't want us to play great ball yet," Lehotak said. "Pitching wise, we're still giving up way too many walks. Offensively, even though we went 4-1 this weekend, there are some things we would like to do better. Early in the game, we kind of got away from our plan when it wasn't going our way. I would like us to stay within our plan."

The Citrus Classic will be the last tournament for the Lady Lions in Florida. But with weather still hovering around freezing in Happy Valley, the team won't be able to take the field at Nittany Lions Softball Park anytime soon. They'll have a trip down to Mississippi over spring break before they can play on their home field on March 19th.

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By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a weekend filled with triumph and disappointment, the Nittany Lions headed home to Happy Valley from Florida hungry for their next chance to prove themselves.

That chance comes this weekend, when Penn State travels back down to the Sunshine State to participate in the Jacksonville Tournament. The Nittany Lions enter the tournament 1-4 on the season, but head coach Amanda Lehotak isn't letting that damper her players' spirits.

Making their second big road trip in under a week, Lehotak has had her team's own performance be the main focus in practice, and hasn't spent too much time worrying about their upcoming opponents.

"Our focus is just on us," Lehotak said. "We do a little preparation for the teams we're playing this weekend without the team even knowing. But really this past weekend we played well but there was things that we failed in our game so we just really focused on Penn State this week." 

There was a lot to learn from the "Kick-Off" Classic in Boca Raton, but the main takeaway for junior Shelby Miller is that this team still has a lot to prove to itself and to the competition.

"We feel like we have something to prove that we did not prove [last weekend] and we're very excited to get back out there," Miller said. "[Last weekend] was a big learning experience, we obviously know we didn't do as well as we should have. We know that this weekend we really have to execute on different things and do our jobs more than we did last weekend." 

Penn State struggled offensively throughout the tournament, including a tough outing against Wright State when they averaged two runners on base every inning and couldn't get big hits to bring them in. Despite the struggles, the pitching staff kept the Nittany Lions close in all their games.

"We've said all along that to reach our goals this year we had to have good pitching," Lehotak said. "Typically in the past our offense has kept us in the games, so it was fantastic to see our pitching keep us in the games and it was just ironic that it was our offense that couldn't do it for us. We tell our pitchers all the time they don't need to win a game for us, they need to manage a game for us and they did exactly that this week."

Freshman pitcher Madison Seifert notched her first collegiate win when the Lions defeated Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) in their third game. While it was exciting for her to get the win under her belt, she was the third pitcher to come in for the Nittany Lions and credits the entire pitching staff for helping her get there.

Lehotak loves what she's seeing from her pitchers, and is hopeful that they will build upon their performances as the season continues.  

 "It helps [with their mentality] a lot," Lehotak said. "This is probably the most confident pitching staff I've seen since I've been here, which is huge." 

As the Nittany Lions get ready for their second trip down south, Lehotak has faith that her team will get back on track.

"We're right there, we're knocking on the door. We're confident and taking it one step at a time. As a coach, it's difficult to see them not get their goals in for this weekend, but we have 49 games left."

@GOPSUSPORTS

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