UNIVERSITY PARK — Amanda Lehotak hasn’t finished unpacking yet.
Though the first-year Penn State softball coach is still trying to get settled at home, she’s already comfortable working with her players.
“Coming to work in Penn State, we feel completely settled,” Lehotak said. “I feel at home. I love coming to work everyday, and I haven’t had a bad day yet.”
Lehotak spent the last two seasons as the head coach at Texas-San Antonio, leading the Roadrunners to a 27-26 record in 2013. She was also the head coach at Jacksonville University for five years. Lehotak was hired in July to replace Robin Petrini, who resigned in June after going 489-437-2 in 17 years as Penn State’s head coach. The Lions went 16-34 last season.
Penn State opened this season at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz., last weekend. The Lions went 3-2, picking up wins against Appalachian State, Bradley and Seattle University and losing to Oregon State and Arizona State.
PSU will travel to Baton Rouge, La., to play five games in the Tiger Invitational this weekend.
Senior Alyssa Sovereign finished the opening weekend with a .444 batting average to lead PSU. Teammates Reina Furuya and Lexi Knief are hitting .429 and .412, respectively. As a team, the Lions hit .329, a hot start for the program after batting .261 last season.
“I feel like we’re a lot more confident up at the plate,” Knief said. “And we’ve been really working on just staying calm and just staying in sequence and it’s definitely showed in our offense because our offense is really hot right now.”
In the circle, Penn State returns its top pitcher in Macy Jones and adds depth with freshman Marlaina Laubach and junior Marissa Diescher, who is returning from shoulder surgery, Lehotak said.
Jones went 13-17 with a 3.84 ERA in 36 appearances last season. She started two games and pitched in three last weekend in Arizona, going 0-1 with a 10.50 ERA. Diescher, who pitched in 17 games in 2013, earned a win and a save in 62/3 innings on the weekend.
Laubach, the freshman from Northampton, Pa., threw 10 innings and allowed two runs to earn two wins. Laubach pitched a complete game to help Penn State beat Seattle 6-1 in its final game of the tournament on Sunday.
“For Marlaina to come out as a freshman and get two wins right away, it relieves a lot of pressure and stress I think from our returners,” Lehotak said. “Whenever you have an arm and different looks that you can provide to an offense, especially when we enter a conference tournament, you know, advantage Penn State softball.”
Lehotak said she plans to use those three pitchers along with Christy Von Pusch, mixing up the rotation based on matchups.
Knief said Lehotak has emphasized playing with confidence since taking over, which she felt translated to the Lions’ opening weekend.
The coach said she was excited to get started. And her players are excited about Lehotak’s coaching style.
“We know how to play,” Sovereign said. “So she’s here to guide us really and I think that’s the major thing. Maybe before it wasn’t so much that way, it was more telling us what to do even though we’ve played forever.”