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April 1, 2013
ON THE HORIZON
Following the clash with the Spartans, Penn State travels to Bloomington, Ind., for a weekend set with the Indiana 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
Michigan and Michigan State remain the only squads undefeated in conference play this season. The Wolverines (6-0) picked up three wins against Penn State March 29-30 while the Spartans swept Indiana. Wisconsin (5-1) and Nebraska (4-1) remain near the top of the standings after taking series against Iowa and Illinois.
Conference play continues this weekend as Purdue (2-4) welcomes Michigan State (3-0), Illinois (1-5) travels to Northwestern (2-3), Ohio State (3-3) takes on Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., Minnesota (4-2) hosts Wisconsin and Nebraska plays three at Iowa (1-5).
SCOUTING THE SPARTANS
A season after finishing winless in the Big Ten, Michigan State opened 2013 by sweeping Indiana with a 17-8 cumulative score, including a 2-1 win in eight innings to cap the series. Sophomore Alyssa McBride provided an offensive spark, batting .636 (7-11) while senior Jayme O'Bryant tallied a pair of home runs to lead the squad with six RBI against the Hoosiers. Junior Kelly Smith allowed just one earned run to finish the weekend with a 0.41 ERA through 17.0 IP while striking out 20.
Senior Kylene Hopkins leads the Spartans in 2013 with a .426 average (40-94) at the plate. O'Bryant has produced 24 RBI on 11 multi-base hits with seven doubles, a triple and a trio of home runs. Smith (13-7) has handled the majority of the work from the mound this season with 129.2 IP and a 2.05 ERA in 20 starts with 14 complete games. Freshman Dani Goranson (2-5) follows with a 2.71 ERA through 59.1 innings of work.
Head coach Jacquie Joseph leads the Spartans in her 20th season. Joseph is the winningest coach in Michigan State history with 569 wins at the school.
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, before opening its home schedule with a series against Michigan March 29-30. In all, the Lions traveled more than 12,000 miles over the first five weekends of play.
The Wolverines claimed victory in all three contests over Penn State's Big Ten and home-opening weekend. Freshman Reina Furuya (Waipahu, Hawaii) led the Lions with clutch hitting, producing four RBI, a pair of runs and a home run while senior Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) followed with three RBI with a home run and a pair of singles. Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) added two RBI with a double over the series. Liz Presto (Bethlehem, Pa.) and Alyssa Sovereign (La Canada, Calif.) tallied one RBI apiece.
JUDI GARMAN CLASSIC
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 Taylor Abeyta (San Diego, Calif.) to escape with a 7-6 win over DePaul as Macy Jones (Ashburn, Va.) tossed her fourth complete game of the season in the victory.
UNDER ARMOUR SHOWCASE
The team downed Loyola (Chicago) after giving up a contest to Central Michigan in the middle of the week before finishing 2-3 at the Under Armour Showcase with wins over Toledo and Maine in Clearwater, Fla.
Lauren Yao (Los Angeles, Calif.) led the squad with five RBI, all against Western Michigan with a pair of doubles. Bell, Jones and Johnson added three RBI apiece.
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.
Bell added five RBI to her season total after finishing the weekend 7-12 (.583) at the plate with two doubles and two home runs. Freshman Taylor Abeyta posted three RBI over three games, while classmate Karlie Habitz (Newhall, Calif.) and junior Kasie Hatfield (Tampa, Fla.) recorded two each.
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. Senior Alyssa Renwick (Laurens, S.C.) and freshmen Lexi Knief (Ramsey, N.J.) and Habitz each finished .429 at the plate with three hits.
TROY COX CLASSIC
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. Bell and 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.
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 (31), third in total bases (322) and runs (116), seventh in RBI (102), eighth in walks (68), 11th in both stolen bases (32) and hits (183).
Kailyn Johnson is tied for fifth all-time in walks (80) and is within striking distance of hits, home runs, total bases and RBI.
With 14 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 while trailing career leader Shannon Salsburg (1995-98) by just three.
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 and Alyssa Renwick lead practice and travel duties, respectively. Lauren Yao and Rachel Myers serve as dugout leaders and Kailyn 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 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 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.