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April 4, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State closes out its five-game road swing with a three-game series against Indiana beginning at 6 p.m. Friday at Andy Mohr Field in Bloomington, Ind. The Nittany Lions (7-21, 0-5 Big Ten) and Hoosiers (17-19, 1-5 Big Ten) meet again at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
ON THE HORIZON
Following the Indiana series, the Blue and White briefly return home for a showdown with in-state competitor Saint Francis (Pa.) at 6 p.m. April 9 before hitting the road for a doubleheader at Pittsburgh April 10 and a trio of games against Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio, April 12-15.
Penn State then 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 undefeated teams in Big Ten play this season, followed by one-loss squads from Wisconsin and Nebraska. Of the top four teams, Michigan is the only squad to stay at home this weekend while the other three seek out conference wins on the road.
The conference resumes play April 5 as the Spartans (5-0 Big Ten) travel to Purdue (2-4), Michigan (6-0) squares off with Ohio State (3-3) in Ann Arbor, Mich., Minnesota (4-2) hosts the Badgers (5-1), Nebraska (4-1) takes on Iowa (1-5) and Illinois (1-5) visits Evanston, Ill., to face Northwestern (2-3).
WHO ARE THE HOOSIERS?
Senior third baseman Amanda Wagner paces Indiana and the Big Ten with a .464 (39-84) mark at the plate while producing 16 multi-base hits, including 11 doubles and four home runs, with 19 RBI. Wagner's RBI total trails just sophomore utility Shannon Cawley's tally of 22 this season. As a team, the Hoosiers are batting .251. In all, Indiana is supported by five players with an on-base percentage of .300 or better through 30 or more at-bats.
On the mound, junior Meaghan Murphy (10-11) leads the team with a 2.76 ERA through 121.2 innings of work, including 10 complete games and a pair of shutouts. Second-year pitcher Lora Olson (6-6) has provided support, sporting a 2.94 ERA with 71.1 IP.
A year ago, Indiana tied Northwestern for fourth in the final Big Ten standings with a 14-10 record. The Hoosiers grabbed one win in a three-game series against Ohio State before falling in three contests to Michigan State to open the 2013 Big Ten schedule.
Indiana opened its current nine-game homestand with a 7-0 victory over Indiana State Wednesday afternoon. After hosting the Nittany Lions, the Hoosiers welcome conference foes Purdue and Michigan. The Crimson and Cream look to extend their home winning streak after opening the season with four-consecutive victories.
A HISTORY OF THE SERIES
Indiana leads the all-time series against the Nittany Lions, 30-24, since the inaugural meeting in 1977. Penn State took the 2012 series, 2-1, after responding from a 12-6 loss to claim the final two contests at Nittany Lion Softball Park, 5-2 and 9-4, respectively. The teams have not met in Bloomington since 2010 and have not played a three-game series there since 1999.
Since 1999, Penn State owns an 18-7 advantage over Indiana while being swept just once, in 2011, with its own series sweeps in 1999, 2000, 2005, 2007 and 2008.
THE BELL'S CHIME
Entering the week, senior outfielder Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) ranked in the top 10 nationally in home runs per game (1st/0.54), slugging percentage (2nd/1.063), runs batted in per game (6th/1.31), runs per game (10th/1.15) while ranking 18th in batting average (.456).
Noting her offensive capabilities, Bell has been intentionally walked six times this season.
Multiple Nittany Lions will have opportunities to leave their names in the program career record book when the season is finished. Bell is currently fifth in batting average (.347), sixth in doubles (34), second in home runs (31), third in total bases (322) and runs (116), seventh in RBI (102), eighth in walks (72), 11th in both stolen bases (33) and hits (183).
Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) 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.
QUITE THE SLATE!
Eight of Penn State's 2013 opponents are listed in the April 2 ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, including top-ranked Oklahoma. Other opponents include Texas (No. 8), Texas A&M (No.10), Michigan (No. 12), LSU (No. 13), Washington (No. T-15) and Nebraska (No. 19) while Iowa is receiving votes. Seven of the teams are also included in the current USA Today/NFCA rankings.
BATTLING THE ELEMENTS
Six 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.
Penn State's meeting with Saint Francis (Pa.), originally scheduled for April 2, was moved to April 9 because of the Michigan State doubleheader.
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 Nittany Lions could not derail the Spartans undefeated start to Big Ten season as they dropped a pair of contests in a Wednesday afternoon doubleheader in East Lansing, Mich., 4-1 and 7-1, respectively.
Shannon Hutchinson (Sewell, N.J.), Macy Jones (Ashburn, Va.) and Johnson each tallied a pair of hits on the day, led by Jones' two doubles. Hutchinson and Reina Furuya (Waipahu, Hawaii) accounted for both of Penn State's RBI.
In the start in game one, Jones tossed her sixth complete game of the year, allowing three earned runs on eight hits while striking out six Spartans. In the second game, starting pitcher Christy Von Pusch (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) went 3.2 innings for the Nittany Lions, including three scoreless frames to open the game, before finishing with five earned runs on six hits. Jordan Wheatley (Troy, Mich.) closed out the game, relieving Von Pusch in the fourth. Wheatley allowed just two hits over the final 2.1 innings.
The Wolverines claimed victory in all three contests over Penn State's Big Ten and home-opening weekend. Freshman Furuya led the Lions with clutch hitting, producing four RBI, a pair of runs and a home run while Bell followed with three RBI with a home run and a pair of singles. Johnson 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 Jones 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. 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 (Laurens, S.C.) bombed a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth to score 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 (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.