By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With all of the excitement surrounding a busy Blue White weekend in Happy Valley, Sunday clearly belonged to Penn State's walk-on right fielder Braxton Giavedoni.
The freshman finished off a festive weekend in style with a walk-off single in the series finale against Northwestern to give Penn State the 2-1 win, snapping a six-game losing streak.
"It was nice to see all my teammates and all my friends come out and celebrate it with me," Giavedoni said. "It was really fun."
Giavedoni ripped the first pitch he saw from lefty Sam Lawrence into left field with one out in the ninth inning to score Logan Goodnight from third base. Giavedoni said he was sitting fastball all the way, and that's exactly what he got.
"I didn't think he would throw me a fastball first pitch, but he did and I was ready for it and drove it," Giavedoni said.
Head coach Rob Cooper praised Giavedoni afterward for his ability to bounce back from an early blunder in the game.
In the first inning Giavedoni stepped to bat with no outs and runners on first and second. He fouled off two sacrifice bunt attempts, then grounded into a double play and Penn State was unable to score a run in the inning.
"Here's a young guy that wants to do well for his teammates, and he doesn't get it done," Cooper said. "Now you're at a point where you come in the dugout and he can go one of two ways: he can let it bother him the rest of the game or he can recover and deal with it short term, and that's what he did. It just shows you that he's a little bit further advanced with handling that emotional maturity."
Giavedoni has played in all but three games this season and owns the second-best batting average (.274) on the team of players who have played at least 20 games.
"Braxton's done a really good job as a freshman for us," Cooper said. "This is a kid that has really had to make his own way here, and you really root for those kids."
On the mound, Eric Mock was nearly perfect besides one pitch.
Mock left a fastball over the plate to Wildcats' power hitter Joe Hoscheit in a 3-0 count in the sixth inning and Hoscheit pounded it over the left field wall. The homerun was just the second hit allowed by Mock all game and the only run surrendered by the redshirt freshman.
Even with the homerun, Mock put together his strongest outing of his young career. He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before allowing the first Northwestern hit with two outs in the inning.
Mock tossed a career-high six innings in his fourth start of the season while striking out five batters and walking two. He lowered his season ERA by more than a run to 5.83 with the performance.
Mock said he struggled early getting his slider over for a strike but felt the best he has all season.
"It was a battle," Mock said. "I just tried to continue to throw strikes. I stuck with it, and when you can throw strikes you're going to get guys out."
Nick Distasio relieved Mock to start the seventh and pitched three scoreless innings. The two pitchers combined to allow just three hits in the game.
Mock received strong defense behind him all game, as the Lions didn't commit an error while he was on the mound. They committed nine errors over the first two games of the series.
In the fourth inning, Willie Burger made a full-stretched, diving play to his right and flipped to Mock at first base to rob Northwestern of a single to start the frame. Conlin Hughes also made two impressive snares and throws from shortstop on short hops in the first four innings.
Giavedoni and Nick Riotto made beautiful plays in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, to keep the leadoff hitter in each inning from reaching base.
"They were awesome," Mock said. "It's such a difference when you know that you have your defense behind you. It definitely helps you with your confidence."
Cooper said after the game that he's incredibly proud of his team for fighting through adversity.
"You can't win a game like that after what's been going on if you don't
have kids that care and are trying, so I'm really proud of their effort, and we
needed a win and found a way to get one," Cooper said.