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Softball to Face In-State Rival Pittsburgh in Wednesday Double Header

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March 24, 2009

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The Panthers enter the series with a 13-9 record and are 2-0 in the Big East Conference after a sweep of Georgetown over the weekend. Reba Tutt leads all batters with a .278 average including two doubles, two triples and two home runs. Sam Card has also proven her ability to score runners as she has collected 12 RBI through six doubles and a triple. The Nittany Lion infied will have its hands full as Pittsburgh has completed 38 of 51 stolen base attempts.

Alyssa O'Connell has been the ace in the circle with a 7-1 record and a low ERA of 1.54. She has struck out 32 batters in 46.2 innings of work and holds opposing batters to a .187 average. The pitching staff as a whole have combines for a 1.53 ERA.

The Panthers have seen their share of competition in the Big Ten early this season as they took then-No. 6 Michigan to extra innings at the Florida Atantic Tournament, but fell short in a 3-1 decision. They also split with Minnesota at Texas A&M Corpus Christi where the Golden Gophers took the first game, 4-1, as Pitt evened the series the following day with a convincing 7-1 victory.

Wednesday will be the ninth and tenth meetings between the Nittany Lions and the Panthers. Penn State leads the series 8-1.

Penn State will enter Trees Field 9-13 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play after two losses to Illinois over the weekend. Freshmen Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) and Danee Collett (Orange, Calif.) lead the Lions in batting with averages of .307 and .304 respectively. Sam Hovanec (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Desi Giordano (West Caldwell, N.J.) have combine for 16 extra-base hits and each have 16 RBI on the year allong with slugging percentages well above the .500 mark.

Akamine has seen increased time in the circle recently, but her ERA of 5.62 is not reflective of her contribution to the team. Over the year she has struck out 54 batters in 66 innings of work, 14 of which went down looking. Her ability to move the ball has been crucial against Penn State's success against then-No. 9 Arizona.

Penn State has notable wins against then-No. 13 DePaul, 4-1, and then-No. 12 Arizona, 9-6. The win over the Blue Demons came at the NFCA Leadoff Classic as the Nittany Lions rallied in the sixth to plate four and never looked back. Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.) threw a one-hitter in the victory. More recently, the Lions upended the Wildcats at the Judi Garman Classic with an explosive first inning as they drove in four runs with the help of a three run blast by Hovanec. Arizona threatened as the Wildcats brough the score to 4-5 in the fifth, but Penn State mimicked the success of the first inning in the sixth with four more runs as Giordano added a three-run shot of her own.

Penn State and Pittsburgh split last year's double header at Nittany Lion field as the Panters took game one in a 2-0 decision before the Lions came out surging in game two for a 6-0 shutout.

In game one the Nittany Lions were only able to get three hits coming from Ashley Esparza, Danielle Kinley (Carlsbad, Calif.) and Shana Madura (Slate Hill, N.Y.). The defense proved to be a huge factor as they allowed three errors which caused one of the runs to be unearned.

In the second game the defense woes switched teams as Pittsburgh turned in a two error performance. The bats for PSU picked up five hits which turned into six runs. Esparza and Kinley once again got a hit along with Ashley Griffith (Mt. Laurel, N.J), Hollee Haines (Riverside, Calif.) and Kimi Wong (Goleta, Calif./Don Pueblos).

Despite outstanding performances from the Nittany Lion lineup, Penn State was swept by Illinois in the Big Ten opener.

Game one looked promising as Penn State led Illinois 3-1 for five innings, and defused a major threat in the fifth with a rare triple play. Unfortunately the Fighting Illini bats lit-up in the sixth as they scored six runs off five home runs .

Game two looked more like a football game based on the 18-15 decision. Penn State was down 3-0 after two innings, but rallied for six runs each in the third and fourth to take over the lead at 12-8. Unfortunately, the Illini were able to rally and for six more runs and held the Lions at 15.

The Penn State lineup hit six home runs throughout the series including a grand slam by sophomore shortstop Desi Giordano (West Caldwell, N.J.).

BOMBS OVER URBANAKayce Zielinski (Arlington, Texas) blasted a solo shot in game one for her 10th career home run and first of the 2009 season. The Lions bats only improved with the second game as five balls went over the fence for a combined 10 RBI. Danielle Kinley got things started in the third inning with a shot over right center scoring Mary Ostman (Northbrook, Ill.) in the process. Sam Hovanec followed with a three-run blast, her third in as many weeks as Desi Giodano (West Caldwell, N.J.) closed out the third with a long ball of her own. In her next at bat in the fourth, Giordano hit the sweet spot again sending the ball to the score board for a grand slam. Freshman catcher Danee Collett (Orange, Calif.) drove in the Lions final three runs in the sixth with her first career home run.

The Nittany Lion record book for single games has been virtually re-written after Penn State's performance at Illinois on Sunday. Desi Giordano is a big part of that as her two home runs ties the current record for home runs in a game, a record she now shares with current teammates, Sam Hovanec, Shana Madura and Kayce Zielinski. Giordano also tied her career record for RBIs in a game at five which she set April 4, 2008 against Bucknell.

Penn State has seen its share of double plays this season turning six which is tied for fifth in the Big Ten. But what happened in game one of the Illinois series was nothing short of remarkable as the Nittany Lions turned a triple play with the bases loaded an no outs.

Giordano got things started grabbing a low line drive. The Ilini started running thinking it wasn't a catch as Giordano pitched it to Shana Madura who placed her foot on third to take out the runner heading for home. A moment of confusion was apperent with a communication breakdown amongst the officiating staff as Madura sent the ball to Danee Collett behind the plate before taking it right back to tag the runner trying to advance from second. After a long conference between the umpires, the Nittany Lions were rewarded the triple play and returned to the dugout for their next at bat.

Freshman catcher Danee Collett (Orange, Calif.) has been making big things happen for the Nittany Lions in the past few weeks accounting for a .429 batting average at the Judi Garman Classic. She carried that into the Illinois series to improve her overall average to .304 as she collected her first home run in a three RBI blast to the score board in the top of the sixth in game two.

For the third week in a row, senior center fielder Sam Hovanec (Pittsburgh, Pa.) has hit a three-run home run. Her first shot came against Illinois State at the Stanford Louisville Slugger Classic on March 6. She helped the Lions work their way out of a five run deficit with a blast over left center scoring Danielle Kinley and Carnie Smith in the process. Her next long ball helped Penn State upset then-No. 12 Arizona at the Judi Garman Classic on March 14. The shot over left field in the first inning got the Nittany Lions off to a great start as Kinley and Ashley Griffith were plated with the hit. Hovanec kept her streak alive in game two of the Illinois series on March 22. In the third inning, she accounted for three of the Lions six runs as she cleared the wall for the third time in as many weeks to bring Griffith and Kayce Zielinski to score as well. She has already tied her home run mark from last year at four and is well on her way to matching and surpassing her 26 RBI from the 2008 campaign.

Sophomore shortstop Desi Giordano (West Caldwell, N.J.) has a fantastic freshman year with the Nittany Lions and is building on that success as a sophomore. She is currently batting .286 with a sizzling .661 slugging average. With six home runs on the seaon, she has already tied her mark from last year and recently tied the record for most home runs in a game with two against Illinois in game two. One of which was a grand slam. Her five RBI and three hits on Sunday tied her career best as she was also plated three times for a new career high in runs scored. Her 12 career home runs ties her for 10th all time in the Penn State record book.




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