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VIDEO: Nittany Lion Softball Set to Host Big Ten Tournament

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time in program history, the Nittany Lion softball team will play host to the Big Ten Tournament.

Action on Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park begins on Thursday with four games. The Nittany Lions will play Friday (5:30 p.m.) after earning a bye as the tournament's No. 4 seed. Penn State has finished in the top four of the conference just three times prior to this season.

The Nittany Lions won five conference series en route to a 14-9 Big Ten record. Penn State tallied 13 wins at home this spring, including seven in conference games.

In all, 12 of the 14 teams will be in action at Nittany Lion Softball Park. The tournament will consist of 11 games, with each contest slated to air live on the Big Ten Network.

Penn State will meet either No. 5-seeded Nebraska or No. 12-seeded Purdue in its first game on Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Lions did not play either team during the regular season. Nebraska enters the tournament at 32-18 and ranked No. 32 in the RPI. The Boilermakers finished 27-27 in the regular season and are rated No. 83 in the RPI.

Big Ten Tournament Schedule
Thursday, May 12
12 p.m. - No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Rutgers
2:30 p.m. - No. 7 Illinois vs. No. 10 Michigan State
5:30 p.m. - No. 5 Nebraska vs. No. 11 Purdue
8 p.m. - No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Indiana

Friday, May 13
12 p.m. - No. 3 Northwestern vs. Ohio State/Rutgers Winner
2:30 p.m. - No. 2 Minnesota vs. Illinois/Michigan State Winner
5:30 p.m. - No. 4 Penn State vs. Nebraska/Purdue Winner
8 p.m. - No. 1 Michigan vs. Wisconsin/Indiana Winner

Saturday, May 14
1 p.m. - Semifinal No. 1 (Friday game one winner vs. Friday game two winner)
3:30 p.m. - Semifinal No. 2 (Friday game three winner vs. Friday game four winner)
6 p.m. - Championship Game caught up with head coach Amanda Lehotak and senior Macy Jones to preview the Big Ten Tournament. Take a look.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

By Mike Gilbert, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The job search is difficult for any student in college, especially one playing a Division I sport.  For the Penn State softball program that search has gotten a little easier, as Lee Beard and Elizabeth King have created a program to help current Nittany Lion softball players have future success in the real world. 


First, Lee Beard and her husband, William Beard, donated funding to create the brand new softball facility in October of 2009.  Now, Lee is positively affecting the futures of the players by donating her time. 

"The program that we've set up is really about providing networking, opportunities and some instruction, as well as mentoring for the softball team," said Beard. 

The idea was formulated by head coach Amanda Lehotak, who reached out to Beard and King last year in an effort to ensure future success for her student-athletes down the road.  Only less than a year from its conception, the program has already assisted many of the girls with gaining jobs and internships for this upcoming summer and beyond. 

Two seniors, Macy Jones and Christy Von Pusch, are going to be working at the same supply chain rotational program in North Carolina and will be roommates.  Senior Shannon Good will be attending Upstate Medical University in the fall.  Junior Sam Shanahan has accepted one of two offered internships in her home state of Washington at the University of Washington giving Sports Nutrition counseling to the student-athletes there.  Meanwhile, star pitcher and junior Marlaina Laubach has decided she will be working with children with autism, helping out in a special education program.

The program consists of frequent meetings about building LinkedIn profiles, resume workshops and etiquette dinners, among other things.  All of these skills are being taught by Lee and Elizabeth, who have extensive experience in the fields of banking and human resources.  

"Its been really helpful, the entire process, with both Elizabeth and Lee," said senior Reina Furuya, who is in the process of interviewing for her next step post-college.

"Elizabeth has been a successful VP with Starbucks for 18 years now.  Having that direct contact with her, learning her tips and [having them look] at our resumes and [having them] follow us through the entire process has been very helpful," she added.

King reflected on why she is lending a helping hand and why it is important for alumni to give back.

"When I was a student-athlete, there wasn't a program like this, and I think what has happened over the years is as the student part of the student-athlete has become more and more important.  Coaches like Coach Lehotak understand how critical it is to provide resources to the students to get them ready for after college."

The tradition that Beard and King have started with the softball program will likely spread to other Penn State sports, as the duo have also helped a Penn State swimmer better her skills during her interview process. 

Beard and King lending their time and effort to the softball team not only is helping the student-athletes themselves, but will also serve to help the community where these talented individuals will find themselves later on down the road. 


By ANNA PITINGOLO, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK. Pa - As shortstop, Reina Furuya is always busy on the diamond. She's constantly running between second and third base, trying to prevent as many hits as possible from crossing over into the outfield. 

She was especially busy in Penn State's (28-21, 13-7) three games against No. 2 Michigan, but none more so than in game one on Friday night, a close 4-2 loss to the visiting Wolverines. 

With a steady rain coming down onto Beard Field, the senior shortstop dropped a popup to shallow left field, when it fell into her glove and popped right back out.

But the Hawaii product didn't let it get to her head; the next time the ball was hit to her, she got the final out of the inning by running the ball herself to third base. 

"That's what Reina does," head coach Amanda Lehotak said. "She does a great job, she took them out of a couple innings and we had that momentum shift because of her defensive play. It was huge how she played tonight. She played like a senior tonight."

On the other end of the spectrum, Lehotak also saw some good play from the next generation of Nittany Lions: freshmen Tori Dubois and Meghan Williams.

Dubois played in all three games, as the designated player (DP) in the first two and as catcher and right fielder in the third; she also caught for a few innings in game two. Williams was put at first base in game three, replacing Kristina Brackpool. 

"It was important for them to get that game like experience and for them to get to see that kind of pitching," Lehotak said. "[They got] to kind of see what they have to work into and hopefully what they're going to be one day. We had a couple of injuries so we had to move some people around today but I was very impressed with their poise. So for our kids to have poise like that and to go after Michigan as freshmen is big."

Next up for Penn State is their final series of the season, when Illinois travels to Beard Field for a three game series next weekend. Game one is slated for Friday at 6 p.m.


By Mike Gilbert, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Marlaina Laubach and Madison Seifert tossed a pair of gems Wednesday night against St. Francis (Pa.).  But was there something tropical that helped them hurl such great games? 


Blow up palm trees can be seen all around Beard Field during each home game, and the superstition serves as a reminder to the players to hang tough during the game.

"The palm tree represents our culture here.  Palm trees are a type of tree that weather the storm, we call it.  So when its stormy out and if it bends over, it always comes back straight up," said Seifert. 

Clearly, the plastic, 10 feet long timber brings the mojo to Beard Field.  But there is no substitution for sheer dominance in the circle.  Laubach worked quickly in throwing a complete game shutout in game one winning 6-0, and was locked in all evening; according to head coach Amanda Lehotak.

"She attacked the zone.  Laubach missed two spots all night."

While Laubach works quickly when she's on the rubber, Seifert takes a little more time in between pitches.  Not necessarily a bad thing when she only made one mistake pitch all night long en route to another complete game win.  Seifert paces around the mound and concentrates in on the catcher's mitt before letting one fly. 

"I like to wipe the slate clean.  I like to think of each pitch as the next pitch and really dial in.  You can't really control the pitch before [or] the pitch next.  You just have to think each pitch," said Seifert.

The strategy worked.  The Blue & White took game two by a score of 4-2. 

Team camaraderie was in full effect Wednesday night as well.  The dugout was loud, supportive, and constantly chattering, while the fans were really into both games even as the temperature dropped steadily.  The pre-inning huddle at the pitcher's circle puts on display the team buying into each other, and Seifert explained exactly what is said during those mound visits composed of the entire infield.

"If we just scored, we want to shut them down.  If we're kind of dead, we're trying to get each other pumped back up and then if it's towards the end of the game, we call it a countdown.  It's like the countdown to the end, the end of the game is the most important part.  We've got to be the most focused then, so that's what we talk about."

Good situational hitting was the key to putting runs on the board for the Nittany Lions.  Sac-flies that turned into RBIs, and grounders to the opposite side of the infield moved runners over that eventually came in to score. 

"To me, the last 15 games, we've really tightened that up and we've done a good job.  The kids have been staying calm and have not tried to be the hero.  To me, they're really having selfless at-bats right now," praised Lehotak.

At this point in the season a year ago, Penn State was 24-24 (6-11), but now they smell the NCAA tournament with a 28-18 record, 13-4 in conference play. 

"We should not lose [at home]," Lehotak added.  "We should have that attitude."

The squad must carry that mindset into the weekend, where a potential season-deciding series with second-ranked Michigan will go a long way to determining the Lions' NCAA tournament hopes.  For now, dominant pitching and selfless at-bats should do the trick moving forward. 



By Mike Gilbert, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It isn't enough to have a 4.0 GPA since freshman year of high school.  It isn't enough to have earned Academic All-Big Ten honors twice.  It isn't enough to be a heck of a designated player, hitting a game-winning shot against Maryland last weekend.  Softball senior Shannon Good wants to make a difference. 


"I actually went on a mission trip to Guatemala last fall and really loved the reconstructive surgery they did there, so right now, that's what my interest is," she said.

Good will be attending SUNY Upstate Medical University in the fall as a graduate student after completing her pre-med program at Penn State.  She is interested in all aspects of surgery, but has a special interest for helping out and doing reconstructive surgery in less developed countries.  Her head coach, Amanda Lehotak, knows she is incredibly driven. 

"She's just very 'this is what I'm going to do, this is how I'm going to do it' and nothing really seems to phase her.  I know they all get stressed, but Shannon's one of those kids that, to me, it's hard to tell when she's stressed or overwhelmed," Lehotak said.  

Good was originally a chemical engineering major, like her sister Courtney, until she realized she wanted to be more hands-on with her patients.  She did know from a young age she wanted to be a medical professional.  Since then, she has received near-perfect grades, and was considering Cornell before she chose Penn State and its chemical engineering program. 

With the softball team heating up, she has proven she can be a key contributor to the team.  In game three of last weekend's series against Maryland, Good pinch-hit with the bases juiced in the bottom of the sixth.  She proceeded to rope a single up the middle, scoring two runs and securing the victory for her team. 

So yes, she is a good softball player.  But everyone around her realizes she is more than that.

"Shannon Good is just the highest integrity individual player that you could find.  For someone to do what she did undergrad to go to being accepted to med school, it's pretty amazing," said Lehotak. 

Intensity is a buzzword when talking about Good.  She is intense academically and on the field, and accomplishes goals. 

"I do like the word intensity for her.  Her time management is excellent, that's just who she is," added Lehotak.

Good is looking to help propel her team to an NCAA tournament berth in her final season at Penn State, and after winning seven of the last eight games, the team is looking to keep that momentum going.  As for Good, just like the team on the field, she is in great position to succeed in medicine going forward.  


By ANNA PITINGOLO, 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, 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. 



By ANNA PITINGOLO, 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."


By Mike Gilbert, 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.  


By ANNA PITINGOLO, 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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