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March 28, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State opens its third season at Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park with a three-game series against No. 13/14 Michigan in the Blue and White's Big Ten opener. The teams kick off play at 4 p.m. Friday before meeting against at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
SCHEDULE vs. MICHIGAN
Friday, 4 p.m. - GameTracker - BTN.com - GoPSUsports.com All-Access
Saturday, 2 p.m. - GameTracker - BTN.com - GoPSUsports.com All-Access
Sunday, 1 p.m. - GameTracker - GoPSUsports.com All-Access
ON THE HORIZON
Following the clash with the Wolverines (25-7, 3-0 Big Ten), Penn State (7-16, 0-0 Big Ten) sets out for a 10-game road swing. They open with a doubleheader at Michigan State April 2 before traveling to Bloomington, Ind., for a weekend set with the Hoosiers April 5-7. After an April 10 twinbill with Pittsburgh, the Nittany Lions wrap up with a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for a showdown with Ohio State April 12-14.
Penn State returns home April 17 for a doubleheader against Purdue to open a seven-contest homestand, the club's longest of the season. That stretch also features visits from Northwestern and Kent State.
STATE OF THE BIG TEN
Four teams finished opening weekend unblemished as Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan and Minnesota swept series against Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Iowa, respectively. Ohio State took its series with Indiana after grabbing a pair of wins while Michigan State and Penn State have yet to play a conference opponent after their three-game set was postponed to April 2. For her efforts against Purdue, the Wolverines' Sierra Romero captured Player and Freshman of the Week honors while the Badgers' Cassandra Darrah earned Pitcher of the Week with a pair of complete-game victories over Illinois.
Conference play continues this weekend as Iowa hosts Wisconsin, Minnesota welcomes Northwestern, Ohio State travels to Purdue and Nebraska visits Illinois.
SCOUTING THE WOLVERINES
Michigan enters the weekend on a seven-game winning streak, led by freshman Sierra Romero at the plate and Haylie Wagner and Sara Driesenga on the mound. Romero paces the squad with a .398 batting average on 41 hits, including 20 multi-base swings (seven doubles, two triples and 11 home runs), and a team-best 33 runs batted in. Four of her Wolverine teammates have reached the 30-hit plateau this season as Nicole Sappingfield (33), Caitlin Blanchard (32), Ashley Lane (32) and Amy Knapp (30) have helped their team outscore opponents, 205-91, while batting .318 as a team this season. The team is active on the bases, as well, stealing 39 bases on 44 attempts.
Wagner (6-1) and Driesenga (18-5) have been equally effective defensively, combining for 24 of the team's 25 victories. Driesenga has been a mainstay on the rubber, with a 1.51 ERA through 139.0 innings. Wagner owns a 1.42 ERA through 44.1 IP. Offensively, Driesenga trails just Romero with 26 RBI.
Under the direction of head coach Carol Hutchins, now in her 29th season at the helm of the program, Michigan advanced to the Tuscaloosa Super Regional before falling in two games to eventual national champion Alabama.
OUR STORY SO FAR
Penn State played its first 23 games away from home, including 1,000-plus mile trips to New Mexico, Florida and California and a trip down the East Coast to North Carolina. In all, the Lions traveled more than 12,000 miles over the first five weekends of play.
At the Troy Cox Classic in Las Cruces, N.M., the Nittany Lions rebounded to take the final two contests against New Mexico State and Missouri-Kansas City after dropping decisions to Colorado State, NMSU and Texas Tech. Cassidy Bell and Macy Jones combined to tally 18 of the team's 26 RBI at the tournament as Bell led the team with a trio of home runs and Jones tossed 14.2 innings to collect both wins on the mound.
After rainy weather washed out Penn State's games with George Washington and North Dakota State on the first day of the Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., Alyssa Renwick bombed a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth to score Lauren Yao to down Iowa State, 9-8, in eight innings before falling to North Carolina, 10-2. Bell again led the team with six RBI while going 4-7 at the plate with a pair of home runs. Renwick and freshmen Lexi Knief and Karlie Habitz each finished .429 at the plate with three hits.
The Blue and White battled cold conditions and strong gusts at the Citrus Classic in Orlando, Fla., the following weekend as they finished the tournament 0-4, including one-run losses to then-No. 11 LSU and Longwood. The team downed Loyola (Chicago) after giving up a contest to Central Michigan before finishing 2-3 at the Under Armour Showcase with wins over Toledo and Maine. Yao led the squad with five RBI, all against Western Michigan with a pair of doubles. Bell, Jones and Kailyn Johnson added three RBI apiece.
Penn State faced its toughest competition of the season at the Judi Garman Classic in Fullerton, Calif., March 15-17, taking on four teams ranked 16th or higher nationally at the time, including top-ranked Oklahoma. The Nittany Lions benefited from a three-RBI effort from rookie Taylor Abeyta to escape with a 7-6 win over DePaul as Jones tossed her fourth complete game of the season in the victory.
BATTLING THE ELEMENTS
Five games have been cancelled or postponed this season due to weather. Alongside the two contests cancelled at the Carolina Classic because of rain, Penn State's Big Ten-opening series against Michigan State was pushed back to April 2 after cold and snowy conditions created an unplayable environment in East Lansing, Mich., March 22-24.
QUITE THE SLATE!
Ten of Penn State's 2013 opponents are listed in the March 26 ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, including top-ranked Oklahoma. Other opponents include Texas (No. 8), Texas A&M (No.9), LSU (No. 12), Michigan (No. 13), Washington (No. 15), Nebraska (No. 19) and Arizona (No. 21) while Iowa and North Carolina are receiving votes. Nine of the teams are also included in the current USA Today/NFCA rankings.
Multiple Nittany Lions will have opportunities to leave their names in the program career record book when the season is finished. Bell is currently tied for third in batting average (.349), sixth in doubles (34), second in home runs (30), fourth in total bases (316) and runs (113), eighth in walks (67), ninth in RBI (99), 11th in stolen bases (32) and 12th in hits (180). Kailyn Johnson ranks sixth all-time in walks (78) and is within striking distance of hits, home runs, total bases and RBI.
With 13 home runs this year, already a career-high, Bell has also put herself in second place in the all-time single-season record book behind Jennifer Tripken's mark of 16 HRs in 2002.
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 Hutchinson and Renwick lead practice and travel duties, respectively. Yao and Myers serve as dugout leaders and Johnson is the team's off-field captain.
WHAT AN HONOR
Bell 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 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.
Senior Cassidy 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 junior Kasie Hatfield were named to the preseason All-Big Ten first-team list by College Sports Madness.
FUTURE OF THE NITTANY LIONS
Four student-athletes will join the Penn State softball program as freshmen in the 2013-14 academic year, head coach Robin Petrini announced Dec. 17. The recruiting class hails from around the country with Kristina Brackpool (Santa Clarita, Calif.) and Samantha Shanahan (Seattle, Wash.) hailing from the West, Shelby Miller (Fort Bend, Texas) traveling from the South and Mary Ward (Greencastle, Pa.) the lone Pennsylvania native.