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April 17, 2014
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; April 17, 2014 - Penn State softball returns to Big Ten action this weekend, hosting Wisconsin for a three-game series. The Nittany Lions enter the weekend at No. 8 in the conference standings while the Badgers hold the No. 5 spot.
PSU (14-23, 5-7 Big Ten) and UW (24-15, 6-5 Big Ten) open the series on Friday in a 6 p.m. matchup and continue play on Saturday with a doubleheader starting at Noon. Saturday’s doubleheader will air live on the Big Ten Network with Wayne Randazzo and Garland (Wimberly) Cooper on the call.
PSU opens up the series vs. the Badgers on Season Ticket Holder Day. To thank its season ticket holders, Penn State softball is giving its dedicated fans an exclusive gift. Saturday will be Penn State Softball’s inaugural Bark in the Park Day and all fans are encouraged to bring their dogs to the ballpark to enjoy the game*. The Lions will also be celebrating Easter weekend with a post-game Easter Egg Hunt and Easter candy giveaway. An autograph session will be held after the second game.
*Proof of vaccination and tags required for all dogs
Parking for all Penn State softball events is free. Fans will be permitted to park to the Orange B lots located just west and south of the ballpark. Should the two Orange B lots become full; fans will also be permitted to park in Lot 82, which is adjacent to the parking lot at Nittany Lion Softball Park.
SERIES HISTORY vs. WISCONSIN
The Lions hold a 27-15 advantage over the Badgers in the all-time series, including a 14-2 mark at home. Penn State last defeated the Badgers at Nittany Lion Softball Park on March 27, 2011, winning 3-2 in eight innings. PSU has not lost a home contest vs. UW since dropping a 0-4 decision on March 29, 1998.
The Badgers swept Penn State in the most recent series between the two teams, taking three straight games in Madison in 2012.
SCOUTING THE BADGERS
Wisconsin enters the weekend at 24-15 overall after taking a doubleheader against Green Bay on Wednesday and has won seven consecutive games. The Badgers are 6-5 in Big Ten play with wins over Illinois, Minnesota and Iowa.
Seniors Mary Massei and Michelle Mueller have been offensive powerhouses for the Badgers in 2014, combining 68 RBI. Massei is hitting at a team-best clip of .395 with 49 hits and 23 RBI while Mueller is batting .382 with 42 hits, including 10 home runs, and 45 RBI.
Mueller is coming off a tremendous weekend of play in which she registered 18 RBI on nine hits with four home runs against Illinois to earn Louisville Slugger/NFCA Division I National Player of the Week and USA Softball National Player of the Week honors.
The UW pitching staff has combined for 199 strikeouts this season. Senior Cassandra Darrah leads the squad with an ERA of 2.86 and has registered 14 of the Badgers’ wins. Darrah has struck out 100 opponents through 146.2 innings while giving up 66 walks.
The Nittany Lions returned to the win column on Wednesday, claiming a doubleheader sweep of Bucknell. PSU defeated the Bison 6-3 in the first game before taking a 10-5 victory in the nightcap.
Freshman Shelby Miller led the Nittany Lion offense with a 5-for-6 effort at the plate, driving in five runs and scoring once with a triple and four base hits. Lexi Knief also turned in an impressive performance, registering four hits, including two triples, with one RBI and three runs scored.
Sophomore Lexi Knief is the top hitter for PSU through the first 37 outings. The outfielder is 47-for-117 at the plate for a team-best batting average of .402 and has scored a team-high 36 runs. She leads the league and ranks in the top 10 in the nation in triples with six and has also posted six doubles on the year. She needs just one more triple to enter the PSU single season record books.
The Ramsey, N.J. product leads the Lions and is eighth in the conference with an on-base percentage of .485.
Senior Kasie Hatfield officially earned a spot in the Penn State record books in the series finale at Indiana (4/13) after registering her 12th double of the year, tying for No. 9 on the single season doubles list.
The Tampa, Fla. product is currently tied for fourth in the league in doubles and ranks 37th in the nation in doubles per game at 0.34.
LAU OF THE LAND
Freshman pitcher Marlaina Laubach has done the bulk of the work in the circle for Penn State, earning wins in nine of PSU’s 14 victories, including a signature win over No. 21 LSU and three conference wins. The Northampton, Pa. native has a team-best ERA of 3.36 through 100 innings. She has thrown 60 strikeouts on the season, including a season-high six vs. FAU (2/21), MSU (4/4) and Bucknell (4/16).
FORMING GOOD HABITZ
Sophomore Karlie Habitz has proven to be one of the top hitters for PSU all-season and is currently fourth on the team with a batting average of .346. The Newhall, Calif. product leads the Lions with 31 RBI and owns a slugging percentage of .551. She has registered seven doubles and a team-best four home runs. The catcher broke up two no-hitters vs. No. 6 Michigan and went 4-for-8 at the dish.
Habitz also posted six RBI in the season opener vs. Oregon State (2/7), a mark that ties for the second most in program history.
Shelby Miller has turned in an impressive rookie campaign thus far for Penn State. The freshman has the second best batting average on the team at .360 and has been churning out the hits, posting a 31-for-86 mark at the dish through 32 games.
Miller has five extra-base hits under her belt with two doubles and three triples.
PSU is back on the road next week for a pair of crucial Big Ten series. The Lions head to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in a midweek doubleheader on Wednesday before trekking to Minneapolis to face No. 12 Minnesota in a three-game bout over the weekend.