By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - Despite a sweep by Big Ten foe Minnesota, Penn State's Mason Nadeau and Willie Burger highlighted the Nittany Lion offense throughout the weekend.
On Friday, Nadeau was the only Nittany Lion with a multi-hit game going 2-for-5 with a run scored. Penn State entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a 6-2 deficit, but was not willing to go down easily. After an Alex Malinsky single to start off the inning, Nadeau followed with a single through the right side to keep the inning alive. The Nittany Lions managed to cut the deficit to 6-5, but could not score enough runs to come back.
However, Nadeau was only getting started.
On Saturday, the Nittany Lions found themselves in a quick 5-0 hole after the top of the first inning. Despite a Nadeau leadoff single up the middle, the Nittany Lions were never able to catch the Golden Gophers. Penn State was able to put one run on the board coming off of the bat of Nadeau.
In his third at bat, Nadeau was due up first in the bottom of the sixth inning. As the Golden Gophers were warming up prior to the start of the inning, Nadeau prepared for his at bat the same way he always does -putting his left batting glove on first, followed by his right. The freshman then has to strap his right batting glove before he straps his left before he's ready to go.
Despite falling behind 1-2 in the count, Nadeau drove the next pitch he saw deep into right field for his second career home run.
"I never hit home runs in high school," Nadeau said. "I hit one home run in a fall-league game and that was it. Before that, it was eighth grade travel ball. It's a pretty great feeling. Everyone loves the long ball, me included. But, I know that's not what I am here to do so if it happens it happens. I'm just trying to get on base and help my team win whenever I can."
Nadeau ended the evening going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
"I think the biggest thing right now is even though Mason [Nadeau] is a freshman, he has an unbelievable competitive spirit," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "He doesn't take pitches off. We have some other guys like that, but there's a reason he's swinging the bat well. He'll get down two strikes and he doesn't let it bother him. Everyone once in a while he takes a bad swing, but he gets rid of it and comes right back. To be able to flush everything and move on to the next pitch is what we need to be doing as a group."
After falling to the Golden Gophers 17-1 the night prior, the Nittany Lions found themselves in another quick 9-0 hole after just three innings on Sunday. This time, Penn State got on the board an inning earlier when Burger stepped up to the plate.
With runners on first and second, Burger singled to right-center field bringing home Braxton Giavidoni from second. Burger then picked up his second RBI of the evening in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners again on first and second. The sophomore sent a line shot up the middle to bring home the fourth run of the game.
he made a great adjustment in the middle of the game," Cooper said. "He really
tried to stay within himself more. One of Willie's greatest strengths is he has
a deep reservoir of confidence. He believes he can do just about anything on a
baseball field. He just kind of simplified stuff at the plate tonight rather
than trying to add more to it."
On top of his 4-for-5, two-RBI night, the typical first baseman made his fifth consecutive start at third base.
"I played [third base] for the first half of my freshman year," Burger said. "Then, I broke my rib and missed a substantial amount of time. When I came back, based on necessity, I moved to first and never really went back to third. So it was a pretty easy transition for me. It's a little bit different because I spent so much time away from that corner, but the two corners are pretty similar. If you're an infielder, you're an infielder."
Of the team's 22 hits throughout the series, Nadeau and Burger were responsible for 11 of them. Combined, the two went 11-for-26 (.423) with two walks, three RBIs and three runs scored.
Despite standout performances from Burger and Nadeau, the Nittany Lions are looking to put a full team effort into the two-game series against West Virginia on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"The big thing is we want to try to continue to improve our collective toughness as a group," Cooper said. "We also want to eliminate negative thoughts. It doesn't' matter who puts it in your head. We need to control what we can control and then we will go from there."
The Nittany Lions will travel to Morgantown on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to take on West Virginia.