Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State has an extremely young roster this season that features 13 freshmen and nine sophomores. Only five of the team's 35 players are seniors.
While the young roster may have experienced trouble adjusting to division I pitching and hitting early on this year, many of the promising Nittany Lions of tomorrow are hitting their stride in the middle of the season.
Penn State lost both games of its Saturday doubleheader against Ohio State by scores of 5-1 and 19-8, but multiple underclassmen showcased what the bright future of Penn State baseball could look like in the process.
Most notably, sophomore infielder Logan Goodnight broke out of his recent slump in the three-game series with the Buckeyes.
Goodnight had gone three straight games without reaching base leading up to the weekend series, but he rocked Ohio State's pitching for two multi-hit games and went 5-for-12 with a run scored in the series.
Goodnight has only started 11 games so far this year, but head coach Rob Cooper has given him the nod the past four games. He could become the regular starter at shortstop if his bat stays hot.
"This is a guy that we thought a lot of coming out of high school. He was an All-American coming out of high school," Cooper said. "He's a kid that we think has a lot of potential. I hope this is a sign of things to come with him."
Freshman Parker Hendershot also started all three games as the designated hitter against the Buckeyes and made his own case to stay in the normal rotation. Hendershot exploded in game two of the doubleheader, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. His three hits Saturday marked a career high.
"One thing I love about Parker is that he will basically do whatever you ask him to do," Cooper said. "He's super coachable. He takes his role here personally. He wants to be the best he can be."
Hendershot's .262 average is the highest among underclassmen and third highest on the team.
Fellow freshman Curtis Robison also put together a solid weekend at the plate with a hit in each of the three contests. Robison was less than a foot away from his second career home run in game two of the doubleheader when his bomb in the third inning hit the top of the right field fence.
Robison's 21 starts are the most on the team out of all freshman.
On the mound, a duo of freshman put together the two best relief performances of the weekend.
In game one Saturday, Conor Larkin relieved starter Taylor Lehman in the fourth inning with two runners on base and promptly struck out Ohio State's best hitter, Noah McGowan, to end the inning.
Larkin tossed a career-high 4.2 innings out of the bullpen and held the potent Buckeye offense to just two hits and no runs. Ohio State may lead the Big Ten in runs scored, but Larkin handled the Buckeyes with ease.
"I think the sky is the limit [for him]," Cooper said. "Right now, being a freshman, he's trying to learn how to pitch at this level. At times it can feel like drinking water out of a firehose for these young guys. He's gotten back in the bullpen and he's really starting to pitch well."
Larkin has now gone three straight appearances without allowing a run.
Freshman reliever Mason Mellott followed Larkin's performance in game one with a 2.2-inning effort in which he didn't allow a hit in game two. Mellot's 3.63 ERA is the lowest of all Penn State bullpen pitchers.
Despite Penn State's recent slide, the team's rich pool of underclassmen are getting more opportunities to showcase what the future may hold. If Saturday's performances are any indication, there's nothing short of excitement and optimism to look forward to.