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Softball to Host Wisconsin in Big Ten Contest

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April 10, 2009

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At this Saturday's game with Wisconsin, Penn State will be supporting Pink Zone efforts to raise money for breast cancer research. The first 200 fans will get a free T-shirt and donations will be accepted throughout the game to help a great cause.

The Badgers enter the series 12-26 overall and 1-5 in the Big Ten Conference after dropping a series to Northern Iowa, 8-0 and 9-0, Wednesday night. Jennifer Krueger boasts the biggest bat for Wisconsin at a .340 average. Letty Olivarez has been successful at driving in runs with three doubles and four home runs for 17 RBI.

Also the ace in the circle, Olivarez has an ERA of 2.89 while striking out 113 batters in 152.1 innings of work. She has pitched 16 complete games with three shutouts, one of which was a combined effort with Leah Vanevenhoven and has collected two saves.

This weekend will be the 30th and 31st meeting between the Badgers and the Nittany Lions. In a series that began in 1996, Penn State holds the advantage 18-11.

The Nittany Lions enter the weekend 11-18 overall and 2-6 in Big Ten play after sweeping Iowa to snap and eight game losing streak. Senior center fielder Sam Hovanec (Pittsburgh, Pa.) leads Penn State in batting at .329 while freshman utility Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) isn't far behind at .319. Sophomore shortstop Desi Giordano (West Caldwell, N.J.) has proven to be a threat as well with 11 extra-base hits, seven of which are home runs for a slugging percentage of .564.

Junior pitcher Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.) recently returned to dominance in the circle with an ERA of 0.98 and a 7-5 record. She has struck out 73 batters in 78.1 innings of work averaging 6.54 per seven innings.

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. Hill threw a one-hitter in the victory. More recently, the Lions upended the Wildcats of Arizona 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 hit the road to face an Iowa team that has been flirting with the NFCA Top 25 since preseason polling began. Hurler Brittany Weil had just pitched a perfect game against the equally tough Illini so the Lions knew they had their work cut out for them. But Penn State triumphed sweeping the series 1-0 and 2-1 to claim its first Big Ten victories of the year and snap an eight-game losing streak.

The first score and only score of game one came at the hand of the Nittany Lions in the top of the sixth. With one out, senior center fielder Sam Hovanec (Pittsburgh, Pa.) singled through the right side. As the next batter was retired with a strike out, Hovanec made a crucial steal to move into scoring position as freshman designated player Lisa Akamine (Escondido, Calif.) stepped up to the plate. Akamine then drove a single through the right side to score Hovanec.

The Hawkeyes were looking to respond with the meat of their lineup in the bottom of the frame as Lindsey Digman singled with one out. Colleen McGlaughlin went down swinging as junior pitcher Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.) fanned her fifth batter in her first game back in the circle. Digman then stole second, and as the ball escaped senior second baseman Kayce Zielinski (Arlington, Texas), Digman proceeded to third. But Zielinski and Madura teamed up to make the tag and retire the inning.

Penn State got started early in the nightcap as the bases were loaded with two outs in the top of the first. Junior left fielder Ashley Griffith (Mt. Laurel, N.J.) got things started when she reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to second as Hovanec singled through the right side. Sophomore shortstop Desi Giordano (West Caldwell, N.J.) then walked to load the bases. Freshman catcher Danee Collett (Orange, Calif.) the stepped up to the plate with two outs and singled to score Griffith, but as Hovanec followed she was tagged out to end the inning.

Iowa threatened in the bottom of the frame with two on and one out as Liz Watkins got a rip up the middle. Fortunately, Hovanec scooped up the grounder and connected with Collett to tag out Taylor Leichsenring at the plate.

The Lions extended their lead in the sixth as Akamine singled and advanced to second on a passed ball. Collett then connected for her second single of the game as Akamine was plated when the ball went through the right side. But Iowa wasn't going down without a fight as the Hawkeyes closed the gap with a run in the bottom half of the frame. Katie Brown doubled with two outs as Callie Adreon came in to pinch run. A single by Chelsey Carmody to right field allowed Adreon access to home as she barely beat the throw. The final out was secured with a ground out to second and Penn State held on to take the 2-1 decision.

Penn State fell in game one of its battle with Wisconsin 8-3 before handing the Badgers a 2-0 shutout loss. Desi Giordano (West Caldwell, N.J.) delivered a two-out two RBI triple in the top of the sixth to lift the Nittany Lions to a 2-0 victory. On the defensive side, Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.) pitched a complete game shutout striking out four while allowing just two hits.

In the first game the Nittany Lions got on the board early off a Danielle Kinley (Carlsbad, Calif.) RBI single in the top of the first to give them the early 1-0 lead. The very next inning, Ashley Esparza (San Pedro, Calif.) and Ashley Griffith (Mt. Laurel, N.J.) hit back-to-back RBI singles giving PSU a 3-0 lead. The Badgers would respond in a big way in the third scoring six earned runs off of six hits giving them a lead they would never relent. Esparza got the start in the circle going 2.2 innings while striking out three. She was relieved by senior Jenn Reynolds (Clovis, Calif./Clovis) who went 3.1 innings while striking out four.

Both Griffith and Kinley went 2-for-3 while Esparza, Hill and Shana Madura (Slate Hill, N.Y.) added one hit a piece.

In game two Giordano, Hill, Kayce Zielinski (Arlington, Texas) and Kimi Wong (Goleta, Calif.) all had hits.

Penn State is 13-3 when playing Wisconsin at Nittany Lion Field. The 2007 series produced two wins for Penn State in decisions of 3-1 and 8-3.

Junior pitcher Jackie Hill (San Jose, Calif.) stepped into the circle for the first time in three weeks after suffering an injury. Hill had a triumphant return helping Penn State snap an eight game losing streak, throwing two complete games. She guided the Lions to a pair of wins over Iowa where she struck out 12 Hawkeyes, never giving up a walk. Her ERA for the weekend was a slim 0.50 after allowing only one run in 14 innings. Her efforts earned her Penn State Student-Athlete of the Week honors.




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