By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Heading into the 2013 season, head coach Robbie Wine and his staff had a lot of open spots in their lineup, but knew they had a pair of anchors in seniors Luis Montesinos and Elliot Searer to lead the charge.
To no surprise, the two captains did exactly that as they hit in the top five of the batting order throughout the season and were a pair of the most reliable offensive weapons for the Nittany Lions.
Searer and Montesinos teamed up with sophomore designated hitter J.C. Coban to lead the Lions in doubles with seven each while being three of the top four hitters in terms of average on the team.
The trio wasn't a surprise for the Nittany Lions, but the player who joined them in the top four in batting average was.
Unanimous All-Big Ten Freshman Team pick James Coates started from day one and contributed from the outset, becoming a hit machine for the Nittany Lions, especially when Big Ten play rolled around.
Coates finished the year tied for the team lead in batting average (.295) and hits (51) with Coban and led the team in runs scored (27), stolen bases (10) and on base percentage (.392).
Coates, Searer and Montesinos all played 48 or more games in 2013 and adding the impact of junior centerfielder Steve Snyder, who started all 50 games, there was consistency atop the Nittany Lions order.
Outside of those four players, a number of Nittany Lions contributed in various roles during 2013. As a team, the Nittany Lions finished the year with a.258 batting average, which Montesinos wasn't discouraged by.
Penn State had their chances to flip the script in a number of games, playing 21 games that were decided by two or fewer runs, but it was more Penn State's inability to come through offensively in close games that stood out to the senior.
"You always want more, but we wish we could have put our hits together instead of scattering them throughout the [season]," said Montesinos. "I feel like offensively we were alright, we just needed a little more in some of the games we lost by one or two runs."
However, the end of the season brought a number of positives for Penn State as they look ahead to the 2014 season.
"You have seen some of these guys start to swing the bat really well over the past few weeks," said Searer.
Montesinos agreed, especially with another freshman, third baseman Tyler Kendall, who had a hot bat to close his first season in the blue and white.
With guys like Coates, Kendall and a number of sophomores that contributed in their first two seasons, offensively, things are looking up in the coming years.
"You feel confident because [our young guys] have played a lot of baseball and have had a lot of at-bats under their belts, especially in James [Coates] and Tyler [Kendall]," said assistant coach Eric Folmar. "There's no question that we have a lot of guys coming back that should be able to lead this team next year."
For Searer, as his career came to a close, he looked at the future of Penn State baseball starting with the freshman Coates.
"I'm satisfied with the way my career ended and the other guys should be, too," said Searer. "We now pass the torch to guys like [Coates and Kendall] to turn things around the next couple years.
"I believe in these guys, they bleed blue and white and so does everyone else in that locker room. That's the Penn State culture and [the love for this university] is what's going to take us over the top."