Softball set to kick off Big Ten slate with home opener vs. Purdue

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- After five grueling weeks on road, the Penn State softball team is back to Happy Valley for its home opener vs. Purdue this weekend. The Nittany Lions will host the Boilermakers for a three-game series on Friday and Saturday in the opening weekend of Big Ten play.

First pitch on Friday is set for 6 p.m. Penn State and Purdue were originally set to play one game on Sunday but due to impending inclement weather, the game has been moved to Saturday and will count as the second half of a twin bill. The teams will take the field at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. for the doubleheader on Saturday.

SERIES SCHEDULE
Friday - 6 p.m.
Saturday - 3 p.m.
Saturday - 5 p.m.

PROMOS
Penn State softball will be offering several promos in this weekend’s games, starting with a rally towel and poster giveaway on Friday, while supplies last. Fans will also have a chance to receive giveaways during the game with promos such as the Dominos Double Play Inning, PSU Bookstore Home Run Inning, Uncle Chen’s Challenge and McDonald’s Strike Out the Side contests. Those in attendance will be encouraged to create signs for Saturday’s games at the Create-A-Sign station located at the entrance to the park. There will also be an autograph sessions with the Penn State softball players and coaches following Saturday’s games.

PARKING
Parking for all Penn State softball events is free. Fans will be permitted to park to the Orange B lots located just west and south of the ballpark. Should the two Orange B lots become full; fans will also be permitted to park in Lot 82, which is adjacent to the parking lot at Nittany Lion Softball Park.

SERIES HISTORY
The Nittany Lions are 23-21-1 against the Boilermakers all-time. Penn State split the last two decisions with Purdue, earning an 8-4 victory in the opening game of a doubleheader on April 17, 2013 before falling 12-3 in the second game. Penn State has won just four of the last 16 contests against the Boilermakers.

BREAKING DOWN THE BOILERMAKERS
Purdue enters the weekend at 13-16-1 overall and has won three consecutive games. The Boilermakers most recently defeated Central Florida, 2-1, on Tuesday afternoon. They went 4-2 at the Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament, taking wins over Central Michigan (2-0), Quinnipiac (10-2), Long Island (3-2) and Green Bay (5-0) while falling to No. 12 Baylor (5-4) and Bryant (6-4). PU is led offensively by outfielder Andie Varsho, who is hitting at a .449 clip with 19 runs, seven doubles and 14 stolen bases.

The Purdue pitching staff has combined for 173 strikeouts in 195 innings, the second most in the Big Ten. Sophomore Lilly Fecho (10-8) has led the charge, doling out 119 strikeouts in 111 innings on the rubber and has 16 complete games under her belt.

LIDLIFTERS
The Blue and White are 8-14 all-time in Big Ten openers and 31-16 all-time in home openers, including a 1-2 mark at Nittany Lion Softball Park. Penn State’s last home-opening victory came in the inaugural game at Nittany Lion Softball Park as the Lions defeated Wisconsin, 8-5 on March 26, 2011. PSU has fallen to Michigan (7-4) and Pitt (7-2) in its last two home openers. The win against the Badgers also counts as the last time the Lions kicked off the conference season with a victory.

LAST TIME OUT
The Nittany Lions are coming off a five-game swing at the Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament, which was held in Clearwater, Fla. PSU faced future Big Ten foe Rutgers, Central Connecticut State, Wagner, Yale and No. 12 Baylor over the three-day span, posting a 1-4 record. The Blue and White’s lone win of the weekend was a 5-0 decision over Yale, which broke a 10-game losing streak and marked the Lions’ first shutout of the 2014 campaign. Sophomore pitcher Christy Von Pusch threw all seven innings in her first collegiate victory while sophomore Macy Jones led the Nittany Lion offense with a two-run home run and a triple.

MAKING CONTACT
Sophomore Lexi Knief is off to a great start in 2014. The outfielder is 24-for-63 at the plate for a Big Ten-12th best batting average of .381 and has scored a team-best 19 runs. She is tied for first in the league and 20th in the nation in triples with three and has posted two doubles on the year. The Ramsey, N.J. product ranks eighth in the B1G with an on-base percentage of .480.

LAU OF THE LAND
Freshman pitcher Marlaina Laubach has taken over in the circle for Penn State, earning wins in four of PSU’s six victories, including a signature win over No. 21 LSU. The Northampton, Pa. native has a team-best ERA of 2.80 through 55.0 innings. She has thrown 33 strikeouts on the season, including a season-high six vs. FAU (2/21).

FORMING GOOD HABITZ
Sophomore Karlie Habitz has come out of the gate swinging, literally. The Newhall, Calif. native leads the Lions and is eighth in the conference with 19 RBIs. The catcher, who is hitting at a .322 clip, drove in three runs last weekend at the Michele Smith Spring Break Tournament, going 6-for-15 at the plate with a home run and a double.

Habitz posted six runs in the season opener vs. Oregon State (2/7), a mark that ties for the second most in program history.

SWINGING FOR THE FENCES
Sophomore Macy Jones has been a spark plug for the Penn State offense this season. Jones leads the Lions with a slugging percentage of .589 on three home runs, two doubles and a single. The Ashburn, Va. product owns a batting average of .339 and leads the squad in total bases with 33.

DOUBLING UP
Senior Kasie Hatfield is currently tied for fifth in the league in doubles, having already notched seven this season. The Tampa, Fla. native is on pace to surpass her previous season-best of eight doubles from 2012.

ON DECK
Penn State continues its eight-game homestand next weekend with a three-game series vs. No. 6 Michigan. The Nittany Lions open the series against the Wolverines on Friday and follow with games on Saturday and Sunday. First pitch on Friday is set for 6 p.m. at Nittany Lion Softball Park and Beard Field. 

Contacts: 
Last Updated March 28, 2014