By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Earlier this year "struggling" would have been a very accurate word to help describe the Penn State baseball season. Lately however, they have been anything but.
Following a 3-14 start to the season things were looking bleak in Happy Valley. But, fortunately for Nittany Lion fans no one told the team, and especially the seniors, that they were supposed to go down that way.
Since that 3-14 start the team has been rolling, going 24-10 to bring its overall record to 27-24, good for a tie for second place in the conference.
The latest victim for the Nittany Lions was the Illinois Fighting Illini, who Penn State took down in a huge three game series this past weekend, winning all three games at home.
Not only was the three game sweep special for the Nittany Lions in the standings, it had even more meaning for the seniors, as it was their final home series, including Senior Day Sunday afternoon.
For head coach Robbie Wine the struggles early on helped the team get to where they are now.
"When you struggle early in the year you have to re-evaluate things," Wine said. "The credit goes to the guys for making the adjustments and committing to the plan and sticking with it."
Making adjustments were huge all weekend for the Lions vs. Illinois as they fell behind first in two of the three home games.
While Friday the Lions kept a lead or tie the whole game, resulting in a 3-2 win, the rest of the weekend was not as easy.
Saturday turned into a slugfest, with the Penn State seniors, particularly in the top of the lineup, shining through.
After falling behind 3-0 in the first the Lions used four home runs by three seniors (two from Sean Deegan, one from Jordan Steranka, and one from Joey DeBernardis) to win a back and forth 8-6 ball game. With all eight runs coming from those homers and that senior class.
Sunday the senior moments continued on Senior Day as Steranka went 3-4 (and broke the Penn State total bases record) with Deegan and DeBernardis each banging in a hit and RBI.
For those seniors this
weekend was truly a special one.
"It's been huge, it's kind of surreal right now, hasn't really set in yet," said Steranka on the senior weekend. "These last three games Sean (Deegan) has played two great games, DeBo (DeBernardis) stepped up big-time, overall this team got behind us, supported us and we got the sweep."
"To go out sweeping a team my last home series, it's amazing," said DeBernardis. Who also added just how much an honor this whole weekend experience, and playing for this program the last four years has been for him.
For Coach Wine this senior group has been a special one in many ways.
"This senior class has been awesome on and off the field," Wine said. "It's something where I don't have to worry about these guys, they take care of their business in the classroom, they come to practice, and they work hard."
That hard work will have to continue for the Lions to make a run in the rest of the season and the Big Ten tournament, but it is something they are confident they will be able to do.
The team has won five straight Big Ten series, and they are not looking to stop now.
"Right now we think we can beat anybody," said Deegan following the sweep. "And that's exactly how you want to feel."