Postseason Notes: Lion Softball Makes Fifth NCAA Appearance in Past Six Years
Postseason Guide pdfs Above Contains
Penn State Nittany Lions (34-21, 10-9 Big Ten)
Lions Open NCAA Tournament Action vs. Centenary on Friday, May 20, at 1 p.m. CT... The Penn State softball team (34-21, 10-9 Big Ten) received its fifth NCAA Tournament bid in the past six years and sixth overall bid in program history when it saw its name appear as part of the Region No. 5 field during Sunday¡¯s selection show. The Lions are part of a field which also includes host No. 5 seed Texas A&M (44-8), Centenary (31-26), and McNeese State (33-33) in College Station, Texas, from May 20-22. PSU meets Centenary on Friday, May 20, at 1 p.m. CT to open tournament action at the Aggie Softball Field (1,750). The regional is a double elimination tournament, with the winner going on to match-up with the Region No. 12 champion on May 27-28 from a field which includes No. 12 seed Alabama, Arizona State, Hofstra, and Mississippi Valley. A complete Region No. 5 bracket appears on page 5 of this release.
Lions Making Fifth NCAA Tournament Appearance in Six Years... The bid marks the Lions¡¯ first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2003 and fifth in the past six years. Penn State has previously received bids in 1985, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. Five of the Lions¡¯ six bids have come under current head coach Robin Petrini. The Lions have a 6-10 overall record in the tournament, including a win each in 2000 and 2003 and a pair of wins each in 2001 and 2002.
Listen Live to the Lions All Weekend Long... Thanks to Penn State partner Forever Broadcasting, all of the Nittany Lions¡¯ games this weekend at Texas A&M will be broadcast live in the Centre Region on either WMAJ 1450 AM ESPN Radio or WRSC 1390 AM. Nittany Lion baseball will continue to come to you all this weekend as well on WMAJ with the Nits at home battling Michigan in a pivotal series. All games will be carried via live audio on www.GoPSUSports.com, your official source for Penn State sports. Below is the weekend¡¯s tentative softball and baseball radio schedule through the Nittany Lions¡¯ first two softball games.
Friday, May 20
Softball for the remainder of Saturday and Sunday is TBD. Please check back to www.GoPSUSports.com regularly to track the Lions¡¯ progress.
Check out this Weekend¡¯s Action Live... The games at this weekend¡¯s tournament will also be carried via live stats. Please go to GoPSUSports.com and follow the links to track the Lions this weekend!
First Up: Centenary... First up for the Lions are the Centenary Ladies (31-26). PSU and Centenary square-off on Friday, May 20, at 1 p.m. CT at the Aggie Softball Field. Penn State and Centenary have never met before this NCAA match-up. The winner advances to Game No. 4 at 2:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, May 21, to meet the Game No. 2 winner with the loser meeting the Game No. 2 loser on Saturday at noon CT.
Other Regional Foes More Familiar... Penn State¡¯s two other potential regional foes are a bit more familiar to the Lions. Penn State met No. 5 seed Texas A&M (44-8) just last year, losing twice to the Aggies at the Aggie Invitational II in 2004. Penn State has a 3-8-1 record overall vs. Texas A&M. The Nittany Lions have met McNeese State (33-33) only once in the program¡¯s history in 2000, winning 4-2. Box scores and stats from last year¡¯s games with Texas A&M can be found on starting in the stats pdf at the top of the page.
Five Big Ten Teams Receive Invite to the Dance... In addition to Penn State, No. 1 Michigan (55-4), Northwestern (38-15), Iowa (48-12) and Wisconsin (31-22) also received bids to the NCAA Tournament this year.
Two Lions Earn All-Big Ten Honors... Freshman Ashley Esparza (San Pedro, Calif.) and redshirt-senior Missy Beseres (Golden Valley, Minn.) both earned all-Big Ten honors this year, as voted by the Big Ten coaches. Esparza, the Lions¡¯ do-it-all talent, garnered first team all-Big Ten honors, while Beseres claimed third team All-Big Ten honors. Esparza¡¯s first team pick was the first for the Lions since Gina Bianchini was selected to first team all-conference in 2002.
Ranked Teams on the Slate... Including three Big Ten match-ups vs. ranked teams, Penn State met nine teams that are either ranked or receiving votes in the May 11 USA Today/NFCA poll. Always one to build a tough schedule, head coach Robin Petrini and the Lions met then-No. 6 Alabama and No. 15 Missouri in the first weekend to start the action off. Three Big Ten schools are ranked, No. 1 Michigan, No. 18 Northwestern and No. 22 Iowa. The Lions upset No. 1 Michigan in Ann Arbor on April 22 and have recorded three wins over ranked opponents overall. Penn State beat then-No. 18 Nebraska twice at the Kia Classic on the weekend of March 18 and 20, once 3-2 in eight innings and then 7-1 in the consolation championship for their only other wins over a ranked team this year when those teams were in the poll. Since then, Long Beach State (W, 6-4, March 20) has also climbed into the Top 25, giving the Lions four wins over Top 25 teams this season.
Nittany Lions Four Victories from Tying School Season Record... Penn State¡¯s 34 victories this season is just four off the school record mark set with a 38-19 record under head coach Robin Petrini in 2000. The Lions¡¯ second best season was in 1999, when the team went 35-22 on the year. The Lions have had four other seasons of 34 or better wins, including two others under Petrini.
Lions Record Sixth 30-Plus Win Season in Seven Years... Since head coach Robin Petrini¡¯s inaugural season in 1997, the Nittany Lions have enjoyed increasing success. This year marks the Lions¡¯ sixth 30-plus win season in the last seven years, all under Petrini. For PSU¡¯s history, the Lions have had eight 30-plus win season since softball schedules expanded in the mid 1980s.
Freshmen Impact Felt in Lion Win/Loss Count... Freshmen duo Jen Acunto (Hollywood, Fla.) and Ashley Esparza (San Pedro, Calif.) are batting .400 or above when the Nittany Lions record a victory this season. Esparza, who is batting .423 in wins, and Acunto, who is hitting .414 in Lion victories, were both named co-Offensive MVPs at this year¡¯s banquet and have delivered since the beginning of their inaugural campaigns.
RBImprovement... Last year, outfielder Leigh Murray (Fairfax Station, Va.) and shortstop Barbie Pierce led the Lions in RBI production with 21 each, this year five Lions are already above that mark, with freshman Hollee Haines (Riverside, Calif.) knocking in a team-high 34. Following her are freshmen Jen Acunto with 33 and Jenn Reynolds (Clovis, Calif.) with 32, Murray with 27 and Ashley Esparza with 26.
Nittany Lions Take Down No. 1 Michigan... During its away stint from Friday, April 22, to Sunday, April 24, Penn State went 1-2 against two ranked teams after starting the weekend out with a bang. Penn State defeated No. 1 ranked Michigan for just the fourth time in 41 tries since 1992 when Penn State joined the Big Ten. Freshman Hollee Haines (Riverside, Calif.) lifted the Lions to the final 2-1 tally with her game-winning homerun in the top of the seventh inning. Penn State almost got out of the weekend with another win over a ranked team, narrowly losing 2-1 to No. 15 and Big Ten leader Northwestern, 2-1, in the final game of the weekend.
The Beseres Record... Lion starting pitcher Missy Beseres (Golden Valley, Minn.) broke the Penn State single season strikeout mark in game one vs. Iowa on April 17 after throwing nine strikeouts, boosting her season total to 195. She now sits at 246. In addition to her season-long accomplishment, Beseres fanned a school record 15 batters in the Lions¡¯ one-run loss at Northwestern on April 24 before giving up the game-winning homerun. The strikeout mark bested her own previous record of 14.
Beseres Named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week... Redshirt-senior hurler Missy Beseres was named Big Ten pitcher of the week for the week of May 2 after compiling a 0.36 ERA in three wins and four appearances, including a shutout against Purdue. She also struck out 11 batters vs. Indiana. It was her first conference honor and marked the fourth pitcher in Penn State history to garner pitcher of the week accolades.
Penn State Hits 700... When the Nittany Lions recorded the 3-2 win over Illinois on April 16, it went in the record book as the Lions¡¯ 700th win in program history. The Penn State softball program dates back to 1965 and has an overall record of 707-667-2.
On the Sidelines... Due to injury, two regular starters for the Lions will be on the sidelines again this weekend. Freshman second baseman Rebecca Bautista (Elk Grove, Calif.) will be out for the remainder of the season with a broken clavicle. The injury occurred at the Lions' practice on April 5. Sophomore second team All-Big Ten outfielder Meghan Wolfer (Northampton, Pa.) fractured her knee cap in the Pittsburgh doubleheader on April 13 and will also be out for the rest of the season.
Penn State Topples No. 18 Nebraska in Quality Kia Classic Showing... The Lions went an outstanding 4-2 between March 17-20 weekend at a Kia Classic Tournament populated with 11 of 16 teams who were ranked in the Top 25 and another one receiving votes. Penn State defeated No. 18 Nebraska twice; once, 3-2, in eight innings and the second time, 7-1, for the consolation bracket championship. After suffering two defeats to the Cornhuskers last season, the victories marked the first ever over Nebraska in PSU history. The win was also the Lions¡¯ first over a Top 25 team since beating No. 14/16 Florida State, 4-3, in 11 innings on March 8, 2003, on FSU¡¯s home field.
Lions Crowned Central Florida Invitational Champions... With a 4-1 record at the UCF Invitational, Penn State won the championship for the three-day tournament held between March 7-9. PSU posted shutouts in four of the six tournament games they played, and run-ruled teams in two outings.
Acunto, Haines Earn All-Tournament... A pair of freshmen earned all-tournament for the Lions at the 2005 Alabama Crimson Classic, as Jen Acunto and Hollee Haines were both named to the all-tournament team and combined for seven of the Lions' 10 RBIs. Acunto provided three, batted .385 for the weekend and hit two homeruns, while Haines drove in four runs and hit one homerun on the tournament.
Murray, Viola Chosen to Captain 2005 Squad... Senior first baseman Steph Viola (Minersville, Pa.) and junior outfielder Leigh Murray (Fairfax Station, Va.) have been chosen to captain this year¡¯s squad. Murray was a third-team all-Big Ten pick last year after leading the team in RBIs, while Viola served as the squad¡¯s starting first basemen in 2004.
In the Coach's Box... Now in her ninth season with the Nittany Lions, head coach Robin Petrini enters the year looking for her team¡¯s fifth NCAA bid in six years. Petrini has a 274-232-1 career record entering the Big Ten Tournament.
Three All-Big Ten Performers Return... Penn State returns three 2004 all-Big Ten picks to the roster this season. Junior captain Leigh Murray, a third team all-Big Ten selection last year is back to anchor the outfield, while sophomores Meghan Wolfer (Northampton, Pa.) and Jen Williams (Stillwater, Okla.), both second team selections, join her there. Murray led the team in RBIs last season with 21. Williams and Wolfer provided an awesome one-two punch in their first year with the team. Williams eventually finished first in the average column with a .357 (66-185) and Wolfer was right behind her with a .320 (55-172). Williams¡¯ average finished fifth in the conference, and she also stole more bases, 34, then any other Big Ten player. Her 34 stolen bases finished ranked 14th nationally.
New Lion Faces... The Nittany Lions added six new faces entering the 2005 season. Among the newcomers: Jen Acunto (Hollywood, Fla.), Rebecca Bautista (Elk Grove, Calif.), Ashley Esparza (San Pedro, Calif.), Hollee Haines (Riverside, Calif.), and Holly Jackson (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Jenn Reynolds (Clovis, Calif.).
Beseres Lone Veteran in the Circle... Redshirt-senior Missy Beseres (Golden Valley, Minn.) is the Lions¡¯ lone returning veteran in the circle this year after the departure of Marisa Hanson, who finished her career second all-time in victories with 48, and Shana Riggleman, who led the Lions in ERA last season in 29 appearances. Head coach Robin Petrini has filled the vacancies in the rotation with the promising freshman duo of Ashley Esparza and Jenn Reynolds, which had still yielded a strong yet young staff.