Softball opens 2013 in New Mexico

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State softball travels to Las Cruces, N.M., to open the 2013 slate at the Troy Cox Classic hosted by New Mexico State. The Nittany Lions will face four opponents in five games over the weekend, including Colorado State, New Mexico State, Texas Tech and Missouri-Kansas City.

The Lions begin the three-day trip with a 1:30 p.m. ET showdown with the Rams Friday.

SCHEDULE
Fri., 1:30 p.m. vs. Colorado State - GameTracker
Fri., 8 p.m. vs. New Mexico State - GameTracker
Sat., 1:30 p.m. vs. Texas Tech - GameTracker
Sat., 4 p.m. vs. New Mexico State - GameTracker
Sun., 11 a.m. vs. Missouri-Kansas City - GameTracker

ON THE HORIZON
Following the Troy Cox Classic, Penn State continues the season with a trip to Chapel Hill, N.C., for North Carolina’s Carolina Classic. The two-day tournament includes squads from George Washington, North Dakota State, Iona and the hosting Tarheels.

The Nittany Lions kick off the March slate at the Citrus Classic in Orlando, Fla., March 2-3 before moving across the state to the Under Armour Showcase in Tampa, Fla., from March 8-10. The team will play 11 games over that nine-day span in the Sunshine State.

YOUR 2013 NITTANY LION SQUAD
The 2013 Penn State softball team has set its aims on returning to the NCAA tournament after missing postseason play following the 2012 campaign. The Nittany Lions are not short on leadership or experience this year, boasting a six-player senior class spread across the field while totaling 10 upperclassmen.

In the outfield, seniors Shannon Hutchinson and Cassidy Bell are joined once again by junior Alyssa Sovereign. The trio combined for 88 hits last season, powered by Bell’s record-breaking efforts. Bell posted a program-record .423 batting average while producing 41 hits, 23 runs and 20 RBI and a .784 slugging percentage on the way to first-team All-Big Ten and first-team NFCA All-Great Lakes honors. The group also combined to post 13 stolen bases on 14 attempts.

A trio of seniors returns in the infield as well with Kailyn Johnson at first base, Lauren Yao at second and Alyssa Renwick continuing at shortstop. All three finished in the Top 5 of batting average in 2012, led by Renwick at .282. Johnson ended the season third in on-base percentage, reaching safely at a .353 clip thanks to a team-best 26 walks. Juniors Liz Presto and Kasie Hatfield look to open strong junior seasons this weekend. Hatfield secured a spot on the All-Big Ten second team last year after leading the team with 26 RBI while playing behind the plate and at third. Senior Rachel Myers is back as a utility player for the squad after playing in 22 games and scoring six runs last season.

Marissa Diescher and Jordan Wheatley return to take over in the circle for the Nittany Lions. Diescher, a sophomore, spun 78.2 innings in 22 appearances in her first collegiate season and finished with a 5-9 record. Wheatley, now in her third season, contributed 63.2 innings with a 4.73 ERA in 19 appearances in 2012.

CAPTAIN BY COMMITTEE
With an abundance of leadership on the 2013 team, each senior on the Nittany Lion squad will captain a different aspect of the program this season. Bell is the gameday captain, while Hutchinson and Renwick lead practice and travel duties, respectively. Yao and Myers serve as dugout leaders and Johnson is the team’s off-field captain.

YOUTH MOVEMENT
The squad features an eight-player freshman class, one of the biggest in Petrini’s tenure at Penn State. The group is a truly coast-to-coast group and their added depth contributes across the field. The freshmen represent six states including California (Abeyta, Habitz), Hawaii (Furuya, Tupinio), New Jersey (Knief), New York (Good), Pennsylvania (Von Pusch) and Virginia (Jones). Christy Von Pusch and Macy Jones will help the Nittany Lions in the pitching department while the remaining six rookies have the ability to play at every position, including Karlie Habitz behind the plate.

A LOOK AT THE RAMS
Colorado State (2-3, 0-0 MWC) opened its 2013 season with a 2-3 effort at the Red Desert Classic in St. George, Utah, grabbing wins against BYU and Utah State and dropping contests with Loyola Marymount, Arkansas and Oklahoma State. Head coach Jen Fisher’s Rams are led by three seniors and eight juniors. Senior Brianna Donahue led the team with a .375 batting average over the first weekend while classmate Kacie McCarthy held opponents to just six hits over 15 innings of work to nab a 1.87 ERA in a pair of complete-game starts.

Colorado State finished 29-22 (8-4 MWC) a season ago in Fisher’s second campaign as head coach. McCarthy recorded a 17-8 ledger in the circle for the Rams, boasting a 2.86 ERA over 151.2 innings. Junior Ashlie Ortega paced the team by batting .357 while third-year infielder Chelsea Biglow led the team with 45 RBI.

PREVIEWING THE AGGIES
New Mexico State (4-1, 0-0 WAC) is hosting its second tournament of the young season after welcoming a host of teams to the Hotel Encanto Invitational during opening weekend. The Aggies, led by 10th-year head coach Kathy Rodolph, dropped their opener against Nebraska before tallying four-consecutive wins against Illinois-Chicago, in-state rival New Mexico and Texas-El Paso (UTEP).

Sophomore Kelsey Dodd and senior Amber Olive impressed offensively over the weekend, combining for 13 hits in 23 at-bats while second-year outfielder Staci Rodriguez pushed seven runners across the plate. Senior Alex Newman fired 10.2 innings from the rubber, allowing just a 1.31 ERA to earn a 2-1 start. Junior Celisha Walker and rookie Makayla McAdams threw 4.2 and 2.2 innings of scoreless work, respectively.

The Aggies battled to a 24-29 finish in 2012, including a 5-16 effort in the WAC.

RED RAIDERS AT A GLIMPSE
Texas Tech (3-2, 0-0 Big 12) is coming off a 3-2 effort at the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas, Nev., last weekend. The Red Raiders downed Central Florida, Minnesota and UNLV while falling to Louisville and DePaul. The squad boasted six hitters averaging .300 or better through the first five games, including a .533 mark for senior Mikey Kenney and .500 for freshman Lexie Elkins. Senior Adriana Perez homered three times while Kenney added a pair of home runs. Junior Brittany Talley and sophomore Cara Custer handled the bulk of the load from the circle, throwing 13.2 and 12.1 innings, respectively.

Fourth-year head coach Shanon Hays’ Red Raider squad looks to return to the NCAA tournament again in 2013 after finishing fifth in the Big 12 and reaching the NCAA Seattle Regional with a 41-17 (13-10 Big 12) record last season. Tech returns four starters from that group while welcoming 11 new faces.

SCOUTING THE KANGAROOS
Missouri-Kansas City (3-1, 0-0 Summit) traveled to Spartanburg, S.C., to open the 2013 season at the Upstate Classic. The Kangaroos picked up wins against Western Carolina, North Carolina Central and Maine by a combined score of 23-5 while dropping a 7-1 decision to South Carolina Upstate.

Led by seventh-year skipper Meredith Smith, UMKC benefited from a seven-hit performance from freshman Liz Broyles, who also slugged .909 during the four-game tournament. Senior hurler Deanna Friese turned in a pair of solid starts for the ‘Roos, striking out 20 over 17 innings to finish 2-0 with a 2.65 ERA. Last season UMKC posted a 27-30 (13-11 Summit) record and reached the semifinals of the Summit tournament before ending its year.

A HISTORY LESSON
Penn State is a combined 6-6 against the four tournament opponents this weekend. The Nittany Lions hold winning records against the Red Raiders (2-1) and Kangaroos (1-0), while trailing the Rams (2-3) and Aggies (1-2).

Penn State last met Colorado State on the diamond in 2010, as PSU grinded out a 9-8 win in eight innings. The Blue and White captured a 4-0 victory in their lone contest with UMKC in 2006. The Lions dropped their most recent meetings with Texas Tech and New Mexico State in 2001 and 2010, respectively.

The trip will be the fourth to New Mexico for Penn State after making the trek in 1999, 2000 and 2010. Most recently, the team posted a 3-2 record at the Hotel Encanto Invitational in 2010, picking up wins against UTEP, Colorado State and Texas-San Antonio.

PRESEASON ACCOLADES
Senior Cassidy Bell earned a spot on the 2013 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year Watch list, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced Feb. 1. Bell is the first Nittany Lion to make the preseason Top 50 list.

In addition, Bell and junior Kasie Hatfield were named to the preseason All-Big Ten first-team list by College Sports Madness.

HOMEWARD BOUND
The Nittany Lions will play their first 28 games on the road before finally opening play at Beard Field at Nittany Lion Softball Park for a series against Michigan from March 29-31. The squad then hosts Saint Francis (PA), Purdue, Northwestern, Kent State and Nebraska for a 14-game home slate.

FUTURE OF THE NITTANY LIONS
Four student-athletes will join the Penn State softball program as freshmen in the 2013-14 academic year, head coach Robin Petrini announced Dec. 17. The recruiting class hails from around the country with Kristina Brackpool (Santa Clarita, Calif.) and Samantha Shanahan (Seattle, Wash.) hailing from the West, Shelby Miller (Fort Bend, Texas) traveling from the South and Mary Ward (Greencastle, Pa.) the lone Pennsylvania native.

CHASING HISTORY
Multiple Nittany Lions will have opportunities to leave their names in the program career record book when the season is finished. Cassidy Bell is currently 10th in batting average (.330), 11th in doubles (28), sixth in home runs (17), 13th in total bases (238), 11th in walks (56) and 15th in runs (86), while approaching the charts in at-bats, hits, RBI and stolen bases. Kailyn Johnson ranks sixth all-time in walks (75) and is within striking distance of at-bats, hits, home runs, total bases and RBI.

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Last Updated February 14, 2013