Penn State Softball Gears Up For Return To Big Ten Tournament
After a season where it nearly tripled its win count from the year before, Penn State softball (24-31, 7-16 Big Ten) is back in the Big Ten tournament.
The No. 10 seed will face off with No. 7-seeded Indiana, which is hosting the tournament, on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. The Nittany Lions missed out on the 12-team tournament last year after finishing 13th in the conference with a 5-18 conference record.
Penn State only has two more wins in Big Ten play than it had last year, but the team just looked more competitive overall and had the chance to win more than its seven-win total this season between late blown leads and several games that just didn’t go its way.
A big part of that change lies with the freshmen class, which accounts for the top two pitchers in innings pitched and ERA, as well as four usual starters in the batting order.
If Penn State is going to have success in Bloomington this weekend, it might come down to freshman pitcher Bailey Parshall. She has racked up 166.1 innings pitched, more than double any other pitcher on the Nittany Lion staff, and has a team second-best ERA of 3.11 in her 44 appearances.
In this past weekend’s series, which was also against Indiana, Parshall pitched two complete games and gave up just two earned runs in that effort, earning a shutout win to close out the series.
“I thought [Parshall’s] change up was phenomenal. It’s the best it’s been all year and something she’s been working on since the fall,” Penn State head coach Amanda Lehotak said after the series. “And then she was just able to hit her spots. She was really attacking the zone and she didn’t miss many pitches — she maybe missed two or three. And she was just kind of on.”
When it hits the postseason in softball, it’s not uncommon to see a pitcher throw consecutive games if they’re successful. The last time Penn State made the Big Ten tournament in 2017, senior starter Marlaina Laubach pitched back-to-back complete games in a two-day span, giving up just six hits and two earned runs in total during that slate.
Parshall said she hasn’t had to pitch much in back-to-back games, but thinks the team’s depth at the position — which includes two others with an ERA below four, freshman Kylee Lingenfelter (3.04 ERA) and senior Madison Shaffer (3.93 ERA) — will be a key asset for the team to make a run.
“We did it at spring break but obviously I’ve never had to pitch two games back-to-back, so it’s nice to have a big staff that we have that other teams don’t have,” Parshall said.
While the Nittany Lions were solid in the pitching circle over the weekend against the Hoosiers, Indiana senior Tara Trainer, who pitched more than 13 innings across the three-game set, kept the Nittany Lions off balance most of the way.
Aside from her final inning when she allowed two runs off four walks and an error, she kept the Nittany Lions off the board and conceded just five hits, picking up two wins in the process. Trainer, who boasts a Big Ten third-best 1.79 ERA and has wins over ranked opponents Georgia and LSU, will likely be the starter again against the Nittany Lions on Thursday.
“You know their sequencing and you know what you’re going to get, so you have to be prepared and when you get your pitch you have to capitalize on it,” senior batting average and home run leader Toni Polk said about adjustments the Nittany Lions can make against the Hoosiers.
Should Penn State prevail against Indiana, it would face No. 18 Northwestern, the Big Ten tournament second seeds, in the quarterfinals at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. From there, the semifinals and championship game are on Saturday. All Big Ten tournament games air live on the Big Ten Network.
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