By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State suffered a pair of hard-fought defeats at Temple on Sunday, March 17, falling 4-2 in game one and 3-2 in extra innings of game two. Despite the results, the Nittany Lions saw a marked improvement in pitching and with it, a reason to remain positive going forward.
When it comes to sports, there is a lesson in every defeat. For Penn State, falling to the Owls twice in one day was difficult to swallow. Nevertheless the coaches and players understand the importance of learning and growing from each loss and then wiping the slate clean.
"There are a lot of areas that we can improve on," said assistant coach Eric Folmar. "We just have to get back home, work on things and improve."
The weather at Skip Wilson Field was cold and damp and once again the Nittany Lions were forced to face adversity head on. After scoring first for the 11th time this season, Penn State fell behind 2-1 in the bottom half of the third inning. After the Lions responded the very next frame to tie the game at two, Temple scored a pair of insurance runs to seal the victory.
In game two, the Nittany Lions found themselves behind 2-0 before striking in the sixth and tying the game. Penn State's pitching staff kept the Owls off the scoreboard the rest of the way, but the offense could scratch a run across. In extra innings, the Owls eventually won in walk-off fashion to sweep the doubleheader.
The offense struggled to find a rhythm in both contests due in part to the poor conditions, as well as effective pitching from Temple. The Nittany Lions were uncharacteristically swinging at bad pitches and putting themselves in a hole during at bats, all factors the coaches can address and the players can improve upon.
"What we didn't see as much today as we would have liked to see was putting together a chain of quality at bats," said Folmar. "I think we swung at some balls out of the zone and got ourselves into some bad counts. Those are the main things we need to work on."
On the other side of the ball, the pitching staff held Temple to under five runs in both games. Penn State used six different pitchers during the doubleheader that threw a combined 13 scoreless innings.
The Nittany Lions saw the return of junior pitcher Greg Welsh, who missed the first 15 games with an arm injury. Welsh was a critical component of the team's bullpen in 2012 and threw four and one-third scoreless innings in game two against Temple, allowing just three hits with two strikeouts.
"Greg [Welsh] was a big positive for us today because we got a chance to get him back on the mound," said Folmar. "He's been a big part of [our bullpen] the last few years, so to get him back is a huge boost to our staff."
Welsh's return will bolster a bullpen featuring both seasoned veterans and talented freshmen. Freshman Jack Anderson, who has accumulated a 1.12 ERA with two saves over eight innings of relief, continued his lights-out play with a scoreless one and one-third innings pitched.
Though Penn State left with two defeats, the coaches saw a number of positives and will look to improve upon the lessons they took away.
"There were some things that we did well throughout the game," said Folmar. "There were certain plays, certain pitches, some good at bats that we had, so there were some positives within the game. As a whole, there are also some things we need to work on, as well."
The Nittany Lions will end their 17-game away stretch at the Pittsburgh on Tuesday before returning to Happy Valley for the home opener against Akron on Wednesday. The players are eager to play on their home turf in front of the Penn State faithful.
"I think they're really excited," said Folmar on the team playing its first home game. "Anytime you get a chance to play in front of your home crowd, it's awesome. I know our guys are looking forward to it."