Softball concludes regular season at No. 3 Michigan

April 30, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State softball team finishes the regular season this weekend in Ann Arbor, Mich. to take on the Michigan Wolverines, ranked third in the NFCA Coaches Poll. The Nittany Lions are riding a five-game win streak with an overall record of 28-24, including 9-11 in the Big Ten.

The series begins on Friday with a 5:30 p.m. game. Saturday's contest begins at 2 p.m., while the teams will play Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Nittany Lions are coming off a 2-0 mid-week win at Pitt. Last weekend, Penn State swept Rutgers. The blue and white are currently tied for seventh in the Big Ten entering the final weekend before the conference tournament.


The Nittany Lions trail the series, 56-7 against the Wolverines. This weekend, Penn State is looking to stop Michigan's 18-game win streak in the series. The Nittany Lions last earn a win in the matchup on April 23, 2006, when they swept a home doubleheader, winning 4-2 in the first game and 1-0 in the second game. The teams first met in 1992, with Michigan winning 10-0.

SCOUTING THE WOLVERINES Michigan is 45-6 overall and 18-2 in the Big Ten. The Wolverines are 11-2 at home this year. Last weekend, they swept a three-game series at Maryland, part of a 14-game win streak.

Junior infielder Sierra Romero leads the offense with a .468 average, ranking 13th in the nation. Romero is one of four Wolverines with double-digit home runs with 17, as well as Kelly Christner(17), Sierra Lawrence(12) and Kelsey Susalla(12). Christner is batting .400, while Lawrence has a .383 average. Susalla and Abby Ramirez are each hitting .366. Romero leads the team with 62 RBI.

The Wolverines' pitching staff ranks fourth in Division I with a 1.55 ERA. Sophomore right-hander Megan Betsa is 22-4 with a 1.46 ERA in 32 appearances, including 26 starts and 19 complete games. Betsa has struck out 244 batters and walked 78 in 153.2 innings. Senior left-hander Haylie Wagner is 19-2 with a 1.86 ERA, pitching in 26 games, with 21 starts and 11 complete games. Wagner has 101 strikeouts and 19 walks in 124 innings.


- With 28 wins this season, the Nittany Lions are two away from the 12th 30-win season in program history.

- On Sunday, Penn State completed a sweep over Rutgers with a 4-3 walk-off win. It was Penn State's first three-game Big Ten sweep since April 4-6, 2014 at Michigan State and their first three-game Big Ten home sweep since April 28-29, 2012 against Minnesota.

- The Nittany Lions have hit 40 in a season for the first time since 2013. They have sent 44 over the fence. Shots by Macy Jones and Alyssa VanDerveer on April 22 against St. Francis(Pa.) put Penn State over the 40 mark.

- The power trio of Alyssa VanDerveer, Kristina Brackpool and Macy Jones have accounted for 32 of Penn State's 44 home runs this season, over 72 percent. VanDerveer leads the bunch with 13 while Jones has 10 and Brackpool has hit nine. This is the first time in program history that Penn State has had two players hit 10 or more home runs in the same season. Brackpool could add a third player to that mix with her next dinger.

- Macy Jones has the unique distinction of being the leader in at least one of her team's offensive and pitching categories as she is tops in Runs (41), total bases (99) and slugging percentage (.639). She also has the lowest earned run average among the pitching staff at 3.26 and walks allowed (19).

Multiple Nittany Lions are chasing single-season records entering the final week of the regular season. Alyssa VanDerveer is currently third on the all-time single season home runs list at Penn State with 13. She is three behind Jennifer Tripken(2002) for second place and seven behind Cassidy Bell(2013) for first. With 10 dingers, Macy Jones is tied for fifth with Jen Acunto(2005). Jones, with 43 RBI, is also six away from the single season mark at Penn State, which is shared by Tripken and Nan Sichler(1988). Lexi Knief is five hits away from the single season record, held by Sichler(74), and four doubles away from the record held by Acunto and Danielle Kinley(2007). Knief is currently batting .413, which would tie her for third all-time in single season average.

With their win over Rutgers on Sunday, Penn State picked up its 11th home victory of the season. That is the most Nittany Lion home wins since Beard Field opened in 2011. The Nittany Lions have their most home wins in a season since earning 12 in 1999.

The Nittany Lions have hit an impressive seven grand slams during the 2015 season. Two came in the doubleheader sweep of Bucknell (Apr. 1) and another pair followed in the same game and the same inning no less, the top of the fourth in the series finale vs. Wisconsin (Apr. 4). Kristina Brackpool hit her second grand slam of the season in a mid-week doubleheader with Ohio State (Apr. 15). Alyssa VanDerveer hit her third slam, a first inning blast, against Maryland (Apr. 18) In all four Blue & White batters have hit HR's with the sacks jacked this season. Below is a look at the official tally, when they were hit and who against.

Player                   No. Date(s)          Against
Alyssa VanDerveer 3    Apr. 1,3,&18  BU, UW, MD
Kristina Brackpool  2    Apr. 1&15      BU & OSU
Shelby Miller          1    Apr. 4           Wisconsin
Reina Furuya         1    Apr. 4            Wisconsin

Staying with the grand slam theme, Penn State became just the sixth team in recorded Division I NCAA softball history to hit a pair of grand slams in one inning as it plated a total of nine runs in the top of the fourth during its 15-5 five inning mercy rule victory over Wisconsin, Apr. 4. Shelby Miller hit the first grannie with no one out and then Reina Furuya, who led off the inning with a double, came to the plate with just one out and already five in, in the inning and slammed another bases loaded homer to achieve the historic feat. The rare occasion has become less rare with each passing season as this is the third year in-a-row it's been accomplished, but the first time a team has done so in the fourth inning of play.

The Nittany Lions will made their debut on the Big Ten Network during the series finale vs. Maryland on Sunday, April 19. It marked the first time since the 2013 regular season finale vs. Illinois that the Blue & White were on the national network.

One could argue that Macy Jones is her team's most valuable player but there is no doubt that she is in fact Penn State's most versatile as she has starred in the field, circle and batter's box this season. Jones is the only member of the Blue & White pitching corps who yields the aluminum and she has done so quite successfully, ranking second on the team in on base percentage (.462) and first in slugging percentage (.639). Her 43 RBI is best on the squad and her 10 home runs are second to Alyssa VanDerveer(13). She also leads the pitching staff with a 3.26 ERA and has a team-low 19 walks in 18 appearances.

Junior Lexi Knief's ability to cut through opposing pitching this year has been remarkable. She leads the team in batting average (.413), hits(69), doubles (14) and triples(4). The centerfielder is slugging an impressive .545 on the season, fourth most among her teammates, and leads the team with a .470 on-base percentage.

Macy Jones is the only Nittany Lion to have started and played in all 52 games this season. She has split time in between the circle and the outfield and has even seen a little time at first base, making four starts and 14 relief appearances in the circle and 48 starts in the field. Freshmen Mollie Sorenson and Alyssa VanDerveer are the next closest iron women, as Sorenson has played in 51 of 52 total contests in 2015, with 49 starts. VanDerveer has started and played in 60 contests as either the backstop or designated player with the exception of one game at first base.

The 2015 season is looking a lot like years from the past, that's because Penn State has now officially reeled off 23 wins in a season for the first time since 2011, when it compiled a 31-24-1 record during Nittany Lion Softball Park and Beard Field's first season. With its series win vs. Wisconsin, Amanda Lehotak's squad reached 20 wins in a season for the 26th time in program history. With their win on Friday against Rutgers, Penn State reached the 25-win mark for the 17th time in program history and the first time since 2011.

Although it's been a while since head coach Amanda Lehotak was a sophomore playing at Ole' Miss, she enters her sophomore season on the bench as the leader of the PSU program. In her first season the Lions went 14-35 with a 5-18 B1G mark. Here's a look at how second year coaches have fared at Penn State over the years.
Coach                 Year  Rec.    Pct.
Pat McTarsney     1966 2-2     .500
Pat McTarsney     1975 8-7     .533
Sue Rankin         1983 25-13  .658
Robin Petrini       1998 21-28-1.430
Amanda Lehotak 2015 28-24   .538
* Pat McTarsney returned to coaching after a one year hiatus in 1973

2015 brings with it a new year but also some new names and numbers to the program. This season a half-dozen freshman litter the Lion lineup and roster as Jessica Cummings (#1), Mia Monopoli (#13), Rebecca Ziegler (#15), Gianna Arrizurieta (#21), Mollie Sorenson (#22) and Alyssa VanDerveer will all call Happy Valley home for the first time. Junior transfer Erin Pond (#2) also makes her debut in the Blue and White.

Penn State's 2015 schedule is a challenging one, with 56 games on the slate against opponents in conferences such as the SEC, ACC and the Big 12. The Lions will take on a total of four teams (Michigan, Georgia, Texas A&M and Missouri in the Pre-Season Top 25 as well as another four (Wisconsin, Mississippi State, James Madison, Northwestern) who are receiving votes in both the USA Today/NFCA and the ESPN/ USA Softball Top 25 polls.

This season the Lions boast a total of 18 players from states other than the Commonwealth. Two from Hawaii, one from Washington and five from California dot the western edge of the States, while four from N.Y. and N.J. join other ones from Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and Florida to make-up the eastern part of the country. Three Pennsylvanians (Marlaina Laubach, Christy Von Pusch and Mary Ward) bring some instate pride to the program while, one from Arizona and another from Texas add unique flair to an already diverse group.

Penn State softball is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015, making it the oldest program among the schools in the power five conferences (ACC, B1G, Big 12, Pac- 12, SEC). The Lions started up in 1965 under head coach Pat McTarsney and went 2-2 in their first season with wins against Elizabethtown and Wilson colleges. PSU defeated both in-state schools by a combined 46-4 score. The second oldest program among the power five is Arizona State, which began play just two years later in 1967.

Last Updated April 30, 2015