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April 25, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State travels to Iowa City, Iowa, for its final road series of the season against Iowa. The Lions and Hawkeyes begin the three-game slate at 7 p.m. ET Friday before meeting again at 3 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday.
ON THE HORIZON
After the three-game set at Iowa, Penn State wraps up the regular season with a three-game set against Nebraska at Beard Field May 4-6. The Nittany Lions then travel to the Big Ten tournament in Lincoln, Neb., May 9-12. The single-elimination event features all 12 of the Big Ten teams.
A LOOK AT THE HAWKEYES
Iowa enters the week on a six-game slide after suffering sweeps to Michigan and Illinois, while allowing five or more runs in each contest. The Hawkeyes have shown the ability to play with top opponents, however, as they have accumulated six wins against ranked opponents, highlighted by a 6-2 win over then-No. 11 Louisville.
Megan Blank leads Iowa at the dish with a .461 average and 11 home runs for a team-best 56 RBI. Johnnie Dowling has also been a consistent threat, hitting at a .355 clip while swiping 16 bases. Kayla Massey rounds out the group of .300-plus hitters for the Hawkeyes as she owns a .314 average while trailing just Blank with 29 RBI.
Massey (13-11) has led the team in the circle this season, working up a 3.18 ERA through 162.2 innings of work with 89 strikeouts and 79 walks. Chelsea Lyons (8-9) has added support on the mound as she owns a 4.97 ERA over 93.0 innings.
The Hawkeyes face Northern Iowa Thursday evening before hosting the Nittany Lions Friday.
A HISTORY OF THE SERIES
Iowa leads the all-time series with Penn State, 17-38, since the teams' first meeting in 1992. The Nittany Lions have won four of the last five, including doubleheader sweeps in 2009 and 2010 before splitting decisions in 2011. The squads did not face each other last season.
Through April 21, senior outfielder Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.) ranked in the Top 15 nationally in home runs per game (5th/0.44), slugging percentage (1st/1.054), on-base percentage (3rd/.603), runs per game (7th/1.15), walks per game (9th/0.88) and batting average (11th/.464). Bell is sixth in the nation in home runs (19), just four off leader Megan Baltzell from Longwood.
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 hit her 18th of the season April 17 against Purdue to break her tie with Shannon Salsburg (1995-98) at the top of the career leaderboard, posting the 35th of her career.
Against Kent State Wednesday, Bell became just the sixth Nittany Lion to record 200 or more hits with her solo home run in the first inning. Noting her offensive capabilities, opposing teams have opted to intentionally walk Bell 16 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 second in batting average (.358), first in home runs (36) and total bases (360), second in runs (135), tied for third in RBI (108) with Tripken, tied for fourth in doubles (38) with Megan Humphrey (2000-03), third in walks (92), sixth in hits (200) and 10th in stolen bases (40).
The 2013 season has been efficient for the senior, as Bell currently holds the top spot with a .469 batting average, 19 home runs and 49 runs scored, is tied for first in total bases (122) with Tripken (2002), and is fourth in RBI (40).
Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.) is fifth all-time in walks (88), sits in 11th in doubles (30) and is within striking distance of hits (148), home runs (15), total bases (223) and RBI (75).
As a team, Penn State is 49th in the nation in home runs per game (0.95). Six Lions have recorded two or more this season while the team has produced 13 of its total of 40 (33%) in the last 10 contests. The trio of Bell, Reina Furuya (Waipahu, Hawaii) and Johnson has recorded three apiece over that span while Karlie Habitz (Newhall, Calif.), Kasie Hatfield (Tampa, Fla.), Macy Jones (Ashburn, Va.) and Lauren Yao (Los Angeles, Calif.) have each hit one.
On the season, Bell leads with 19, followed by Jones (5), Furuya (4), Johnson (4), Habitz (3), Yao (2) while Taylor Abeyta (San Diego, Calif.), Hatfield and Liz Presto (Bethlehem, Pa.) have one apiece.
Seniors and freshmen account for 152 of the squad's 169 RBI (90%) and 256 of 300 hits (85%) this season. Of the team's eight first-year players, four (Furuya, Habitz, Jones, Lexi Knief) have started 20 or more contests. The senior trio of Bell, Johnson and Alyssa Renwick (Laurens, S.C.) has started every game they have played this season while Shannon Hutchinson (Sewell, N.J.) and Yao have been in the starting lineup in 38 and 31 games, respectively.
Defensively, Jones has thrown 139.2 of the team's 264.1 (53%) innings from the circle. She has accounted for 10 of the team's 12 wins this season while tossing 10 complete games with a team-best 86 strikeouts. Jones picked up the first save of her career April 24 against Kent State.
WALK THE LINE
Penn State drew 24 walks against Northwestern to account for a fifth of the team's season total of 125. Bell drew three in each game while five other players reached first on balls at least twice, including Johnson (4), Jones (3), Alyssa Sovereign (La Canada, Calif.) (2), Renwick (2) and Yao (2).
The Lions drew another five in a 2-1 victory over Kent State Wednesday, including an intentional walk for Bell in the sixth that eventually counted as the winning run.
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.
LIVE ON YOUR SCREEN
The May 5 clash with Nebraska has been added to the Big Ten Network schedule and will be aired live. The game will be the third of the season for the Nittany Lions on BTN as the team split an April 17 doubleheader with Purdue.
QUITE THE SLATE!
Ten of Penn State's 2013 opponents are listed in the April 23 ESPN.com/USA Softball poll, including top-ranked Oklahoma. Other opponents include Texas (No. 7), Michigan (No. 9), LSU (No. 12), Washington (No. 13), Texas A&M (No. 15), Nebraska (No. 20), Arizona (No. 23) and while Hofstra and North Carolina receiving votes. Nine of the 10 programs are represented in the current USA Today/NFCA rankings, plus Iowa.