UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State softball continues its tournament slate this weekend with a trip to James Madison for the JMU Invitational. The Nittany Lions look to get back on track after dropping five contests at the Florida Atlantic Invitational last weekend.
Penn State opens the tournament on Saturday with a matchup against Kent State at 10 a.m. before facing Dartmouth at noon. The Lions go up against Fairfield in their third game of the weekend at 2 p.m. on Sunday and close out the slate with a contest against JMU at 4 p.m.
TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE Sat. 10 a.m. vs. Kent State Sat. 12 p.m. vs. Dartmouth Sun. 2 p.m. vs. Fairfield Sun. 4 p.m. vs. James Madison
LAST TIME OUT The Nittany Lions struggled in the third tournament of the season at Florida Atlantic, dropping all five contests of the weekend. No. 5 Kentucky overpowered the Lions 5-0 in the tournament opener and 8-1 in the final contest of the weekend while FAU edged Penn State by a count of 3-2 twice and Pitt dropped the Blue and White in a 3-1 decision.
IN THE ZONE Sophomore Lexi Knief is the top hitter for the Nittany Lions so far this season, having recorded a team-high 17 hits on 43 at-bats for a .395 clip. She has totaled four RBIs, a team-best 13 runs and has two doubles and a triple to her name.
The center fielder has already surpassed her total of 11 runs from last season.
FORCE OF THE FROSH Freshman Shelby Miller has proven to be a key player for the Lions both offensively and defensively. The Sugar Land, Texas native owns a team-best batting average of .429 with a 9-for-21 mark at the plate. She has earned nine starts in right field in her rookie campaign.
LAU OF THE LAND Freshman pitcher Marlaina Laubach has taken over in the circle for Penn State, earning wins in four of PSU’s five victories, including a signature win over No. 21 LSU.
The Northampton, Pa. native has a team-best ERA of 2.93 through 40.2 innings. She has thrown 22 strikeouts on the season, including a season-high six in last weekend’s game vs. FAU (2/21).
DOUBLING UP Senior Kasie Hatfield is currently second in the league in doubles, having already notched six this season. The Tampa, Fla. native is on pace to surpass her previous season-best of eight doubles from 2012.
CASING KENT STATE The Golden Flashes enter the weekend at 6-4 on the season. KSU went 2-3 in last weekend’s FAU Invitational but earned a huge win over No. 5 Kentucky and took No. 7 Michigan to nine innings before falling in a 1-0 decision.
Sophomore Shelby Tilton leads the Flashes at the plate with 11 hits on 28 at-bats for an average of .393. Tilton has driven in six runs while scoring once for KSU.
Senior Lauren McNeil and junior Emma Johnson have set the pace for the Golden Flash pitching staff this season, turning in ERAs of 1.20 and 2.26, respectively. McNeil has pitched 11.2 innings with five strikeouts while Johnson has struck out 31 opponents in 34 innings.
DISSECTING DARTMOUTH The Big Green are 0-5 coming into this weekend’s tournament after dropping each of ther contests at the Florida International Tournament last week.
Dartmouth is led by sophomore Kelsey Miller and junior Kristen Rumley. Miller is 6-for-17 at the dish with two runs and two RBIs. Rumley leads the charge in the circle for DU with an ERA of 3.50 through 18 innings and has registered 17 K’s.
STAKING OUT THE STAGS Fairfield enters the weekend with a 1-3 mark this season. The stags earned a 2-1 victory over Marshall while falling to Northern Illinois, East Carolina and No. 17 Georgia in their opening weekend.
Junior Sammy Ruffalo is hitting at a remarkable .643 clip for FU with nine hits in 14 at-bats. Ruffalo has driven in two runs while scoring one.
Rebecca Trott leads the Stags on the rubber with a 4.26 ERA. The senior has posted seven strikeouts in 6.1 innings, giving up 11 hits and four walks.
THE DUKES DOPPLER James Madison is sitting at 8-7 heading into the weekend and most recently earned wins over DePaul, No. 20 Louisiana-Lafayette and Rutgers in the NFCA Leadoff Classic.
Hannah Hayes has led the charge for JMU thus far and owns a batting average of .459 with a 17-for-37 mark at the plate. The sophomore has registered seven runs and four RBIs for the Dukes this season.
Jailyn Ford is setting the pace for James Madison in the circle and has earned five wins for the Dukes. Ford has thrown out 57 K’s in 57.2 innings.
FIERCE COMPETITION Six of Penn State’s 2014 opponents are listed in the current USA Today/NFCA poll, including No. 6 Michigan. Other opponents include Arizona State (No. 3), Kentucky (No. 8), Baylor (No. 12), LSU (No. 22) and Minnesota (No. 19) while Northwestern has received votes. All seven of the programs are also represented in the current ESPN.com/USA Softball rankings.
BRING IT HOME The Nittany Lions open the 2014 season with a 24-game road swing. The home opener will double as the Big Ten opener as Penn State is set to host Purdue for its first game at Nittany Lion Softball Park and Beard Field in on Friday, March 21. The first pitch is set for 6 p.m.