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EVANSTON, Ill.; May 7, 2014 - Penn State softball opens the 2014 postseason on Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, hosted by Northwestern. The 10th-seeded Nittany Lions are set to take on seventh-seeded Ohio State in a 2:30 p.m. (ET) matchup.
Thursday’s game will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network with Tommy Thiel and Julie Dunn on the call. If Penn State wins, the Lions will advance to take on second-seeded Nebraska on Friday at 2:30 p.m.
A PENN STATE SUMMARY
Penn State enters the tournament at 14-34 overall and went 5-18 in Big Ten play, tying for 10th place with Indiana. PSU claimed the 10th seed in the tournament based on taking two of three games against the Hoosiers during the regular season.
Sophomore Lexi Knief leads the Nittany Lions’ offensive attack with a batting average of .382. The outfielder is 58-for-152 at the plate with 37 runs scored, 12 RBI, six triples and seven doubles. Freshman Shelby Miller (.316), senior Kasie Hatfield (.309) and sophomore Karlie Habitz (.301) are also hitting well for the Blue and White.
Freshman Marlaina Laubach is the top pitcher for Penn State. The rookie hurler owns a 9-17 record with a 3.55 ERA and has struck out 74 opponents.
SERIES HISTORY vs. OHIO STATE
The Nittany Lions are 29-47 in the all-time series vs. Ohio State and 1-3 against the Buckeyes in neutral site matchups with its only win coming in a 5-4 decision in the 2001 Big Ten Tournament.
The Lions and the Buckeyes last met on neutral ground in the 2006 Big Ten Tournament, which was also held at Northwestern, as Ohio State claimed a 9-6 victory over PSU.
Penn State dropped a doubleheader at OSU earlier this season, falling 3-1 and 3-0 in Columbus on April 23.
CRACKING THE BUCKEYES
Ohio State finished out the regular season 28-24 overall and 13-10 against Big Ten opponents. The Buckeyes have won eight of their last nine contests, including two wins over Penn State, a three-game sweep of Northwestern, a non-conference triumph over Pitt and a pair of victories over Iowa.
Senior Evelyn Carrillo has set the pace for the OSU offense. Carrillo leads the team in hits with 62, has driven in 34 runs while scoring 20 and is hitting at a .380 clip.
The OSU pitching staff has combined for 241 strikeouts this season and owns an ERA of 3.91. Olivia O’Reilly and Shelby Hursh lead Ohio State in the circle. O’Reilly has an ERA of 3.01 through 146.1 innings, has struck out 87 opponents and it 15-8 on the year. Hursh leads the Big Ten in saves with seven and has doled out 86 strikeouts in 87.2 innings.
After a breakout sophomore campaign, outfielder Lexi Knief was named to the All-Big Ten second team. Knief was formidable at the plate this season, leading Penn State in seven different offensive categories.
The sophomore has hit at a clip of .382 in 2014, which stands as the eighth best in a single season in program history. She also leads the team in runs (37), hits (58), triples (6), total bases (80), slugging percentage (.526) and on base percentage (.457). The centerfielder totaled 17 multi-hit performances and, at one point, extended her hitting streak to 12 straight games.
Knief, who moved to center field in the off-season, has been tremendous for the Lions defensively, posting a perfect fielding percentage of 1.000. She has recorded 69 putouts and five assists on the year without committing a single error.
The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in triples with 16 on the year. PSU has registered two more than the No. 2 team, Northwestern, and five more than the No. 3 team, Minnesota.
The Lions trailed the Wildcats until posting five triples in the doubleheader vs. Bucknell (4/16).
Lexi Knief has set the pace for PSU, turning in six triple thus far. She needs just one more to enter the Penn State single season record books.
Senior Kasie Hatfield continues to move up in the Penn State record books for single-season doubles. The infielder moved into a tie for the No. 6 spot after registering her 13th double of the year in the series finale at Minnesota (4/26)
The Tampa, Fla. product is also tied for 6th in the Big Ten in doubles.
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 3.55 through 142 innings. She has thrown 74 strikeouts on the season, including a season-high six vs. FAU (2/21), MSU (4/4), Bucknell (4/16) and Illinois (5/2).
Laubach gave one of her best performances of the season in the series opener at No. 12 Minneosta, holding the Golden Gophers to just four hits while not allowing a single earned run through six innings.
FORMING GOOD HABITZ
Sophomore Karlie Habitz has been one of the top hitters for PSU all season and is currently fourth on the team with a batting average of .301. The Newhall, Calif. product leads the Lions with 34 RBI and needs to drive in just two more runs to enter the PSU record books for single-season RBI.
She has registered eight doubles and a team-best four home runs. 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 .316 and has been churning out the hits, posting a 37-for-117 mark at the dish through 43 games.