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2014 Coaches Caravan Day VI - New Jersey & New York

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NEW YORK - Leg two of the Coaches Caravan wrapped up on Thursday with a lunch stop in Northern New Jersey and an evening reception in New York City.

New Jersey and New York City are two pivotal areas for Penn State teams when it comes to recruiting.  Additionally, the Nittany Lion fan bases in New Jersey and the New York Metro area are among the largest outside of Pennsylvania.  Take a look through the final day of week two on the Coaches Caravan, which featured James Franklin, Cael Sanderson and Erica Walsh.

Stop No. 11 - Northern New Jersey (Hanover Marriott)

New Jersey is home to more than 27,000 Penn State alums, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  More than 225 loyal supporters visited the Hanover Marriott in Northern New Jersey on Thursday for the Caravan's lunch in the Garden State.

In addition to being home to some of Penn State's most loyal supporters, New Jersey is a critical recruiting area for the vast majority of Penn State teams.  Women's soccer head coach Erica Walsh opened her remarks on Thursday with a story about All-American Maya Hayes, who recently graduated from the program as one of its all-time best.  Hayes is from West Orange, N.J.

"We've had tremendous success in this area," Walsh said.  "I'm thrilled to be back.  And I've spent a lot of time recruiting in this area."

nj_1.jpgThe same is true for football program.  There are currently 16 student-athletes on the football roster from New Jersey, which is second only to Pennsylvania.  Penn State has had a long line of storied success in attracting the top talent from New Jersey, and Coach Franklin wants that tradition to continue.

Franklin informed the media during the pre-event press conference that the time and resources put into recruiting New Jersey make it as if it is part of Pennsylvania.  Four members of the 2014 recruiting class are from New Jersey.

As Rutgers transitions into the Big Ten this summer, New Jersey will carry even more importance for Penn State Athletics.  The fans and alums in the local area will now have the opportunity to watch Penn State teams compete in the state on an annual basis.

"This place is very special, and it means a lot to our program," Sanderson said.

"We are really excited about the Big Ten expanding east," Walsh said.

A special group of Nittany Lion football lettermen paid a visit to the New Jersey Caravan stop on Thursday.  Members of the 1959 Liberty Bowl team had a 55th reunion table.  Head coach Rip Engle led the Nittany Lions to victory against Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide, 7-0 on Dec. 19, 1959, marking Penn State's first Liberty Bowl victory.


Stop No. 12 - New York City (Marriott New York Downtown)

The Coaches Caravan paid its annual visit to the Big Apple on Thursday evening to wrap up leg two.  The Caravan bus drove through the Holland Tunnel into the southern tip of Manhattan shortly before 3 p.m.  Situated just a block from One World Trade Center, head coach James Franklin and members of the Caravan staff took a walk around the new Freedom Tower structure towering over the New York City skyline.

The final event of the week took place before 300 enthusiastic, loud Penn State fans inside the Marriott New York Downtown.  The evening marked the end of Walsh's two-week stint on the Caravan.  The leader of Penn State Women's Soccer was superb each time she spoke to the crowd.  Her visualization story of a recruiting visit touched everyone in the room, and her delivery was superb.

"It's just been a thrill to be a part of this, and I am honored to be here with two of the greatest coaches that you will find," Walsh said.

After receiving another standing ovation on Thursday, a member of the crowd yelled to the stage as she sat down.

"New York loves you, Erica!"

Sanderson also finished his stint on the Caravan bus with another comical speech in New York.  While he is a terrific complement to Walsh and Franklin, Sanderson has the capability to send a large group erupting into laughter every time he brings up a new topic.  Nonetheless, his respect and appreciation of the fan base and its support speaks volumes about his enthusiasm of being a part of the Penn State family.

"You see that passion these two have, and it is unbelievable," Sanderson said.

"It has been great spending time with these two coaches," Franklin said.

The Q&A portion of the night prompted a discussion with Sanderson about the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships, which will take place in Manhattan at Madison Square Garden.  The Nittany Lions and the loyal fan base will have that date circled, and Sanderson is looking forward to the opportunity to wrestle in front of so many Penn State alums.

nyc_2.jpgA large portion of Coach Franklin's Caravan speech stresses the importance of academic success for the football program.  He wants to see the team achieve its highest grade point average in history, in addition to its highest graduation rate.  Thursday night's location was a living example of what a Penn State degree can do for a student-athlete.  Nearly 10 football letterwinners currently work just a few blocks from the Marriott Downtown on Wall Street.  As Franklin says, Penn State provides a powerful degree for life beyond football or any sport.

With two weeks down, the Coaches Caravan resumes on Tuesday with a lunch stop in Williamsport on the campus of Penn College of Technology.  Additionally the Caravan will pay a visit to Wilkes-Barre for an evening event on Tuesday, lunch in East Stroudsburg and an evening in the Lehigh Valley on Wednesday and an evening event in Erie on Thursday.

Thank you to the fans for making the first two weeks of the Coaches Caravan a resounding success.

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles

Total - 1,369 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: One-on-One with Ricky Rahne on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne at the Coaches Caravan stop in Scranton on Wednesday.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day V - Philadelphia & Scranton

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PECKVILLE, Pa. -  The second day of leg two on the road with the Penn State Coaches Caravan featured a trip through downtown Philadelphia and a packed house in Scranton on Wednesday.

Philly natives James Franklin, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh highlighted Wednesday's lunch stop.  Additionally, four-time defending NCAA wrestling champion head coach Cael Sanderson joined the cast of coaches for Wednesday's event.  Take a look at some highlights.

Stop No. 9 - Philadelphia (The Rittenhouse Hotel)

Wednesday's lunch took place in the heart of downtown Philadelphia at The Rittenhouse Hotel.  More than 250 fans filled the ballroom to greet the four coaches during an excellent lunch event.  Franklin, Morett and Walsh had a little extra bounce in their step after the Philly natives took a drive down Broad Street en route to Center City for the lunch.

Wednesday's crowd was superb, and the group gave all four coaches a standing ovation after they spoke.  Like the gathering in King of Prussia on Tuesday night, the Philadelphia supporters of Penn State Athletics are a diehard group of fans.

Walsh has been a tough act to follow during her two weeks on the Caravan.  Her campus tour speech is filled with details and beaming with pride.  Whether it was Bob Warming, Morett or Sanderson, every coach who has stepped to the podium following Walsh has remarked about her tremendous description of the Penn State campus.  Sanderson had his first crack at following the leader of Penn State women's soccer for the first time on Wednesday.

"That's tough to follow.  I just want to have lunch," Sanderson joked.

caravan_philly_1.jpgFresh off the program's fourth-straight NCAA title, Sanderson has an endless supply of things to talk about.  But that's not his style.  Sanderson deflects the attention off of himself to talk about the positive energy surrounding the football program and how the football program serves as the engine for the health of the athletic department.

"They have the vision, the passion and the pride.  We are in very good hands," Sanderson said of Franklin and the football staff.

He went on to urge the crowd to buy football season tickets now.

"Get your tickets now because when they get going, you're not going to be able to get them in a few years," Sanderson said.

Franklin talks about the state of pride in Penn State each time he addresses a caravan crowd.  That could not be more apparent during the first nine stops during the past couple weeks.  The fan base is excited for what's ahead.  And the fellow coaches in the department are just as excited.

"There are so many things to be excited about," Morett said.

Morett finished off her stint on the Coaches Caravan in Philly.  She will now hit the recruiting trail.  From Philly, the Fullington bus rolled north towards Scranton.

Stop No. 10 - Scranton (Fiorelli Catering)

Day two of the second week wrapped up in front of the Caravan's largest crowd in Peckville, Pa. (Outside of Scranton).  Nearly 900 Penn State fans crammed into the ballroom at Fiorelli Catering to welcome a great group from the Penn State Athletics family during the local alumni chapter's 36th annual event.  The list of attendees included Northeast Pennsylvania products and current Nittany Lions Eugene Lewis, Nyeem Wartman, Gary Wooten and Brian Tomasetti and the voice of the Nittany Lions, Steve Jones.

Prior to dinner, Coach Franklin met a throng of fans that lined up more than 90 minutes prior to when the program began at 7:30 p.m.  Fan after fan walked up to Franklin for an opportunity to shake hands and take photos for nearly an hour.  Some offered advice.  Some told stories. Some even offered gifts.

Walsh and Sanderson both spoke prior to Franklin, energizing the room packed with Nittany Lion supporters.  But it was Franklin who got the room buzzing during an informal auction for game tickets to select Nittany Lion games in the fall and season tickets.  Franklin triggered a bidding war with the microphone that led to two fans battling up to $8,000 for a pair of season tickets.  When the final bid was announced as the winner, the room erupted with approval and rose to its feet.

scranton_1.jpg"In this room, I feel like I'm already in Beaver Stadium.  You can't move for all of the people," Sanderson said when describing the atmosphere.

Franklin's remarks were passionate and filled with energy as he closed out the evening's lineup of speakers.  While highlighting his vision for the football program, Franklin reminded the Scranton crowd of what is important in the quest to become the top program.

"Success is about doing all of the little things better than everybody else in the country," Franklin said.

Throughout all three speeches, the crowd of nearly 900 was glued to the speaker at the podium.  Walsh, Sanderson and Franklin all deserve a great deal of credit for their delivery on Wednesday night.

Simply put, the Scranton crowd was again tremendous for the third-straight year during the Caravan.

Before boarding the bus bound for the next stop in New Jersey, the Coaches Caravan crew paid a visit to 2012 Nittany Lion alum Eric Shrive's new restaurant - The Vault Tap Room & Restaurant - located in West Scranton.

Thursday's events will take place in Northern New Jersey and New York City before the Caravan heads back to State College.

Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Total - 1,102 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: One-on-One with Josh Gattis on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - catches up with offensive recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach Josh Gattis at the Coaches Caravan stop in King of Prussia.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day IV - King of Prussia

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KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Leg two of the 2014 Coaches Caravan kicked off on Tuesday evening with a stop outside of Philadelphia.

The eighth stop of the 17-event caravan featured James Franklin, four-time defending NCAA national champion wrestling head coach Cael Sanderson, field hockey's Charlene Morett and women's soccer's Erica Walsh.  More than 700 Penn State enthusiasts greeted the coaches inside the event room at Valley Forge Casino Resort.  Take a look at some highlights from Tuesday's event.

Stop No. 8 - King of Prussia (Valley Forge Casino Resort)

More than 100,000 Penn State alums call the Philadelphia area home, and three of the four coaches on stage treated Tuesday night's Coaches Caravan event as a homecoming.  Hailing from Montgomery County, Walsh was just minutes where she grew up in Huntingdon Valley.

"I tried to get the whole caravan moved to the Phillies game (tonight)," Walsh joked.

Morett, who is on the Caravan for the Philly swing, is a proud product of Delaware County.  Like Walsh, she was thrilled to be in front of the home crowd on Tuesday night.

"I'm just a Philly girl coming back home," Morett said.

Morett spent a portion of her speech giving Walsh a hard time for not attending Penn State.  Walsh has spent the past two weeks on the Coaches Caravan delivering a superb visualization speech of the University Park campus.  Morett's response?

"After listening to your speech, how did you not go to Penn State?"

As a 27-year veteran as a head coach of the Nittany Lion field hockey program and Penn State alum, Morett is among the most passionate individuals you will find when it comes to her love for the University.  She genuinely appreciates the support fans and alums give to the school that means so much to her, and it's always evident when she speaks in front of a crowd.

The third Philly product in King of Prussia on Tuesday evening was the headliner of the event.  Franklin grew up in Langhorne, Pa., which is roughly 30 miles from the site of the stop.  As he has said from day one, Franklin is a Pennsylvania boy with a Penn State heart.  He's thrilled to be the head coach of the Nittany Lions, and he could not have been happier to be close to home.

"It's unbelievable to be here tonight," Franklin said.  "...The sense of pride in Penn State is unbelievable."

kop_1.jpg Joining the trio of Philly natives this week on the Caravan is the leader of the nation's premier collegiate wrestling program.  Always entertaining, Sanderson has a knack for keeping the crowd light every time he speaks in front of a group.  He was clad in a "Dominate The State" T-shirt under his suit jacket to show his support of Coach Franklin.

Sanderson's introduction included a small snippet of his unmatched wrestling and coaching career.  After receiving a standing ovation following the introduction, Sanderson stepped to the microphone and noted that the intro had left off his fourth-grade all-star baseball achievement.  The room erupted in laughter.

Sanderson likes to have fun with the crowd, but when it comes to his appreciation for the position he holds, his feelings are clear.

"It's an awesome opportunity to be a part of Penn State, and it's because of you guys," Sanderson said.

The Coaches Caravan travels downtown Philadelphia for a lunch stop on Wednesday before moving north to Scranton for a dinner event.


Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles

Total - 857 miles


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions' Growth Shows Promise for Future

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Habitz_10005307.jpegBy Julie Bacanskas, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Ending the season with a 6-2 loss against Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament was not the ideal outcome for the Nittany Lions.  Nevertheless, despite this disappointment, the small successes that have accumulated throughout the year have had much more of an impact on the program and on its bright future.

As a first year head coach, Amanda Lehotak is proud of her team's efforts and growth this season.  The Blue and White finished with an overall record of 14-35, going 5-18 in the Big Ten.

"From the coaching aspect, we finished a spot higher than they did last year in the conference," Lehotak said.  "We had two less wins, but when you're best returning hitter is .253 from a year ago and you have three or four people hitting at .300 that have never done that before, have raised their batting average anywhere from 90 to 100 points in a season, you're moving in the right direction."

One of the biggest assets at the plate for the Lions this season was sophomore Karlie Habitz, whose impressive focus and determined also shined through in tournament play.  In last Thursday's game alone, the California native went 2-for-3, driving in one of the team's two runs.

Throughout her 48 appearances this season, Habitz batted .309 and recorded 42 hits.  Furthermore, the sophomore led the team in home runs (4) and RBI (35).

"Karlie did what she did all year," Lehotak said following the Ohio State loss.  "She just battled.  My favorite thing about Karlie Habitz at the plate is nothing really shakes her.  I feel like she keeps the same body language first at-bat, third at-bat.  She usually gets stronger as the game goes.  You always have a plan, and she stuck to her plan and was really successful."

While happy with her own performance, Habitz also recognizes the importance of this season for the team as a whole.  It was a season full of learning, testing, and building, which will dramatically help Penn State in the upcoming years.

"I thought we improved a lot on a lot of things," Habitz said.  "Hitters really started hitting the ball more, were more patient and had more quality at-bats, and our defense has really gotten a lot stronger this season.  We've taken some baby steps, some big steps, but overall, I think we should be better in the future."

Habitz was not the only sophomore to produce offensively this year, as Lexi Knief also had a standout season.  The centerfielder led the team with a .372 batting average and tied for sixth in the NCAA with triples after accumulating six in the 49 games she played.

"We went from the bottom offensively of all of the Big Ten to being middle of the pack," Lehotak said.    
"We have a couple kids that are top 10 in triples in the NCAA.  We did a lot of good things individually, so from a coaching standpoint, and the program and the future aspect, I'm very proud of the small successes that we had.  I know they did not equate to wins, but I think that happens.  As coaches, we have to continue to be better, figure out where we went wrong as a staff, and we will do that."

Next season, Penn State will return its top three hitters in Knief, Habitz, and Shelby Miller, meaning much of the team's offensive production will be carried over.  The three combined for a total of 62 RBI and accounted for 45 percent of the team's hits this spring, with a total of 137.

In addition, the Lions' top two pitchers, Marlaina Laubach and Macy Jones, will also return to the circle for Penn State this fall team.  With the conclusion of the 2014 season, Laubach and Jones earned ERAs of 3.64 and 5.35, respectively.

After playing hard for 49 games and leaving everything on the field, the Nittany Lions will begin to prepare for next season, hoping to come back stronger than ever before.  Penn State softball will continue to strive for success and to proudly represent their university.

"My kids," began Lehotak, "I appreciated how they played the game.  I thought they played the game with respect.  I thought they represented Penn State with pride and respect all year long.  We had so many improvements in so many areas.  I think the future looks good.  It's going to be a marathon.  It's not going to be a sprint to get the program where we want it and where we all want it to be at Penn State, but I am very proud.  Overall, we did a lot of good things, and I think my kids should walk out of here with their heads held high."

Freshman Haley Brings Energy to Veteran Lions

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By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As his freshman year comes to a close, Penn State shortstop Jim Haley thought about his first season of college baseball and admits that much of it has taken him by surprise.

For starters, he never thought the school he grew up rooting for would end up recruiting him, and he certainly never thought he'd become a starting college shortstop so quickly into his career either.

However, that's exactly how the year has played out for Haley, as the Upper Darby native has started 38 of the Nittany Lions 46 games, including each of the last 32.

"My friends in high school would always joke around about how cool it would be if Penn State recruited me and it was a shock to me when they did," Haley said. "I didn't expect to be starting. I wanted to come in and put the work in and it's paid off for me."

On a veteran heavy team, Haley has been one of three freshmen along with pitcher Dakota Forsyth and outfielder Nick Riotto to receive significant playing time and the only one to start consistently, not an easy feat considering he plays the most challenging position defensively on the field.

Despite his success, the transition from high school to Division I baseball has certainly had its share of adjustments for the shortstop, who went just 2-for-14 at the plate in his first four starts. He admitted that he quickly learned how much tougher pitching at the next level is.

"At the beginning of the year (adjusting) was a huge process," Haley said. "The pitching is really good in college because most guys can throw any pitch they want in any count, so that was a major adjustment."

It may not have been easy, but the freshman has steadily improved as a hitter as the year has gone along. Among players on the team with at least 100 at-bats, Haley ranks in the top five in batting average (.256), on-base percentage (.359), total bases (39), doubles (five), and runs scored (15). He also paces the team with eight hit-by-pitch.

He has also seen time at virtually every spot in the batting order, starting as the No. 9 hitter, spending time in the cleanup spot, and now currently anchoring the top of the order and hitting either second or third.

"Batting down in the order you get to see more fastballs so as I have moved up the lineup I had to adjust to seeing more breaking balls and I'm still working on that," Haley said. "I like hitting either second or third the most."

At the same time, how Haley hits is really the last thing on the mind of his teammates and head coach Rob Cooper, who look to him to be the team's defensive anchor out in the field.

After some early inconsistencies, Haley has come a long way defensively, thanks in part to the chemistry he has developed with second baseman Taylor Skerpon, which has helped the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in double plays (26) in conference play.  

Hailing from right outside of Philadelphia, Haley grew up idolizing the Philadelphia Phillies long-time double play duo of Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, and he likes to look at them as a model for himself and Skerpon.

"The main thing up the middle is chemistry and we mesh really well together," Haley said. "(Skerpon) is a guy that leads by example and playing with him is awesome."

Skerpon, who switched to second base after spending last season as the team's shortstop, has taken his freshman teammate under his wing, rooming with him on the road and not grumbling for a second about changing positions.

It didn't take long for the junior infielder to realize that the team had someone special on its hands in their freshman shortstop, and he knows that much of the team's future success relies on Haley's development.

"It's a lot of fun looking over and seeing him make diving play after diving play and giving me great feeds at second," Skerpon said. "I definitely made him earn that spot but it's working for us and he's definitely going to be a guy that you can build a program around."

Although Cooper said that the beginning of the season included plenty of growing pains for Haley, there was never a doubt in his mind that the freshman would end up as the team's starting shortstop.

If there is one thing that has impressed Cooper about the 19-year old, it has been the way he has embraced the pressure and competition that comes with competing in the Big Ten.

"Making the jump from high school to college is always an adjustment for [freshman] but he's not scared and he's not afraid to play the game," Cooper said. "He's starting to realize what a Division I shortstop has to do to be good and I don't think he's anywhere close to being the type of player he can be."

Haley knows he is just scratching the surface of his potential, and while this season hasn't gone exactly the way he or his teammates would have liked, he is still grateful for the opportunities he has gotten this year and all the guidance he has received from both the coaching staff and the Penn State veterans.

"I can't say I'm satisfied because I know I can push myself to do better and help the team in other ways," Haley said, "but coach Cooper has been great bringing in his process and it's been a fun time with this group."



Wrapping Up the 2014 NFL Draft

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three former Nittany Lions were selected in the 2014 NFL Draft over the weekend, marking the 40th time since 1970 that at least three Penn State student-athletes have been picked in a draft.

All-Big Ten standouts Allen Robinson, DaQuan Jones and John Urschel headlined Penn State's weekend during the NFL Draft in New York.  Robinson was the first Nittany Lion off the board when the Jacksonville Jaguars picked the Michigan native with the 61st overall pick in Friday's second round.  Jones was selected by the Tennessee Titans with the 112th overall pick (fourth round).  Urschel was picked by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round (175th overall selection).

With the three draftees in 2014, Penn State's all-time number of student-athletes selected in the draft is 335.  Robinson became the second player to be selected by the Jaguars, joining defensive back James Boyd, who went to the Jags in the third round of the 2001 draft.

Jones is the fourth Nittany Lion picked by the Tennessee Titans, joining defensive back Calvin Lowry (2006), cornerback Rich Gardner (2004) and tight end Sean McHugh (2004) on the all-time list.  Urschel is the third Penn State player selected by the Ravens.  He joins free safety Kim Herring (1997) and quarterback Wally Richardson (1997) as Penn State players picked by the Ravens.

Looking at each position, Robinson is the first Penn State receiver to be selected in the NFL Draft since Deon Butler and Derrick Williams were picked by the Lions in 2009.  Four Nittany Lion receivers have been picked in the draft since 2000 (Robinson, Butler, Williams and Bryant Johnson).  In total, 17 Penn State receivers have been selected in the NFL Draft.

Jones joined a long list of Penn State defensive linemen in the Nittany Lion draft history.  Since 2003, 11 defensive linemen have been drafted, including five in the first round.  In five of the past six years, a Nittany Lion defensive lineman has been drafted in the first four rounds.  With Urschel's selection, five Penn State offensive linemen have been selected since 2009. 

In addition to the three players drafted, the Seattle Seahawks announced the signing of Garry Gilliam to a free agent contract.  The Arizona Cardinals announced the signing of linebacker Glenn Carson, as well.

Congratulations to Robinson, Jones and Urschel.  The OTA offseason workouts begin at the end of May - Jaguars: May 27-29; Titans: May 27-29; Ravens: May 28-30; Seahawks: May 27-29.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Learn Lessons from Indiana Series

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Skerpon-Taylor (3).jpeg

By Matt Allibone, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- All season long, win or lose, Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper has approached every day the same way: with a clean slate.

That is because no matter how well or poorly his team may be playing, there is always room for improvement and dwelling on what happened the day before won't get you anywhere.

Going up against one of the premiere programs in the country in Indiana, the Nittany Lions were unable to come away with a victory during the weekend series, falling by scores of 10-0, 8-1, and 9-2, yet they never put their heads down.

"When we were playing well we didn't get too far ahead of it and it's the same thing now," Cooper said. "Come tomorrow we're 0-0 and the energy in the dugout (this weekend) was up and our guys were in the game the whole time."

The Nittany Lions have faced a number of formidable opponents this season, but this Hoosiers squad was easily their toughest task. A College World Series participant in 2013, Indiana (35-12, 19-2 Big 10) boasts a lineup featuring six position players batting over .300 and threw three pitchers at the Nittany Lions - Joey DeNato, Christian Morris, and Brian Korte - with ERAs under 2.30.

Facing an uphill battle from the start, the Blue and White never backed down and gave Cooper reasons to believe that his players have bought into his process. After challenging his team defensively when they made four errors on Friday, the Nittany Lions responded with a perfect fielding day on Saturday, highlighted by third baseman Ryky Smith making a diving stop on a grounder in the ninth inning despite being down seven runs.

"We played the game clean (on Saturday) and did a great job picking the ball up," Cooper said. "If you're looking for tangible (progress), look at Ryky Smith. He hasn't played much lately and he made an effort play in the ninth on Friday night and that shows you they haven't quit."

Offensively, the Nittany Lions weekend was highlighted by first baseman J.J. White, who went 6-for-11 over the three game series, including a 3-for-4 performance on Friday.

It was a much needed breakthrough for the junior, who had gone just 2-for-8 in the team's previous series against Nebraska, as he raised his batting average from .247 to .267 in just three games.

"He's a guy that has struggled for the past few weeks so it was good to see him have some success," Cooper said. "I give him credit because the easy thing to do would be to just say 'things aren't going the way I hoped' but he's continuing to work and get better."

On Sunday, Cooper decided to give Nick Hedge, a sophomore who hadn't started since taking the mound at Ohio State on April 13, another shot on the mound.

Looking to redeem himself, Hedge held his own against the best team in the Big Ten, going five innings and allowing four earned runs while only walking one batter.

"Nick's big thing is having confidence in himself and I see a guy who's giving himself to the process instead of worrying about being perfect," Cooper said. "He pitched the way we know he can pitch today."

As frustrating as the season has been at times for Cooper as his team has struggled against their Big Ten opponents, this is not the first time he has been faced with a situation like this.

In his first season as the head coach of Wright State in 2005, Cooper's Raiders finished the season seven games under .500 before ripping off seven straight 30 win seasons.

What that experience taught Cooper is that winning truly is a process that takes time, and that good things come to those who stick by their values even when things get tough.

"Losing is not okay but having had that experience is reassuring to me that we need to stay with it and I can't say I would have said that 10 years ago," Cooper said. "This is part of it and you have to learn how to win and win consistently."

Still, the Nittany Lions don't want to have to wait until next year to be winners again and with four games remaining on their schedule, they don't have to.

With a trip to Villanova on Tuesday followed by a final conference series against Michigan State next weekend, the Lions can still end the 2014 season on a positive note.

"You can't hold on to the past because it's over," Cooper said. "We have a four game season and we're going to figure out a way to get better, strap it on against Villanova and go from there."



Baseball Shaves Heads to Help Battle Cancer

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team raised funds and shaved their heads to support THON and the Vs. Cancer Foundation on Sunday, May 11, 2014 at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. Here are some highlights from the postgame head shaving event with interviews with sophomore Tyler Kendall and head coach Rob Cooper.

To learn more about the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) visit and to lean more about Vs. Cancer you can visit