By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most successful teams in baseball have a lethal three-four punch in the middle of their lineup. One that blasts homeruns and sprays doubles across the field. Since day one at Penn State, first year head coach Rob Cooper has stressed he doesn't want exactly that, just a few guys that can get simple and timely hits. It's safe to say midway through the season, Penn State has that.
Designated hitter Greg Guers and first basemen JJ White have become that very reliable and consistent three-four duo in the Nittany Lion lineup. They enter this weekend's three game series at Ohio State hitting a combined 17-for-54 with 12 RBI since March 28. In those seven games, Penn State is 6-1 and off to a 4-1 start in Big Ten play.
During that stretch, they have posted just one three-hit game and neither player has hit a homerun. It's been singles up the middle or knocks into the gaps scoring the table setters - James Coates and Steve Snyder. It's just simple and easy.
"We're just trying to do what's best for the team so if we need a single that's all we are trying to do," White said. "We're just trying to get a base hit, but whatever happens, happens and getting base hits in clutch times is awesome as long as we get the win."
On the year, Guers sits at a .261 batting average with 18 RBI and White has a .246 average with 19 RBI. As Cooper puts averages aside, the RBI are key with the two Nittany Lion hitters and have mainly come in clutch situations.
Just as White said, Guers believes they have had success because of the simplicity of Cooper's offense.
"It's awesome because you don't feel like you have to do too much," he said. "A routine single up the middle or one that finds the hole gets the job done. You don't have to hit the ball off the wall or out of the park."
They have been pretty consistent over the past two weeks. There have been five multi-hit games between the two and Guers says it's because they both know they have each other's back.
"If he's having a good game then I pick him up and drive him in. If one of us is having a bad game we work off each other and pick each other up," Guers said. "Coates and Snyder have done a good job getting on base so it's been giving us great opportunities to be successful in those spots."
There's a little more to this connection, though. Guers and White are roommates. They see each other every day at the field and at home and joke that their constant interaction is why they have had such success this season.
That also may be a common theme for this Penn State team. Over the past year, they have become so tight knit because there has been no pressure for one individual to succeed more than another.
"We live right next to each other on the same floor so it's a great connection," Guers said of him and White. "Our whole team is close so if anyone is having a bad game someone is there to pick them up. It's just good chemistry that JJ and I have going on right now so it's fun."
It's been fun all year for this Penn State team, not only because of the wins, but because of the brand of baseball they are playing. Guers and White were all smiles when describing their simple approach at the plate and the dividends it has paid thus far because they know if it continues, the wins will keep coming.
"It's awesome," White said. "Wherever coach needs me to do, I'll do. I just want to do my job. It's pretty cool being in the middle of the lineup with Guers behind me and having Snyder with the year he's having and then Coates.
"Something really special is happening here and it's really cool."
The Nittany Lions will take their 16-14 record and 4-1 Big Ten mark to Columbus this weekend, with a three-game series with the Buckeyes (19-14, 2-7) starting on Friday at 6:35 p.m.