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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -After falling behind 5-3 in the fifth inning of game one vs Bucknell, the Nittany Lions clawed their way back into the game and nearly completed a late comeback. Senior Gianna Arrizurieta's RBI triple and sophomore Kennedy Legg's game-tying RBI groundout in the 6thinning helped Penn State tie the game at 5-5, forcing extra innings. 

Even though Bucknell eventually scored two runs in the 10thresulting in a victory, the Blue and White showed tremendous fight in their valiant comeback effort.

"I was really proud of our fight in game one," head coach Amanda Lehotak said postgame after the Nittany Lions' doubleheader against Bucknell. "I feel like it could've gone either way. We again continued to be fighters, we just couldn't get the big hit."

Here are some takeaways from the Nittany Lion's doubleheader with the Bison Wednesday evening. 

Player of the Game- Haley Vallejos 

Although seven different players registered a hit in game one of the series, Penn State was led offensively by freshman Haley Vallejos. The Arizona native went 3-4 from the six spot in the order, setting a new career high in hits in a single game.  

"I've been in the cages doing different things with my swing," Vallejos credited to her big game. "What I was doing originally wasn't really me. I had a great individual (practice) beforehand and I'm definitely more relaxed and not overthinking anymore. I'm just letting the ball come to me and trying to hit it as hard as I can." 

Vallejos' offensive success led Lehotak to move her catcher to the cleanup spot in the lineup. Despite the change in batting order, to a new role with much greater importance, it was business as usual for Vallejos. 

"I don't really think about where I'm hitting (in the order). I just try to get on base no matter what," Vallejos said. "Where I bat in the lineup doesn't affect how I play." 

The first year Nittany Lion has certainly come into her own as of late. Vallejos' three-hit performance rose her average to .217 to go along with her strong defense behind the plate. Even though she went 0-2 in game two, her great defense behind the plate and seven combined put-outs in the two games proved to be a great help for the Nittany Lions defensively.  

Outfielders Tori Dubois and Christa Wagner also made big contributions in the first contest, recording a combined 3 hits and 3 runs batted in. 

Mensinger's Moment

The senior pitcher, and former team manager, turned in two good performances in the circle Wednesday night. Mensinger threw 3.1 innings over the course of the doubleheader and only allowed a total of two earned runs. Her season ERA now stands at 3.45, a very impressive for someone who is pitching in their first season since high school.   

What's Next? 

Penn State will now turn its attention to Illinois, as the Fighting Illini will visit Beard Field for a three-game series this weekend. 

 

By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn Relays have always been known as a carnival to most track and field athletes. This meet is held at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is the largest and oldest track and field competition in the United States. Read More

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By Alyssa Palfey, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn Relays have always been known as a carnival to most track and field athletes. This meet is held at Franklin Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is the largest and oldest track and field competition in the United States.

 

This year marks the 124th Penn Relays, where more than 15,000 participants from high school, colleges, and track clubs come to compete. For Penn State head coach, John Gondak, the meet means more to him.

 

"Personally, I grew up in Philadelphia, so heading home for the weekend is always nice. I think the best part about the Penn Relays is it's a carnival. It's a fun meet, there's great crowds, there's great competition," Gondak said. "We just work with the team to go down there and enjoy the experience and do something that they are no often to get the chance to do. If you're competing at the stadium Friday or Saturday it might be the only chance you have to run in front of 30-40,000 people, so it's a pretty exciting atmosphere."

 

For freshman pole vaulter Katie Jones, this meet offers an opportunity to be back somewhere that she's used to competing. Jones competed at the Penn Relays when she was a junior in high school at South Williamsport.

 

"It will be nice to be back. Everywhere that I've competed for Penn State has been a new place for me. Going back to somewhere that's familiar to me will be fun. It's also always fun to have my parents there watching," Jones said.

 

When Jones was last at the Penn Relays competing, she broke her best height. Having that moment made her memory of the Penn Relays positive. She says that the competition pushed her to compete her best.

 

"It was a lot of fun, I had a big PR that meet. I cleared 13' for the first time, so it's really special. The stadium was huge, it was raining that day, so there weren't as many fans. The competition had all be over 12', so the competition was really good," Jones said. "It was big meet, it actually had more competition than states for me. It was more than just Pennsylvania competitors, it was people from other states."

 

Along with the crowd, other aspects of the meet and stadium make it a great atmosphere for Jones to compete.

 

"Just being there. You have the different awards that are given and all the action that's going on around you. Pole is right along the home stretch, so it's always so cool being in the middle of all that action and watch everything that's going on while you're competing," Jones said.

 

Although it is a bonus to have competed at this large meet before, the transition from high school competition to college is something that athletes have to take into consideration. Gondak says how Jones has made this transition smooth so far but will need to have that continue into the weekend at the Penn Relays.

 

"Each person transitions from high school to college differently. The events are different, the competition is different and you're back to that freshman year of high school thing again where you're sometimes wide eyed and taking in the competition," Gondak said. "Katie has done a phenomenal job of transitioning to wearing a Penn State uniform. I am very proud and excited of everything she has accomplished so far this year. "

Individual events at the Penn Relays win a watch if they come in first place. Gondak explains how last year they had a lot of athletes come close to winning one of these famous Penn Relays watches.

 

"The field events will have opportunities to win individual watches, and I think we have a lot people in position to do that. I think last year we had one winner and a lot of second and third placers, so hopefully we can add to that winning column this year when we go down there," Gondak said.

 

Even though this meet is more of a carnival to most, Jones is going to use it as a preparation for the Big Ten Championships in two weeks.

 

"I want to build and try to improve whether it's height, technique or consistency. I just want to continue to improve and get ready for Big Tens," Jones said.

 

Gondak is confident that Jones will continue to do just that as she heads into the 124th annual Penn Relays this weekend.

 

"She probably had her best meet of the year last weekend, so I'm excited for her to continue that momentum this weekend at the Penn Relays, a location she's had a lot of success at in the past," Gondak said.

By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former high school softball all-conference honoree Ashton Mensinger came to Happy Valley with the game she loved as a mere afterthought. The current senior had no idea she would eventually become not only a Penn State student-athlete, but a valuable Nittany Lion pitcher in the circle.  Read More

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former high school softball all-conference honoree Ashton Mensinger came to Happy Valley with the game she loved as a mere afterthought. The current senior had no idea she would eventually become not only a Penn State student-athlete, but a valuable Nittany Lion pitcher in the circle. 

It all started Mensinger's sophomore year, when she decided to become the softball program's team manager. The supply chain and information systems major once again served as manager her junior year, marking a full two years that she was involved with the team. 

However, Mensinger was more than just your average team manager. She would pitch to the players as often as she could, whether it was during batting practice or throughout specific hitting drills. 

"I would throw in the cages a lot and I would throw front-toss and different things for the hitters," Mensinger said.

Head coach Amanda Lehotak, who noticed how Mensinger would take every opportunity to throw to the team's batters when serving as manager, talked about her transition from not playing softball for three years to pitching for the Nittany Lions. 

"We put it out that we were looking for managers and pitchers, because your pitchers can only throw so much and there's nothing like a live arm," Lehotak said. "She's been pitching for us for a year or two and this year with some injuries coming in, we knew we needed someone else and asked her to join the roster."

 "I don't think she believed me at first," Lehotak joked.

Mensinger reminisced about being told the news of a lifetime.

"All the coaches came in and sat down and asked if I would like to join the team," Mensinger remembered. "I didn't know what to expect. It was just crazy going from a manager to actually being on the team."

"I grew up watching softball and watching all these games on tv, especially Division 1 schools," Mensinger added. "I never thought that I would be on the field." 

For the Pennsylvania native and four-time high school softball letter winner, the process of transitioning to a player that coach Lehotak can turn to in times of need in the circle wasn't as hard as it seems.

"I love the competitive aspect of it and just being able to play. I don't really think I got nervous," she said about transitioning from a manager to an official Nittany Lion pitcher. "I feel like I was prepared and ready." 

"She's been a great addition to our team," Lehotak added.

With regards to her long journey to get the opportunity to wear the blue and white on the diamond, Mensinger didn't hesitate in crediting her teammates when asked about her favorite part of joining the program. 

"Just getting to travel with the team, getting to spend time with everybody on and off the field, and getting to know everybody," she said. "It's been really fun." 

Mesinger and the rest of the Nittany Lions will prepare to host in-conference Illinois for a three-game series this weekend at Beard Park. First pitch for game one is Friday at 8 p.m.

 

Nick Spillane Embracing New Role

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After spending his first two years with the Nittany Lions in the midfield, Nick Spillane has embraced his new role at attack this season in light of junior Grant Ament's injury. Although the position swap was a big change for Spillane at first, he's finding his stride. Read More

Nick Spillane Embracing New Role

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Junior attackman Nick Spillane played a major role in helping No. 12 Penn State men's lacrosse to its first program win against Johns Hopkins last week, as the Nittany Lions upset the Blue Jays 14-12.

After spending his first two years with the Nittany Lions in the midfield, Spillane has embraced his new role at attack this season in light of junior Grant Ament's injury. Although the position swap was a big change for Spillane at first, he's finding his stride.

"It's gotten a lot better, I've definitely gotten more comfortable throughout the year," Spillane said. "The way we play offense has definitely made it a little bit easier with that free flowing style. It's great playing with guys that are so focused on each other and don't care about individual stats, but how the offense in general does." 

Spillane had a stellar outing against the Blue Jays, scoring two goals to go along with a personal-best five assists. Spillane also picked up honors from the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association for his performance Saturday afternoon.

Now starting to reap the benefits of his hard work at the new position, Spillane has experienced some bumps along the way.

"This has been a process," Penn State head coach Jeff Tambroni said. "Never in the struggle has he allowed himself to wallow in self-pity and when he's had great success, you would never know. I think that's what has allowed him to maintain his hunger and his trajectory to where he is right now." 

There were many adjustments Spillane had to make to play the 'X.' Not only did he have to get used to playing behind the net, but he also had to learn to draw the coverage of the opposing team's best defender. 

Spillane hasn't had to face the challenge alone though, receiving constant support from his fellow teammates.

"Whether I had a really good game or a bad game, everyone's confidence in me has just stayed really high," Spillane said. "That's made it so much easier knowing that everyone is behind me and supportive because it's definitely not easy to step into a role like that."

One of Spillane's biggest supporters and mentors has been Ament himself. Even though Ament has been sidelined this season, he has remained actively involved with the team.

Although Ament has been a source of help and advice for everyone on the team, he and Spillane have forged a special relationship as the season has progressed.

"He's been great with staying involved," Spillane said. "I talk to him about what he sees throughout the game because he has a great mind for the position and the sport in general. It's definitely been an open conversation between him and myself throughout the entire year. He has given me some pointers throughout games and practices, so he's definitely made my transition a little easier."

While Spillane and Ament are two unique individuals, it wasn't a coincidence the coaching staff selected Spillane to step into the open spot on attack. With Spillane's talented skillset and mind for scoring, moving him made the most sense to Tambroni.

Fellow attackman, sophomore Mac O'Keefe, also sees similarities between Ament and Spillane, which has made the transition easier for the other members of the offense. 

"They're pretty similar," O'Keefe said. "They both have very good vision and their heads are always up looking to make a play." 

Looking ahead to Sunday night, the Nittany Lions will head to New Jersey to take on No. 10 Rutgers.

Although Tambroni hopes the team's win over Johns Hopkins will provide an extra boost of momentum, he also doesn't want the victory to prompt complacency.

"It can certainly provide confidence and justify the work and the collaboration that this group has put in, and that's what you hope," Tambroni said. "It can also go the other way. You can tend to be a little short-sighted with wins like this and start to think about big picture instead of focusing on the details. We have to make sure there is still a sharp focus on our daily goals and an attention to detail on a daily basis versus end results."

The Scarlet Knights are coming off a strong game of their own, losing only to top-ranked Maryland by a single goal, 11-10.

Sunday night's game could also prove to be of great importance later in the season, as both the Nittany Lions and the Scarlet Knights are on the cusp of qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

All that aside, the Nittany Lions are sticking true to their own strategy, focused on improving their own game instead of concentrating all their attention on Rutgers.

"I think our guys are just going to have to continue to go out and play hard and play together," Tambroni said. "There's no magic or secret to our success, it has been a selfless collaboration and if our guys stay connected to that foundation, we'll be in a good position."

Penn State Building on Spring Depth

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football wrapped its 2018 spring season with the annual Blue-White spring game. In the culmination of a series of 15 spring practices. There's wasn't exactly anything Penn State head coach James Franklin learned from the final spring practice of the season Saturday, instead focusing on yet another standout spring crowd, in addition to a few final flashes from some promising young talent on the roster. Read More

Penn State Building on Spring Depth

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football wrapped its 2018 spring season with the annual Blue-White spring game. In the culmination of a series of 15 spring practices, the Nittany Lions took to the field in front of more than 70,000 fans for a final session before breaking until training camp.

There's wasn't exactly anything Penn State head coach James Franklin learned from the final spring practice of the season Saturday, instead focusing on yet another standout spring crowd, in addition to a few final flashes from some promising young talent on the roster. 

An estimated 71,000 packed into the stands at Beaver Stadium, marking the fifth consecutive year the Nittany Lions have drawn 60,000 or more for the spring game.

The energized crowd was treated to a glimpse of the future early with wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer connecting with quarterback Trace McSorley for the first of two touchdown grabs. 

"It felt good," Hippenhammer said reflecting on his first trip to the end zone as a Nittany Lion. "I prepared all spring for that moment and it finally came and I just executed."

Hippenhammer's second touchdown catch came on a 29-yard toss from quarterback Sean Clifford in the fourth quarter.

"This is kind of who Mac is, Mac's a gamer, he happens to make plays in big spots," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne said. "I can see it in his eyes, especially after that first series where you could tell he was really focused and locked in. When he does that, he's hard to deal with." 

Nearly 400 miles from Beaver Stadium, Penn State baseball was battling with Michigan. A two-sport student-athlete though, Hippenhammer was in Happy Valley instead of Ann Arbor. It's a unique situation in today's typical student-athlete path, but a scenario that Franklin noted is absolutely do-able with the right individual and the correct situation.

"Penn State was a school that I felt would give me the opportunity to play both [sports], Hippenhammer said. "When I got here, coach Franklin had discussions with coach Cooper so I knew it was real."

Part of the agreement between Hippenhammer and Franklin though meant keeping academics in line.

"He crushed it in the classroom and did better than I even anticipated," Franklin said. "Coach [Rob] Cooper had a spot for him and I know he has been really pleased for him. Once spring ball started we shut him down with baseball because he is on a football scholarship and now once spring ball ends he will go back to doing baseball as well as his academic responsibilities." 

Prior to spring ball though, Hippenhammer's day started with football winter workouts bright and early in the morning before heading over to baseball for an afternoon practice following a full day of classes. 

"It's a lot of going back and forth," Hippenhammer said. "You just have to keep a balanced mindset and stay focused. It was a really long day but for me I think it was worth it because my dad always told me to play both as long as you can so I'm just making the most of the opportunity I was given." 

As he has done consistently through the spring season, Franklin gave credit to the blue team's offensive line, consisting of mainly Nittany Lion starters. Offensive line coach Matt Limegrover noted last week that the level of competition drove the group all throughout the spring season. 

Come Saturday, Michal Menet emerged to take a firm hold on the starting spot at right guard.

"I think staying healthy has been a huge thing for me to be able to develop my skills and techniques every day," Menet said.

As both Franklin and Menet noted postgame, dealing with nagging injuries early in his career set him back. Now fully healthy, it was Franklin who noted Menet is now one of the more improved Nittany Lions from the end of the season to now. 

"We think he has the ability to play all three inside positions, right and left guard as well as center, we think he may have a really bright future at the center position as well with his quickness," Franklin said. "He creates some flexibility, which is what we are trying to create throughout our program, guys that can play multiple positions, solve problems for us, but overall I have been very, very impressed with him really since the end of the season."

Looking at the offensive line as a whole though, Menet noted the Nittany Lions have built on strengthening the finishers mentality, which on occasion plagued Penn State in 2017.

"I think everybody is really buying into all the techniques and fundamentals that coach Limegrover has been teaching us," Menet said. "I think we've been taking strides every day." 

If Franklin had to name a player of the game Saturday though, he'd look to cornerback Zech McPhearson, who finished with three pass breakups and two tackles.

"We've created a lot of depth and competition at that position so it's exciting," Franklin said. "He's a guy who I think has really kind of showed since the end of the season that he means business and is going to factor in for us this year."

That business-like mentally all started when McPhearson shifted his mindset following the end of the season. He wanted to play. 

The work doesn't stop with spring ball though, as McPhearson noted this offseason is going to be very big for the emerging Nittany Lion. 

"In the offseason I definitely want to get stronger, maybe get a little bigger but keep working on my speed," McPhearson said. "I feel like that helps me a lot driving on routes and things like that." 

It was of course hard to miss what looked like a second James Franklin on the field Saturday. Instead, it was Penn State alum, actor and comedian Keegan-Michael Key who joined the Nittany Lions as a guest coach.

"I really, really could not be more appreciative of you guys asking me to come and guest coach," Key said postgame. "The welcoming spirit and atmosphere of this university is the same as it was when I attended and I think for the most part I can see that the players are spry and dedicated and I look forward to the fall." 

More from Key below. 

Spring Ball Postgame: Players

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State football hosted its annual Blue-White spring game Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. Catch up with a few Nittany Lions following the final spring session.  

Zech McPhearson

Mac Hippenhammer

Michal Menet

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