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May 3, 2013
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State hosts No. 14/15 Nebraska in the final series of the 2013 season. The conference foes square off first at 2 p.m. Saturday at Beard Field and Nittany Lion Softball Park before facing each other again at 2:36 p.m. Sunday and 1 p.m. Monday.
Penn State will celebrate the careers of its six seniors, Cassidy Bell (Bakersfield, Calif.), Shannon Hutchinson (Sewell, N.J.), Kailyn Johnson (Yorba Linda, Calif.), Rachel Myers (Millheim, Pa.), Alyssa Renwick (Laurens, S.C.) and Lauren Yao (Los Angeles, Calif.), immediately before first pitch Sunday. That contest will be aired live on the Big Ten Network.
With graduation and students moving out of the dorms this weekend, fans are asked to arrive to Nittany Lion Softball Park via Curtin Road from Atherton St. to avoid traffic. After following directional signs toward the park, cars will be directed to the grass lot between NLSP and the IM Building for both Saturday and Sunday games. Normal parking procedure will resume Monday.
The weekend presents multiple giveaways at Nittany Lion Softball Park. For Saturday, fans will receive free Penn State softball sunglasses while supplies last. Saturday is also Father/Daughter day, where fathers and daughters will be eligible to buy one ticket and receive a second free. It is also Girl Scout Day with a booth dedicated to the Socks for Soldiers Drive. Fans bringing long, white cotton socks will be able to buy a discounted, $3 ticket. Rounding out the day, the team will be signing autographs after the game.
Sunday, along with being Senior Day, is Pitch for Pink Day with proceeds benefitting Pennsylvania Pink Zone. Fans will receive free Pitch for Pink bracelets, also while supplies last, and the final postgame autograph of the season follows the contest. For more information about the Pink Zone, visit here.
ON THE HORIZON
Penn State wraps up the 2013 regular season against Nebraska and then turns its gaze toward the Big Ten tournament in Lincoln, Neb., May 9-12. The single-elimination tournament will feature all 12 squads from the conference.
A LOOK AT THE HUSKERS
Nebraska, currently a half-game behind Wisconsin for second place in the Big Ten, has won eight of its last 10 contests and has claimed each conference series its played this season, including taking two of three against leader Michigan a week ago in Lincoln.
As a team, Nebraska is tied for fifth in the Big Ten with a .295 batting average. First-year shortstop Alicia Armstrong leads a group of five Huskers with averages over .300 at the plate this season with a .358 mark, followed by senior outfielder Brooke Thomason (.338), junior catcher Taylor Edwards (.336), junior pitcher Tatum Edwards (.316) and sophomore outfielder Jordan Bettiol (.313). Taylor Edwards and Thomason have been efficient with runners in scoring position, bringing home 47 and 45 runners, respectively. Those numbers are good for third and fourth in the conference. Freshman outfielder Kiki Stokes presents the team's biggest base-stealing threat as she has swiped 12 bags on 15 attempts in 2013. The Edwards sisters have sent out a combined 21 home runs this season.
First-year hurler Emily Lockman ranks third in the Big Ten with a 1.67 ERA while Tatum Edwards follows in fifth with a 1.94 clip. With Lockman's 130.0 innings and Edwards' 180 frames, the two have combined to account for 310 of the team's 318 innings played this season. Edwards is fifth in the conference with 172 strikeouts.
A HISTORY OF THE SERIES
Nebraska holds the all-time series lead, 5-2, as the teams have met just seven times since their first introduction in 2004. Both of Penn State's victories came in 2005 as the Lions secured 3-2 and 7-1 wins at the Kia Klassic in Fullerton, Calif. The series is the first as conference opponents for the program and the first time Penn State has hosted Nebraska.
The weekend marks the final regular-season contests for six Nittany Lion seniors, including Cassidy Bell, Shannon Hutchinson, Kailyn Johnson, Rachel Myers, Alyssa Renwick and Lauren Yao. Entering the weekend, the group has combined to play in nearly 1,000 games (977), led by Johnson's mark of 195. Bell and Hutchinson have already set career-high hitting marks in 2013 while Renwick is just three hits short of tying her season-high.
After throwing 0.1 innings in her first three years, Myers has been a consistent contributor to the Lion bullpen, accounting for 18.1 IP. Myers also recorded the first save of her career March 6 against Loyola (Chicago). Hutchinson has slapped her way to personal bests in batting average (.283), hits (26), runs (19), RBI (2), total bases (26), walks (9) and fielding percentage (.981) this year. Johnson reached the 20-RBI mark for the third time in her career this season (23) while she is just four runs, two doubles and two home runs off career-highs.
Renwick started the season out on fire at the plate, batting .476 through the first seven games and carries a personal-record .327 mark to the final weekend of regular-season play. She is just three hits off her record of 37 while she has recorded a career-high eight RBI, 18 runs, two triples and seven stolen bases. Limited by injury this season, Yao has not been able to replicate the offensive production of her sophomore and junior seasons but is still just one RBI away from hitting double-digits for the third time in her career. She has produced an on-base percentage of .300 or better each season, including a .326 mark this year, while blasting a career-best two home runs. Bell has rewritten the Penn State history books with her historic senior season while setting career-highs in batting average, hits, runs, home runs, total bases, slugging percentage, walks, stolen bases and on-base percentage.
THE BELL'S CHIME
Through April 28, senior outfielder Cassidy Bell ranked in the Top 15 nationally in slugging percentage (1st - 1.041), on-base percentage (3rd - .600), home runs per game (6th - 0.42), batting average (9th - .463), runs per game (9th - 1.13) and walks per game (10th - 0.87). Bell's home run mark of 19 is good for sixth in the country and falls just five off the top mark of 24 from Megan Baltzell of Longwood and North Carolina State's Renada Davis.
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. Bell is the first Penn Stater to score 50 or more times in a season after crossing home for the 50th time of 2013 April 26 at Iowa.
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 (.359), first in home runs (36) and total bases (366), second in runs (137), third in RBI (109), fourth in doubles (40), third in walks (95), fifth in hits (204) and eighth in stolen bases (41).
The 2013 season has been efficient for the senior, as Bell currently holds the top spot on the program single-season lists with a .463 batting average, 19 home runs, 51 runs scored and 128 total bases and is fourth in RBI (41).
Johnson is fifth all-time in walks (90), sits in seventh in doubles (32) and is tied for 13th in RBI (81) while positioning herself within striking distance of hits (148), home runs (15), total bases (227).
As a team, Penn State is 54th in the nation in home runs per game (0.91). Seven Lions have recorded two or more this season while the team has produced 18 of its total of 41 (44%) in the last 15 contests. Bell leads the team with five over that span, followed by Johnson and Reina Furuya (Waipahu, Hawaii) with three, Kasie Hatfield (Tampa, Fla.), Macy Jones (Ashburn, Va.) and Yao with two and Karlie Habitz (Newhall, Calif.) with one.
On the season, Bell leads with 19, followed by Jones (5), Furuya (4), Johnson (4), Habitz (3), Hatfield (2) and Yao (2) while Taylor Abeyta (San Diego, Calif.) and Liz Presto (Bethlehem, Pa.) have one apiece.
Seniors and freshmen account for 155 of the squad's 178 RBI (87%) and 270 of 320 hits (84%) this season. Of the team's eight first-year players, four (Furuya, Habitz, Jones, Lexi Knief (Ramsey, N.J.)) have started 25 or more contests while Abeyta and Maegan Tupinio (Wahiawa, Hawaii) have played in 35 and 22 games, respectively. 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 43 and 31 games, respectively.
Defensively, Jones has thrown 152.1 of the team's 284.1 (54%) innings from the circle. She has accounted for 12 of the team's 14 wins this season while tossing 11 complete games with a team-best 92 strikeouts. Jones picked up the first save of her career April 24 against Kent State.
WHEN IT'S GOOD...
Jones and Jordan Wheatley (Troy, Mich.) have accounted for all 14 of Penn State's victories in the circle this season. In those games, the two have produced a 2.24 and 2.75 ERA, respectively, while limiting batters to a .227 and .284 mark at the plate. In her 12 victories, Jones has thrown six complete games while tossing a 50-21 strikeout-walk ratio over 63.0 IP for a 2.33 ERA.
At the plate in those 14 games, Penn State owns a .336 average with 47 multi-base hits, including 14 home runs.
WALK THE LINE
Penn State drew 24 walks against Northwestern to account for a fifth of the team's season total at the time 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.
QUITE THE SLATE!
Eight of Penn State's 2013 opponents are listed in the April 30 USA Today/NFCA poll, including top-ranked Oklahoma. Other opponents include Texas (No. 6), LSU (No. 8), Michigan (No. 10), Washington (No. 13), Texas A&M (No. 14) and Nebraska (No. 16) while Hofstra is receiving votes. Seven of the eight programs are represented in the current ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings. As many as 10 opponents have been ranked at one time in each poll this season.