Pulling into State College fresh off a 9-8 win over Iowa State and a 10-2 loss to North Carolina at this weekend’s Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., Penn State had traveled nearly 5,000 miles in just more than a week.
As dubious local winter weather patterns continue to render Beard Field a no-play zone, the Nittany Lions must balance being both students and athletes while traveling across the United States.
For the team’s veterans, this is a familiar task.
“It’s tough,” senior first baseman Kailyn Johnson said. “But we don’t know anything different. We’ve always been on the road [to start].”
Fellow senior and center fielder Cassidy Bell agreed the schedule was not an obstacle.
“Getting school work done during season is easier because we have a lot more down time,” Bell said.
That down time comes in the form of flights and long bus rides, the Bakersfield, Calif. native added. This weekend, the cancellation of Saturday’s doubleheader due to North Carolina’s own inclement weather made for even more down time.
Bell’s play on the field hasn’t shown any signs of jet lag either. After earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors following the season’s opening weekend in Las Cruces, N.M., Bell batted in six of the team’s nine runs in Sunday’s victory over Iowa State, including a two-run home run and a grand slam.
Picking up the win in the Iowa State contest was freshman outfielder and pitcher Macy Jones. Helping her own cause, Jones has nine RBI on the season, while earning the win in each of the Lions’ three victories.
Jones took no time at all adjusting to Division I softball, but finding time to study and complete homework assignments has been a work in progress.
“It was tough at the beginning, but I’m getting used to it,” Jones said. “You just have to stay on task and not procrastinate.”
There’s tons more softball to play and even more miles to travel between now and the Lions’ first home game on March 29. But, the home opener at Beard Field will be a relaxing homecoming for the road-weary team.
“You sleep in your own bed. The routine is a lot easier. They’re more relaxed at home,” Penn State coach Robin Petrini said.
In her 17th season at the helm of the team, Petrini is as experienced as anyone when it comes to the nomadic winter months on the schedule of a cold-weather school playing a warm-weather sport — she doesn’t think much of them.
“It’s what we do,” Petrini said.