Nittany Lion Softball Readies for NCAA Regional
May 19, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lion softball team opens NCAA Regional play on Friday against Fordham at 5:00 p.m. at Beard Field. Penn State is hosting its first NCAA Regional since 1983 as Oregon and Albany open play at 2:30 p.m. The matchups can be seen live on GoPSUsports.com All-Access video and followed on GameTracker and Twitter (@PSULionSoftball).
NCAA Regional May 20-22 Nittany Lion Softball Park University Park, Pa.
For complete coverage of each game in the University Park Regional, visit the NCAA Tournament Center.
Penn State (29-22-1, 11-8-1 Big Ten) came into this week in desperate need of wins to bolster is NCAA Tournament resume and it captured as many as possible, winning four straight from Ohio State and Northwestern. The feat was even more remarkable given PSU's history against those squads as Penn State swept OSU in Columbus for the first time ever and then followed it up with its first sweep of Northwestern.
The Nittany Lions entered the week with an RPI of 46 and the thought around the team was that it needed to win all of its games to get a look from the committee. Despite an up-and-down season, Penn State's resilience was evident down the stretch when the team was down. During PSU's trek through conference play, the Nittany Lions used eight comeback victories and won 11 of its last 16 games in comeback fashion. This included nine multi-run comebacks.
Penn State played one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, also another important component of the NCAA criteria. The Nittany Lions played 42 of its 52 games against RPI Top 100 opponents this year, registering a 20-21-1 record in those games, while only playing 10 games against sub-100 rankings, going 9-1. The lone loss came in the third game of the season.
SCOUTING THE DUCKS: No. 13 seed Oregon (39-14) earned its seventh at-large bid to the NCAA Regionals in the past nine years and the second consecutive effort under head coach Mike White. The Ducks enter the University Park Regional having won nine of its last 12 games to end the season. Jessica Moore patrols the pitcher's circle with a 1.70 ERA and a 21-9 mark. She's been a part of nine shutouts this year with a .204 average against in 177 innings of work. At the plate, the Ducks hit .299 as a squad with an outstanding 70 home runs and 55 doubles for a .501 slugging percentage. Courtney Ceo sets the table with a .378 average and 14 stolen bases, while Monique Fuiava provides the power, hitting .378 with 12 doubles, eight homers and 44 RBI. Kelsey Chambers is another long ball threat with 13 dingers and 30 RBI this season.
SCOUTING THE GREAT DANES: Albany (28-21) enters this weekend on a six-game winning streak after winning the America East Tournament crown on Boston University's home field. Hurler Brittany MacFawn has seen the majority of the team's innings this year with 150.1 of work, posting a 2.14 ERA and a 15-6 record to accompany a .221 average against. At the plate, Gina Mason holds the highest batting average in the University Park Regional with a .420 mark thanks to 11 doubles, three triples, five homers and 29 RBI. Adrianna Walraven is a key offensive threat with a .329 average, six doubles, three triples and three homers, while stealing 21 bases. The Great Danes hit .253 collectively with 20 homers, 11 triples and 43 doubles. Albany leads the regional with 76 stolen bases this season.
MORE GAME NOTES
PENN STATE/BIG TEN NOTES: For the second consecutive season, Penn State won 29 games and posted its 11th winning season in the past 13 seasons under Petrini. The Nittany Lions also finished the 2011 season with its best Big Ten season since 2000. The fourth-place finish was the best since 1999 and 2000 when Petrini's charges notched third place. The squad posted the highest winning percentage in Big Ten play (.575) since 2000 (.706) and won the most league games (11) since 2000 (12-5). Moreover, PSU finished the season third in overall ERA, batting average against and hits allowed in the Big Ten.
LAST TIME OUT: The Nittany Lion softball team pulled off a historic sweep of Northwestern following a 3-2 victory on Saturday, May 14, at Beard Field. Lauren Rossi's fourth-inning bomb, which bounced off the top of the wall in leftfield, was the difference to give PSU its fifth straight victory to end the regular season. On a day where Penn State celebrated the careers of seniors Desi Giordano, Jackie Hill and Mary Ostman, it was the sophomore Rossi, who provided the heroics. Rossi had been given the start at third base for most of the 2011 season after Giordano went down with an ankle injury in February, and it was Rossi's first homer of the year. A day before, Penn State used a big six-run rally to down Northwestern, 6-3, at Beard Field on Friday evening. Down 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth, the Nittany Lions sent 10 batters to the plate in a six-run, four-hit inning for a lead they would never relinquish. Kasie Hatfield's roped double scored two to knot the game before PSU trotted four more over the plate. Cassidy Bell went 2-for-3 with two RBI, while Morgan Long's pinch-hit sacrifice fly gave PSU its first lead of the day. Penn State's sweep of Northwestern is not only the first in the all-time series, it's also the first series win over the Wildcats. Hill picked up the victory in both matchups to earn her fourth-straight winning decision. The redshirt senior allowed just four earned runs over the two-day sweep to keep the powerful Northwestern lineup at bay.
OHIO STATE SWEEP: The Penn State softball team swept Ohio State 10-2 and 4-3 (9 innings) in a doubleheader on Wednesday, May 11, night at muggy Buckeye Field. PSU crushed the Buckeyes in the opener before coming back from a two-run deficit to take the nightcap, completing a historic sweep of OSU, the first ever in Columbus. Penn State got off to a rousing start when Cassidy Bell slapped a 1-1 pitch over the leftfield wall for a quick 1-0 lead. Penn State collected 12 hits in the opener led by Lauren Yao's 3-for-4, two-double effort. Jackie Hill and Kailyn Johnson each went 2-for-3 as Hill knocked in two RBI. Alyssa Sovereign matched Hill in the RBI department with two of her own. Nine different Nittany Lions tallied hits. Hill went the distance with six hits allowed, giving up two runs while striking out eight and walking none. The second game was tougher as Penn State needed a sacrifice fly by Sovereign in the ninth inning to score Shannon Hutchinson and complete a comeback over Ohio State, 4-3. OSU took a 3-1 lead in the third before Penn State sent the game to extra innings.
COMEBACK KIDS: Penn State has played well when in front with a 20-1 record when scoring first, while failing to overcome a deficit in a game until Mar. 6 against Jacksonville State. There, the Nittany Lions scored six straight runs to turn a 2-0 game into an eventual 6-4 victory. Since Mar. 26, 11 of Penn State's last 16 wins have been in comeback fashion including the first four Big Ten victories and eight of 11 Big Ten victories overall.
SOVEREIGN NOTCHES FIRST WEEKLY AWARD: Penn State softball outfielder Alyssa Sovereign was tabbed Big Ten Freshman of the Week for her outstanding play in a 4-0 span that put the Nittany Lions back into the NCAA Tournament. The freshman rightfielder earned her first Big Ten award thanks to a .455 batting average in games against Ohio State and Northwestern. Sovereign went 3-for-6 in the doubleheader at OSU with four RBI, which included the game-winning sacrifice fly in the nightcap to secure PSU's first sweep in Columbus. Two days later, Sovereign kept her hot-hitting ways going as she posted a 2-for-5 series with an RBI and a run scored against Northwestern. Sovereign's steady play helped Penn State secure its first ever sweep of the Wildcats.
AKAMINE'S ACADEMIC HONOR: Standout pitcher Lisa Akamine was named to the Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District II Team for the first time on Thursday, May 5. For the fifth straight year and 11th time in head coach Robin Petrini's 15 years at the helm of Penn State's softball program, a Nittany Lion garnered CoSIDA Academic All-District Honors. Akamine headlined the lone team in District II that featured members from Lehigh, Bucknell, Robert Morris, Temple, Monmouth and Saint Francis (Pa.). Last season, Penn State's Ashley Griffith earned Academic All-District II First Team accolades en route to All-America Third Team honors, Penn State's eighth CoSIDA Academic All-American. Along with Griffith, Danee Collett landed on the All-District II Second Team. Akamine is the 22nd Academic All-District student-athlete from Penn State and 13th to make the first team. Akamine is now eligible for Academic All-America honors.
IOWA RECAP: A two-out, seventh-inning grounder could not be corralled as Iowa walked away with a 1-0 win over Penn State on Saturday, May 7, at Pearl Field. PSU starter Jackie Hill pitched 6.2 innings without allowing an earned run and Kasie Hatfield had a career-best perfect 3-for-3 day at the plate. Penn State used two-run, third-inning rally to down the Hawkeyes, 3-2, on Sunday. Lisa Akamine went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a double at the plate, while earning her 11th win in the circle. Kailyn Johnson choppe a grounder to third, which was mishandled as Cassidy Bell rounded third to grab Penn State's first lead of the weekend and a split. Alyssa Sovereign chipped in with an RBI double to score PSU's first run.
PURDUE RECAP: The Nittany Lion softball team overcame a three-run deficit on Saturday (Apr. 30) at Beard Field to defeat Purdue, 8-5. Penn State used a three-run third inning and a five-run fourth inning rally to cement the victory. Kailyn Johnson went 2-for-3 with two RBI and a run scored to lead the Nittany Lions. Lisa Akamine picked up the win going 4.1 innings with five strikeouts and just two hits and two runs no her ledger. Cassidy Bell scored two runs while the first six Nittany Lions in the order all tallied markers. On Sunday, Akamine shut down the powerful Boilermaker offense, but Penn State couldn't solve Purdue's Suzie Rzegocki as an odd game ended in a 0-0, eight-inning tie. The Nittany Lions and Boilers withstood a three hour, thirty-eight minute rain delay in the third inning as zeroes went across the board. Purdue had to leave Happy Valley in a hurry to catch its flight home. Akamine tallied a double to go along with her brilliant eight-inning, one-hit masterpiece where she struck out nine and walked only two. Lauren Rossi notched Penn State's only other hit, an eighth-inning single. The Nittany Lions held the speedy Boilermakers, Big Ten's leading squad in stolen bases, to just one swipe all series, a Molly Garst steal of second in the first inning on Sunday. Kasie Hatfield gunned her down trying to take third in the same inning ending Purdue's only scoring opportunity. The tie was the first in Big Ten history between conference schools.
All recaps can be found in the game notes.
MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU: Senior co-captain Desi Giordano climbed up the record books on Feb. 18 with a long bomb to left field, her first of the season and 20th in her career. The homer moved Giordano into a tie for fourth all-time at Penn State with Jen Acunto (2005-08). Giordano is just three off from matching Jennifer Tripken (1999-2002) and five from Ashley Esparza (2005-08) from third and second, respectively. PSU's all-time home run leader is Shannon Salsburg who belted 34 from 1995-98.
BIG LIFE. BIG STATE. BIG TEN NETWORK: Four Penn State softball games were televised live by the Big Ten Network in 2011. PSU's doubleheader vs. Michigan was the live TV debut of Nittany Lion Softball Park and Beard Field on Apr. 20. A third home contest was be aired May 1 against Purdue at Noon while a lone away game, vs. Iowa, was shown May 8 at 2:00 p.m. In addition to the live schedule, the Nittany Lions were apart of several BigTenNetwork.com streaming productions which are run through the Big Ten Network's Student U initiative. Many of those games are shown on the Network the following day in a tape delay fashion after their live stream.
ALL-BIG TEN RETURNEE: Junior pitcher Lisa Akamine returns to the Nittany Lions as the lone All-Big Ten honoree having claimed third-team honors in 2009 and 2010. Fellow pitcher Jackie Hill is Penn State's only NFCA All-Great Lakes mention after her second-team performance in 2008.
PSULIONSOFTBALL ON TWITTER: Nittany Lion softball is now on Twitter. Keep up to date with inside information and exclusive access @PSULionSoftball.