By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Mason Nadeau effect has been a prevalent force for Penn State in 2017.
In limited playing time Nadeau, has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Nittany Lion lineup. He owns a team-best .357 batting average and has scored 11 runs in 18 games played while striking out just seven times in 56 at-bats.
Nadeau has recorded at least one hit in every game but two, since going hitless in the team's opening three-game series against TCU. He has six multi-hit games this season.
Nadeau suffered an injury in late March that kept him out of the lineup for 21 games, and Penn State struggled without him.
The Lions averaged 3.43 runs per game in his absence and went 5-16 in that stretch. Penn State averages 4.71 runs per game when Nadeau starts and owns a 7-10 record in those games.
"He gets on, and then when he gets on he can run a little bit," head coach Rob Cooper said. "He works counts, he can hit to all sides [of the field], which makes it really tough for the defense to shift him one way or the other. It's nice to be able to get him on."
Nadeau recently returned from his injury Tuesday in a home game against Pittsburgh, picking up right where he left off. The freshman outfielder notched a hit in two at-bats and added an RBI in his first game back on the diamond in almost a month.
"It was the best feeling in the world," Nadeau said. "Baseball can bring me to a different place, so when I'm out there everything's gone. Being able to come back is awesome."
Nadeau also recorded a hit in Friday's series opener against Northwestern and cracked three more in Saturday's contest. Penn State lost the three games, but Nadeau's return is encouraging, especially with all the injuries plaguing the team this season.
"That's kind of what he was doing right before he got hurt," Cooper said. "It's good to see him jump back in. I'm excited about his career and what he's got future-wise here."
Nadeau said he's seeing the ball extremely well since coming back from injury.
"I feel like my approach is just right where I want it to be," Nadeau said. "I feel like I'm doing well. I came back strong and took [batting practice] seriously, so I didn't really skip any beats."
Nadeau's return came at a near perfect time, as starting centerfielder Jordan Bowersox was recently bitten by the injury bug and has missed the last five games.
"I wish I was out there with him because I thought the two of us early in the season worked really well together in center and right, but I guess it's kind of opportune that he goes down and I come back," Nadeau said.
Nadeau scored the first run of the game Saturday night after a leadoff single in the first inning and an error by third baseman Charlie Maxwell that allowed Nadeau to score from first. He hit two more singles in the third and the ninth innings.
Conlin Hughes and Ryan Sloniger joined Nadeau with multi-hit games as well.
Justin Hagenman threw seven innings on the hill, surrendering just five hits and no earned runs. None of Northwestern's runs were earned in the game.
Penn State ended up outhitting Northwestern 9-6 but dropped the second
game of the series, 7-4.