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April 16, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State faces conference foe Purdue for a Wednesday doubleheader at Beard Field and Nittany Lion Softball Park. The teams kick off action live on Big Ten Network at 5 p.m. with a second game scheduled to begin shortly after the first comes to a close.
ON THE HORIZON
After hosting Purdue, the Nittany Lions welcome Northwestern for a three-game set beginning at 6 p.m. Friday before meeting again at 4 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday. The Blue and White wrap up their homestretch with a doubleheader against Kent State April 24.
PREVIEWING THE BOILERMAKERS
Purdue enters the contest having won six of their last eight, including a sweep of Indiana April 12-14 in Bloomington, Ind. Junior outfielder Andie Varsho paces the team with a .444 batting average, good for fourth in the Big Ten. Varsho also owns a team-best 31 RBI with 14 multi-base hits, including a trio of home runs while leading the league with 23 stolen bags.
Sophomore Ashley Burkhardt is the only other Boilermaker with an average over .300 as she's accumulated a .343 mark at the dish, including .304 in Big Ten play. The trio of junior Lindsey Rains (.371), junior Tori Chiodo (.333) and senior Maria Monchek (.333) has been effective offensively for Purdue in conference action, as well.
First-year hurler Lilly Fecho has been solid in the circle for Purdue, collecting a 3-4 record in Big Ten decisions with a 2.66 ERA through 47.1 IP. Fecho earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors April 15 after earned two wins in the sweep of the Hoosiers. Sophomore Lexy Moore (3-2) carries a 4.64 ERA with 34.2 innings of work in Big Ten play.
A HISTORY OF THE SERIES
Penn State holds a close edge in the all-time series, 22-20, although Purdue has taken the last three meetings after sweeping the 2012 series in West Lafayette, Ind. The Blue and White grabbed an 8-5 win before the squads battled to a scoreless tie in eight innings the last time they played in University Park.
THE BELL'S CHIME
Through April 14, senior outfielder Cassidy Bell ranked in the Top 20 nationally in home runs per game (3rd/0.47), slugging percentage (2nd/1.059), on-base percentage (8th/.574), runs per game (14th/1.11) and batting average (17th/.455). Bell is fifth in the nation in home runs (17), just four off leader Lauren Chamberlain from Oklahoma, and is 27th in walks per game (0.75).
With a home run in the first inning against Ohio State April 13, Bell broke the Penn State single-season record with her 17th of the season, passing Jennifer Tripken's mark of 16 from 2002. Bell is now also tied with Shannon Salsburg (1995-98) at the top of the career leaderboard with 34.
Noting her offensive capabilities, opposing teams have opted to intentionally walk Bell 13 times this season.
TO BE THE BEST
Bell was named a finalist for the USA Softball Player of the Year Award April 11. She is one of 11 seniors on the 25-player list.
Ten finalists will make the May 8 list before the group is narrowed to the three May 22. The winner of the award will be announced in the lead-up to the 2013 NCAA Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City May 28.
Multiple Nittany Lions will have opportunities to leave their names in the program career record book when the season is finished. Bell is currently second in batting average (.353), sixth in doubles (36), tied for first in home runs (34), second in runs (126) and total bases (345), fifth in RBI (105), tied for fifth in walks (83), seventh in hits (193) and 11th in stolen bases (36).
The 2013 season has been efficient for the senior, as Bell currently holds the top spot with a .455 batting average, holds the title with 17 home runs, ranks fourth in total bases (107) and runs (40) and sixth in RBI (37).
Kailyn Johnson is tied for fifth all-time in walks (83), sits in 12th in doubles (28) and is within striking distance of hits (143), home runs (15), total bases (216) and RBI (105).
As a team, Penn State is 48th in the nation in home runs per game (0.48). Six Lions have recorded two or more this season while the team has produced 13 of its total of 35 in the last seven contests. Bell, Jones and Johnson each have three home runs over the seven games, while Yao has notched a pair.
On the season, Bell leads with 17, followed by Jones (5), Johnson (4), Habitz (3), Furuya (2), Yao (2) while Abeyta and Presto have one apiece.
Seniors and freshmen account for 133 of the squad's 144 RBI (92%) and 224 of 258 hits (87%) this season. Of the team's eight first-year players, four (Furuya, Habitz, Jones, Knief) have started 20 or more contests. The senior trio of Bell, Johnson and Renwick has started every game they have played this season while Hutchinson and Yao have been in the starting lineup in 30 and 28 games, respectively.
Defensively, Jones has thrown 117.2 of the team's 221.1 innings from the circle. She has accounted for all but one win this season while tossing nine complete games with a team-best 78 strikeouts.
The Nittany Lions have won three of their last seven contests, thanks to strong performances on both the offensive and defensive sides. Five players have posted batting averages over .300 during that span, led by Bell (.526), Renwick (.400), Jones (.375), Knief, (.333) and Habitz (.300). Seven Nittany Lions contributed three or more RBI, led by Jones (8), Johnson (6) and Furuya (5).
Jones produced a 1.58 ERA over the last 31.0 innings of work, drawing a 3-3 record while holding opposing batters to a .220 average at the plate with 16 strikeouts.
Penn State's three wins came against Indiana (3-0), Saint Francis (Pa.) (4-1) and Pittsburgh (11-7).
QUITE THE SLATE!
Ten of Penn State's 2013 opponents are listed in the April 16 ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, including top-ranked Oklahoma. Other opponents include Texas (No. 7), Michigan (No. 9), LSU (No. 12), Texas A&M (No. 13), Washington (No. 14), Nebraska (No. 18), Arizona (No. T-25) and North Carolina (No. T-25) while Iowa is receiving votes. The same 10 programs are represented in the current USA Today/NFCA rankings, plus Hofstra.
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 Lions narrowly dropped the Friday (2-0) and Sunday (4-3) contests by close scores while dropping all three to Ohio State. Renwick was outstanding, batting .500 with five singles and a run. Bell finished .375 at the plate with a pair of runs, a HR and three walks for a .545 on-base percentage. Habitz, Johnson, Jones and Yao each hit a home run, as well. Jones threw 13.2 of the team's 17.2 innings, accumulating a 3.07 ERA while limiting Buckeye batters to a .261 clip at the dish.
SAINT FRANCIS (PA) AND PITTSBURGH
Penn State took both of its midweek contests against Saint Francis (Pa.) and Pittsburgh, topping the Red Flash at home, 4-1, Tuesday before downing the Panthers, 11-7, on the road Wednesday. Jones picked up the wins in the circle both games while Johnson set a personal-best with five RBI and three hits and runs against the Panthers.
Penn State grabbed its first conference win of the season after taking the middle game of the set against the Hoosiers April 5-7. The Lions tossed their second shutout of the season as Macy Jones pitched 6.2 innings of scoreless work and the trio of Alyssa Renwick, Lexi Knief and Reina Furuya accounted for the three RBI.
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.
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 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 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 Reina Furuya led the Lions with clutch hitting, producing four RBI, a pair of runs and a home run while senior Cassidy Bell followed with three RBI with a home run and a pair of singles. Kailyn Johnson added two RBI with a double over the series. Liz Presto and Alyssa Sovereign 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 Abeyta to escape with a 7-6 win over DePaul as Macy 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.
Yao 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 and junior Kasie Hatfield 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.
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. 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.