Softball hosts Illini in final regular season series

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State softball closes out the 2014 regular season this weekend with a three-game series vs. Illinois.

The Nittany Lions and the Fighting Illini open the series at 6 p.m. on Friday and return to the field on Saturday at 3 p.m. for game two before closing the series on Sunday in a 10:30 a.m. matchup. All three games will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network.

PROMOS
The Blue and White open the series vs. the Illini on Military Appreciation Day. The Nittany Lions will be giving away camouflage silicone bracelets, while supplies last. Friday will also be Glory Day for all students in attendance. A part of the new "We Are" student rewards program, Glory Day will be an opportunity for students to earn three points at one event.

Penn State will honor its three seniors at the penultimate home game of the 2014 campaign. The second game vs. the Fighting Illini will also be the Pitch for Pink game. Fans in attendance will receive Senior Class trading cards and pink silicone bracelets, while supplies last. All fans are encouraged to wear pink to the ballpark in honor of the fight against breast cancer.

ON DECK
The Nittany Lions head into the post-season next week, traveling to Evanston, Ill. for the Big Ten Tournament from May 8-11. The tournament will feature all 12 teams from the conference. Seeds and matchups will be announced after Sunday’s slate of games.

SERIES HISTORY vs. ILLINOIS
The Nittany Lions are 12-18 in the all-time series vs. Illinois. PSU is 6-6 against the Fighting Illini in University Park with its last home win coming in a 13-0 five-inning decision on April 5, 2008.

Penn State did not face Illinois in the regular season last year but upset the No. 6 seed Illini in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, taking a 5-2 victory. Former Lion standout Cassidy Bell led the charge for PSU, posting a 3-for-3 effort with a double, a home run and three runs scored.

EYEING THE ILLINI
Illinois enters the weekend at 20-25 overall and 4-16 in Big Ten play. The Illini registered a major upset over No. 4 Michigan last weekend, defeating the Wolverines 10-2 in six innings in the series opener.

Senior Alex Booker has set the pace for the Illinois offense. Booker leads the team in hits and RBI with 55 and 24, respectively, and is hitting at a .372 clip.

The Illini pitching staff has combined for 148 strikeouts this season and owns an ERA of 3.75. Freshman Brandi Needham leads the squad with an ERA of 2.98 through 166.2 innings. Needham has struck out 88 opponents and has collected 14 of Illinois’ wins.

LAST TIME OUT
The Nittany Lions were swept by No. 12 Minnesota in a three-game series last weekend. Penn State was edged by the Golden Gophers in the series opener by a score of 1-0. The Lions wrapped up the series with a doubleheader on Saturday, dropping both contests in five innings, 9-0 and 16-2, respectively.

Pitcher Marlaina Laubach gave a stellar performance in the opener, going six innings without allowing an earned run while giving up just four hits and one walk.

TRIPLES CROWN
The Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in triples with 15 on the year. PSU has registered one more than the No. 2 team, Northwestern, and six more than the next two teams.

The Lions trailed the Wildcats until posting five triples in the doubleheader vs. Bucknell (4/16).

Lexi Knief has set the pace for Penn State, turning in six triples thus far. She needs just one more to enter the Penn State single season record books.

MAKING CONTACT
Sophomore Lexi Knief is the top hitter for PSU through 45 outings. The outfielder is 55-for-142 at the plate for a team-best batting average of .387 and has scored a team-high 37 runs. She leads the league and ranks third in the nation in triples with six and has also posted six doubles on the year. She needs just one more triple to enter the PSU single season record books.

DOUBLING UP
Senior Kasie Hatfield continues to move up in the Penn State record books for single-season doubles. Hatfield 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 currently 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 3.39 through 128 innings. She has thrown 67 strikeouts on the season, including a season-high six vs. FAU (2/21), MSU (4/4) and Bucknell (4/16).

Laubach gave one of her best performances of the season in the series opener at No. 12 Minnesota, holding the Golden Gophers to just four hits while not allowing any earned runs through six innings.

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Last Updated May 02, 2014