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Feb. 21, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State softball continues the 2013 season with a trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., this weekend for North Carolina's Carolina Classic. The two-day tournament includes squads from George Washington (1-5, 0-0 A10), North Dakota State (4-6, 0-0 Summit), Iowa State (6-3, 0-0 Big 12) and the hosting Tar Heels (7-5, 0-0 ACC). The Nittany Lions' (2-3, 0-0 Big Ten) first game against the Colonials is scheduled for noon Saturday.
The full schedule and tournament information is available at North Carolina's Tournament Central page here.
ON THE HORIZON
Penn State kicks off the March slate at the Citrus Classic in Orlando, Fla., March 2-3 before moving across the state to the Under Armour Showcase in Tampa, Fla., from March 8-10. The team will play 11 games over that nine-day span in the Sunshine State, including mid-week matchups against Central Michigan and Loyola (Chicago) between the tournaments.
A LOOK AT THE COLONIALS
George Washington enters the weekend at 1-5 after dropping five-consecutive contests following a season-opening victory over Seton Hall, 8-0, under third-year head coach Stacey Schramm. Freshman Carlee Gray paces the team with a .357 batting average (5-14) and three RBI through the first six games. Sophomore Victoria Valos has brought runs around, as well, collecting a team-high four RBI.
In the circle, first-year pitcher Meghan Rico owns a 3.23 ERA through 17.1 innings and a 1-3 record while holding opposing teams to an astounding .167 batting average. Junior Courtney Martin has thrown significant amounts as well, going 13.0 with a matching 3.23 ERA with an 11-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
The Colonials finished 25-30 a season ago, including an 11-9 stint in Atlantic 10 play.
PREVIEWING THE BISON
North Dakota State (4-6, 0-0 Summit) won three of five at the LSU Purple and Gold Challenge Feb. 15-17 after a 1-4 start to the season at the Ramada Inn INU-Dome Classic. The four Bison wins have come by a combined 22-3 score against Green Bay, Memphis (twice) and Virginia while the team has dropped its two contests to ranked opponents, No. 1 Alabama and No. 10/11 LSU, by a 19-0 cumulative score.
Sophomore outfielder Presley Glaser leads the team with a .313 average at the plate, while adding a trio of stolen bases. Rookies Cheyenne Garcia and Maritza Lopez-Portillo have both contributed a team-high five RBI this season. Senior Whitney Johnson heads up the pitching staff, opening 2013 with a 3-2 record in five starts. The Lake Crystal, Minn., native has tossed to a tune of a 1.15 ERA through 36.2 innings, allowing just a .181 opponent batting average. Second-year pitcher Krista Menke accounts for the team's remaining five starts and owns a 1-4 record with a 5.73 ERA.
The Bison reached the NCAA Regional in Tuscon, Ariz., in 2012 after taking the Summit League crown with an 18-6 record and a 38-22 overall ledger. The squad has qualified for NCAA action each of the last four campaigns under 12th-year skipper Darren Mueller. North Dakota State is the second Summit opponent Penn State will face this season after meeting Missouri-Kansas City at the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M., Feb. 17.
CYCLONES AT A GLIMPSE
Iowa State (6-3, 0-0 Big 12) enters the Carolina Classic after taking two of four at the UTSA Classic in San Antonio, Texas. The Cyclones, led by eighth-year head coach Stacy Gemeinhardt-Cesler, opened the season by hosting the Cyclone Invitational, where they jumped out to a 4-1 start.
The squad has not lacked offense over its first nine games, producing a .348 cumulative batting average. The trio of senior Erica Miller (11), sophomore Jorden Spendlove (11) and junior Sara Davison (10) has combined to tally 32 of the team's 58 RBI and 14 of 22 of ISU's multi-base hits. In the circle, fourth-year pitcher Tori Torrescano has built a 4-1 record with a 2.67 ERA after spinning four complete games in five starts. Junior Taylor Smith has been a solid second option from the rubber, allowing just five earned runs over 14.1 innings (2.44 ERA).
The Cyclones finished 14-39 in 2012 after a tough 2-22 finish in the Big 12.
SCOUTING THE TAR HEELS
North Carolina (7-5, 0-0 ACC) welcome the four other teams to Anderson Softball Stadium this weekend after trips to Baton Rouge, La., for the Tiger Classic Challenge and the Aggie Classic in College Station, Texas. The Tar Heels captured wins over Big Ten representative Purdue, 2-1 (9), and No. 10/11 LSU, 3-1, at the Tiger Classic Challenge.
Senior Tisha Mahon has been on a tear at the plate, batting .500 with 10 singles in 20 at-bats this season. Classmate Haleigh Dickey paces the squad with seven RBI and 12 hits, including a pair of doubles and a triple. Fourth-year first baseman Constance Orr presents a long-ball threat with two home runs this year. Junior Lori Spingola (4-3) has been consistent for North Carolina, throwing 47.0 of the team's 77.0 innings with six complete games. Her 1.49 ERA leads the team, along with her 51 strikeouts, compared to just 11 walks.
North Carolina is led by 28th-year head coach Donna J. Papa, who was inducted into the National Fastpitch Hall of Fame Nov. 30, 2012 after passing the 1,000-win threshold during the 2011 season. The 2012 Tar Heels reached the NCAA Regional in Athens, Ga., after a 13-4 finish in the ACC and a 43-15 tally overall.
Penn State enters the weekend with a combined 13-12 record against its tournament opponents. The Nittany Lions have faced the Colonials and Bison just once, taking both contests in 2009 and 2006, respectively. The Blue and White hold a 2-4 ledger against Iowa State, but the squads have not met since 1997.
The Nittany Lions have met North Carolina on the diamond 17 times and have edged out a 9-8 record, although the Tar Heels have taken the last three meetings. Penn State's last win came in 2007 in an 11-7 triumph at the Carolina Classic.
The team is 10-10 in five appearances at the Carolina Classic since 2005, highlighted by a 3-1 effort in 2007 with wins over North Carolina State, East Carolina and North Carolina.
WHAT AN HONOR
Senior outfielder Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors after a standout weekend at the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M., the conference office announced Monday afternoon. The award is the second of her career and first for a Penn State player since Kasie Hatfield (Tampa, Fla.) picked it up April 16, 2012.
Bell continued her offensive excellence from the 2012 season during Penn State's opening weekend in Las Cruces, N.M., Feb. 15-17. The senior center fielder pushed her current hitting streak to 16 contests by recording at least one hit in all five games at the tournament, including three multi-hit efforts. Bell hit .600 (9-15) from the plate and slugged 1.333 with a trio of home runs to finish the weekend with nine RBI while adding four stolen bases and five runs of her own on the base paths.
Taking advantage of the thin air at nearly 4,000 feet above sea level in Las Cruces, N.M., Penn State sent six hits over the fences at the Troy Cox Classic. While Bell accounted for three of the home runs, freshmen Macy Jones (Ashburn, Va.) and Karlie Habitz (Newhall, Calif.) added two and one, respectively.
The Penn State batters produced seven multi-base hits other than homers, as well. Bell and Alyssa Sovereign (La Canada, Calif.) recorded two doubles apiece, while Jones and Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) put up one double each. Alyssa Renwick (Laurens, S.C.) beat out a throw from right field to post the team's only triple of the weekend.
BREAKING THE ICE
Seven of Penn State's eight freshmen logged their first time on the diamond over the team's opening weekend in New Mexico, including starts in the field for Taylor Abeyta (San Diego, Calif.), Reina Furuya (Waipahu, Hawaii), Habitz, Jones, Lexi Knief (Ramsey, N.J.) and Christy Von Pusch (Bryn Mawr, Pa.). Maegan Tupinio (Wahiawa, Hawaii) entered three games to pinch run.
Jones singled against Colorado State in the first game of the season, while Furuya and Habitz hit safely in the second game of the day against New Mexico State. Habitz and Jones launched the first home run of their careers against Texas Tech Feb. 16. Von Pusch earned her first start in the circle against Texas Tech while Jones began contests on the rubber against New Mexico State twice and UMKC.
QUITE THE SLATE!
Ten of Penn State's 2013 opponents are listed in the Feb. 19 USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll, including second-place Oklahoma. Other future opponents include Texas (No. 6), Texas A&M (No.10), LSU (No. 11), Arizona (No. 14), Michigan (No. 16), Washington (No. 2) while North Carolina, Ohio State and Hofstra are receiving votes. Nine of the teams are also included in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25.
Multiple Nittany Lions will have opportunities to leave their names in the program career record book when the season is finished. Bell is currently sixth in batting average (.338), seventh in doubles (30), fourth in home runs (20), 10th in total bases (258), 11th in walks (58) and 12th in runs (91), while approaching the charts in at-bats, hits, RBI and stolen bases. Johnson ranks sixth all-time in walks (76) and is within striking distance of at-bats, hits, home runs, total bases and RBI.
CAPTAIN BY COMMITTEE
With an abundance of leadership on the 2013 team, each senior on the Nittany Lion squad will captain a different aspect of the program this season. Bell is the gameday captain, while Shannon Hutchinson (Sewell, N.J.) and Renwick lead practice and travel duties, respectively. Lauren Yao (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Rachel Myers (Millheim, Pa.) serve as dugout leaders and Johnson is the team's off-field captain.
The squad features an eight-player freshman class, one of the biggest in Petrini's tenure at Penn State. The group is a truly coast-to-coast group and their added depth contributes across the field. The freshmen represent six states including California (Abeyta, Habitz), Hawaii (Furuya, Tupinio), New Jersey (Knief), New York (Shannon Good), Pennsylvania (Von Pusch) and Virginia (Jones). Von Pusch and Jones will help the Nittany Lions in the pitching department while the remaining six rookies have the ability to play at every position, including Habitz behind the plate.
Bell earned a spot on the 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch list, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced Feb. 1. Bell is the first Nittany Lion to make the preseason Top 50 list.
In addition, Bell and Hatfield were named to the preseason All-Big Ten first-team list by College Sports Madness.
The Nittany Lions play their first 28 games on the road before finally opening play at Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park for a series against Michigan from March 29-31. The squad then hosts Saint Francis (PA), Purdue, Northwestern, Kent State and Nebraska for a 14-game home slate.