By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
KENT, Ohio. - There are some nights in baseball when runs are just hard to come by. Tuesday, however, was not one of those games for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions entered a midweek contest at Kent State having averaged just shy of nine runs in their 12 wins this season. Against the Flashes, it took them just one inning to reach that exact total, as they blew open the doors with nine in the first on their way to a convincing 15-5 win.
Not only did the game get the Lions back on track after three loses against Minnesota over the weekend, it also evened their season series with the Flashes, who topped Penn State 9-7 on April 1.
"Obviously Kent State is a good team and they play us hard," head coach Rob Cooper said. "It's good to see our guys get of to a good start after a tough weekend and put it behind us. I'm proud of our guys and we got on them early and it was great to see."
Right from the jump, the key for the Lions was being patient at the plate. After loading the bases with walks from James Coates and Greg Guers and a hit-by-pitch by Aaron Novak to start things off, Penn State got on the board when Jim Haley also worked a walk off pitcher John Birkbeck.
First baseman J.J. White then ripped a double that scored two and ended Birkbeck's evening before the junior recorded an out. While the score was already 3-0, it was just the beginning for the Lions.
Using timely hitting and taking advantage of three Kent State errors, the Lions batted around and tacked on six more runs in the inning. Taylor Skerpon, Coates and Novak all registered RBI hits after Ryan Richter drove in two on a grounder that resulted in a throwing error by second baseman Tim Dalporto.
"You know, it helped out that their pitcher struggled and hit and walked some guys, but as hitters we did a good job of not chasing and when they threw a good pitch not trying to do too much, just putting a good swing on the ball," Cooper said. "And we also created some offense because we ran the bases aggressive which forced them into making some bad throws."
In the first inning alone, the Lions scored more runs than they did in seven of their wins this season. Still, the Flashes didn't go away quietly, battling back with one in the first and three in the third to cut Penn State's lead to 9-4.
That proved to just be a bump in the road for the Lions, as they scored five runs between the fifth and the seventh and tacked on another in the ninth to complete the rout.
Although nine Nittany Lions registered at least one hit, the two players who really stood out were senior second baseman Taylor Skerpon and sophomore outfielder Nick Riotto.
Skerpon, better known for his glove than his bat, was on fire all night and finished 4 for 5 with a double and two RBIs. Riotto on the hand, made the most of his one at-bat as a pinch hitter by slamming his first career home run with a two-run shot in the seventh.
"It's good to see [Taylor] swinging the bat well," Cooper said. "He had some good at-bats against Minnesota, but I felt like he's been putting too much pressure on himself and trying to do too much since it's his last year. He did a great job tonight.
"That's something we feel [Riotto] can do. We've just been trying to have him use his lower half to get barrel on ball. It's not about hitting home runs but to me that wasn't a surprise to see him do that."
As much as offense ruled the day for the Nittany Lions, they did get a great performance out of the bullpen from Dakota Forsyth, who went five innings and gave up just one run and one hit.
The Lions will need more performances like that this weekend, when they face Illinois, the top team in the Big Ten and the No. 8 team in the country.
"[Forsyth's performance] was huge, you don't really realize, that in that game with the wind blowing out you need a pitcher who isn't afraid to start bats," Cooper said. "When the game was 9-4 for him to come in and sure things up, well that was really big for us. "
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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
By Alex Shisler, GoPSUsports.com
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Now that we are in the middle of the outdoor season, I think we can all agree... It's great to compete in the south. When we first arrived in Baton Rouge, the weather was not looking good for a track meet. The forecast had called for thunderstorms and over an inch of rain so that's what we were all preparing for. Luckily for us, Mother Nature had different plans.
The day started off with a great javelin competition in the rain that Mike Shuey won with a huge throw of 242 feet and 8 inches. After the rain had stopped in the morning, the sun was shining for the rest of the day. We had some great performances throughout the meet but the freshman Bryce Williams grabbed himself a personal- best in the long jump (23-3.25). Steve Waithe had a great showing in the triple jump where he won the invitational section with a leap of 51-7.25.
After the meet, the coaching staff treated us to a delicious seafood dinner. It was great to be able to sit down with the team and discuss all the great performances we had that day while enjoying food that you definitely cannot get in Central Pennsylvania.
With another great meet in the books, it's time for us to focus on the task at hand for next weekend, Penn Relays!
By Miranda Kulp, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When looking at any sports team there's a clear structure of people all working together to accomplish one goal. Some of those such as coaches and players become the face of the team, while behind them are the backbone of the team--the managers.
Managers spend countless hours compiling paperwork, charting team statistics, gathering equipment and any other tasks needed completed.
"Our student managers are a huge part of this team and family," said head coach Amanda Lehotak. "It's amazing how much they do for us and how helpful it is having them."
The Penn State softball team has four current student managers, Jon Herzing, Nathan Sterner, Alex Comonitski, and Jordan Caffrey.
These four dedicate their free time to help the coaching staff and make sure the team is always game ready.
"You'd be amazed with everything those kids do, although they aren't officially on the roster they're a huge part of the team," said coach Lehotak.
Currently a sophomore, Alex is one of the main student managers for the team and has been for roughly two years now.
Starting her first semester she was in contact with the softball coaching staff and quickly became a part of the team shortly afterwards.
Although Alex does a wide range of task to help out the team, her specific job is working with a program called "Right View Pro."
During every game Alex sits with the computer, recording every pitch, at-bat and defensive play. That's because after the game she combines all the data and with help of the software, creates various report-cards and stat sheets which show the team's performance during each game.
This program is especially helpful for the coaches and players to see how their performance is against various hitters or pitchers so they can continue to get better as the season progresses.
"Deciding to become a manager was the best decision I have made while being a student at Penn State," said Alex Comonitski.
"Going to the field everyday and having the feeling like I am a part of something important is the most rewarding part of the job," she added.
Growing up playing competitive softball, Alex feels grateful she's still able to play an important role.
"I have always loved the idea of a team and being one big "family." Its rewarding knowing that I found my place on this campus and the work that I am doing is a contribution to the success of the team. I'm also grateful for the things I have learned," Comonitski explained.
Alongside Alex is sophomore Jordan who also the most senior member of the student managers.
Jordan is originally from Effort, Pennsylvania near the Poconos and is a biology major with dreams of becoming a physician's assistant or coach in the future.
Similar to Alex, Jordan started his manager duties during freshman year. Growing up Jordan played sports and watched his own dad coach, so naturally managing a varsity sport interested him as soon as he stepped foot on campus.
"One of the best parts of being a manger is the amount of people I've met and things I'm able to do with the team, said Caffrey. "It's an amazing experience."
Being a biology major and involved in other activities on campus, Jordan always makes sure to mange his time properly, so he can travel with the team and be available every game and practice.
"Although it can be time demanding, I enjoy every minute of the job," said Caffrey
The softball team is a perfect example of just how much student managers can help a team, both on the field and off. They become not only important assets to the coaching staff, but they're an essential part of the team's overall blue print toward success.
"Our managers do so much, There's not a day that goes by without realizing how lucky we are to have them," Lehotak said.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Headed into Sunday's matchup, the No. 12 Penn State women's lacrosse team knew what was on the line. Going up against a team like No. 7 Northwestern would be no easy task, but the Nittany Lions had confidence. They knew they could compete with any team in the country.
With this mindset, the Blue and White came out strong in Illinois and battled hard. The Lions outscored their opponent, 10-4, in the opening half and eventually secured their first victory against the Wildcats since 2003 by a final score of 14-10.
"I think it was just the team aspect on both ends," head coach Missy Doherty said. "We moved the ball really effectively, found the open people. Our defense did a great job sliding together and targeting their top scorers, coming up with some really big plays."
Although Penn State (12-3, 4-0 B1G) came out on top where it counted, the Wildcats (10-5, 2-2 B1G) outshot the Lions, 26-22, overall. Additionally, Northwestern won the draw control battle, 16-10, which resulted in more possession time for the Wildcats.
Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions did not let these numbers effect the outcome of the game. The team's defense was sure to cleanly clear the ball in each of its 12 attempts, and goalie Emi Smith made important saves, 10 in total, to keep the Blue and White ahead.
Following halftime, the Wildcats came out much stronger and pressured Penn State's squad. At one point, the Lions allowed four unanswered goals, but it did not take long for the team to fend off the attack.
"We knew Northwestern would go on a run," Doherty said. "They're a really tough team and have some great scorers. They did a great job on the draw in the second. They really out-drew us and had a lot more possessions than we did. So, it was a great testament to the girls, losing that possession, to come up with some key stops. Emi did a great job in the cage, making key saves. Then we just came up with some good, defensive plays to stop the other team."
On the other side, each time the team's offense controlled the ball, it was sure to make those moments count. In all the team saw six different goal scorers, emphasizing its depth and talent.
Captain Kelly Lechner dominated, scoring four goals throughout the match, and captain Maggie McCormick led in assists with five. Steph Lazo added a hat trick and an assist of her own, and Tatum Coffey had a three-point day with two goals and an assist. Madison Cyr and Katie O'Donnell each tacked on two more goals, and Jess Loizeaux notched a tally and a helper.
Lechner specifically played on a different level, determined to make help her team in any way possible. In addition to her four goals, she secured three draw controls and a ground ball. In the final minutes of play, however, Lechner was helped off the field after sustaining an injury.
"She was awesome," Doherty said of Lechner's play. "She just came out on fire. We challenged our experienced players today to come out and make some big plays. She definitely did that. Unfortunately, she did get injured at the end of the game. We'll have to wait and see what happens with that when we get back to campus."
With this victory, Penn State not only extended its winning streak to seven games, but it also secured a first-round bye in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions' seed in the tournament will be determined following the results of their game against Maryland this week as the two compete for the first place finish in the conference.
"That's awesome," said Doherty of the bye. "It saves our legs a little bit from playing three games in a row. It's always tough to go back-to-back and play. It'll be nice to be rested for the first Big Ten game."
With their biggest test of the season just days away, the Blue and White will continue to work on improving in their week areas. Nevertheless, this win over Northwestern is huge for their confidence and shows that Penn State lacrosse will never back down in big games.
The Nittany Lions will continue to fight and compete to the best of their abilities.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Behind a complete team effort, the Nittany Lion men's lacrosse team powered past Rutgers, 11-6, on Senior Night in Happy Valley on Sunday.
Looking to snap a skid, the Nittany Lions came out with their strongest first quarter of the year against the Scarlet Knights. Although Rutgers got on the board first, Penn State quickly answered, and never looked back. The Nittany Lions dominating performance gave them a convincing win after weeks of hard work.
"I feel really good for our seniors," said head coach Jeff Tambroni. "You know they've worked so hard and fought through a very difficult stretch and when you're losing over a four or five week period it's not easy to keep coming back every day like these guys have."
Although several players had multi-goal games, the performance of senior Pat Manley stood out to those in attendance and those watching on TV. His five points, three of which came in the first half, helped rocket the Nittany Lions past the Scarlet Knights.
"I think all year we've kind of had trouble with initiating the offense and too much one and done, taking the ball to the goal, so I kind of took it on myself to look for the open guy today," said Manley.
Four of Manley's points came from assists, a contribution that didn't go unnoticed. Earlier in the season, the Nittany Lions had difficulty in creating opportunities in front of the net. Against Rutgers, the story changed.
Manley was one of nine seniors honored prior to the opening face off against Rutgers. A win on home turf during Senior Night meant the world to the oldest players on the team.
"It's great to get a win," said Manley. "It's been a tough year so far. To get our first Big Ten win on Senior Day is just awesome, it's been such a relief. All the stuff we've been through this season, just having our families here [for the game] and seeing them all day today it's just been a great moment for us."
Tambroni was pleased with his players' performance against Rutgers and thought the team had worked hard all season, deserving the win. Tambroni has admired the senior class and how they have led the team the whole season, during a time of significant transition for the Nittany Lions' program. Tambroni believed it was the seniors who set the tone for the Sunday night win.
"I think it was a culmination of their belief and their hard work and their persistence that really pushed us over the edge today," said Tambroni. "I just feel for that group. They're a wonderful group of young men who earned this victory here today."
Now having a fourth win under their belts, the Nittany Lions look forward to their final game of the regular season. A win against Michigan would be enough to place Penn State in Big Ten tournament contention. The Nittany Lions will take their newfound confidence from a long awaited win and channel it to improve every day during practice this week.
"We just want to keep playing," said Manley. "If we win this next game it's just another chance for us to keep playing and I know us seniors and all these guys want to keep playing after the season that we've had so we're just gonna have to take it one day at a time next week. Michigan is a great team, up and coming program so we're gonna have our work cut out for us."
Penn State travels to Ann Arbor for their final game of the regular season at Michigan this Saturday.
VIDEO: James Franklin Postgame
Interview | VIDEO: Postgame Player Interviews
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sunny skies and 68,000 fans greeted the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium during the final day of spring practice for the 2015 season.
After a practice period marked by superb progress, the Nittany Lions will head into the final few weeks of the spring academic semester and summer with a great deal of confidence. The Blue topped the White, 17-7, during a productive Saturday for the Lions.
"We got what we wanted to get out of it," said head coach James Franklin. "We stayed healthy, which is the most important thing, especially in our situation. We were able to mix the run and the pass. Obviously, our defensive line still holds an advantage over our offensive line. That's going to be a work in progress and a focus in the offseason. It was great to see some of the running backs like Nick Scott and Akeel Lynch make some plays, but we had great work. We had two real teams. We didn't end up having to run guys from one side to the other, so guys got a bunch of reps."
Penn State practiced 15 times between March 20 and April 17 before the spring season culminated with the four quarters of action inside Beaver Stadium on a sun-splashed day with a terrific crowd.
The fan support Penn State Football receives throughout a year is unique, and Saturday was no exception. From the autograph session to the spring game festivities, the Nittany Lions truly embraced the opportunity to spend a day with so many loyal supporters of the program.
"The guys worked really hard this spring, and to be able to come out today and play in front of such a great crowd was huge for us," Hackenberg said. "It was great to meet so many fans today because they are such a big part of what we do. It was a great day."
"It's a pretty cool experience to be out there in front of 68,000 fans for a spring practice," said running back Akeel Lynch. "
In his first spring as a the featured back, Lynch excelled for the Nittany Lion offense. He finished with nine carries for 50 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown run for the Blue team. Lynch and the Penn State offense took full advantage of this being year two in the offensive scheme. The unit's increased comfort level led to a greater degree of execution.
"I think we did a lot of great things as a unit," Hackenberg said. "I think as a unit we also have a lot of things we need to work on for next season. I try to execute everything I am asked to do to the best of my abilities."
A big piece of the offense's growth is the line's progression since the season ended at the Pinstripe Bowl. The growth process will continue through the summer, but the Nittany Lions have taken a big step forward along the offensive line.
"I think we are way ahead of where we were at this point last year," said Franklin. "As a group, we still have a situation now where we still have guys trying to learn left tackle, which I think showed up at times today. But as a group, four out of the five in totality of it, we still have a lot of work to do. I am confident that between now and the start of camp, we can take another step and then continue to grow during camp and be ready to go."
Defensively, the Nittany Lion front four headlined a strong set of practices for coordinator Bob Shoop's unit. Sure, the defense entered the spring without starters Mike Hull, Adrian Amos, Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan, but the Lions didn't skip a beat.
"We're a deeper unit. Garrett Sickels and [Carl] Nassib have had an excellent spring," defensive coordinator Bob Shoop said. "They played very, very well. You saw Evan Schwan wreak havoc and was pretty dominant today at times. Curtis Cothran's a good player and Torrence Brown's a very good player. So I feel like we have a really, really, really good situation at those positions right there. Those guys are playing exceptionally well."
Penn State will look to finish the semester strong in the classroom before the summer conditioning program begins. With a spring marked by positive growth, the Nittany Lions have a great deal to look forward to when fall camp begins in early August.
Saturday's spring game was the final time the fans will see the team before action commences in Lincoln Financial Field against Temple on Sept. 5. The window of opportunity for growth between now and the opener is a big one for the Nittany Lions, but with the foundation laid this spring, the Lions are well on their way to a strong start for 2015.
"We made great strides on offense and on defense, and it was great for the fans to come out in such big numbers to see us," said Trevor Williams. "Now, we need to take the next step and get even better."
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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a confidence-boosting doubleheader sweep of Ohio State, the Penn State softball team (23-20, 6-8) will travel to College Park, Md. for a three-game weekend series against the new kids on the block, the Maryland Terrapins.
The first pitch of the weekend will be thrown at 6 p.m. on Friday night, then the new conference foes will face off at 1 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday morning. The series finale on Sunday will be broadcasted live on the Big Ten Network.
Penn State enters the series riding some momentum, as the pair of wins on Wednesday night vaulted it from 12th to seventh place in the B1G. Adversely, Maryland has dropped three straight and six of their last eight, downgrading it to a three-way tie for the ninth position.
In their first season in the B1G, the Terps boast a 23-19 record with a 5-7 mark in the conference. After an abysmal 11-win season in the ACC in 2014, the Terps rebounded well and has exceeded expectations this season.
Leading the charge for the Terrapins at the dish are outfielders Erin Pronobis and Hannah Dewey. Pronobis ranks fifth in the conference with 11 long balls. She leads the team with 40 RBIs and a slugging percentage of .715. Dewey tops Maryland with a .388 batting average and a .556 on-base percentage. She also sees her fair share of time in the circle. The versatile sophomore has gone 4-8 this season in 24 appearances.
The clear number one for the Terps on the hill is senior Kaitlyn Schmeiser. In the team's 42 contests this year, Schmeiser has thrown a pitch in 37 of them. She totals 158.1 innings on the mound, and has worked her way to a 17-7 record. Her 3.31 ERA ranks seventh in the B1G.
The Nittany Lions will seek to counter Schmeiser with a bevy of offensive studs, highlighted by Lexi Knief. The junior has risen her batting average to an impressive .414 on the year while smacking 55 hits, fifth most in the conference. Macy Jones has also had a fantastic season as she sports a .461 OBP and a .630 slugging percentage. The junior has also cracked eighth homers and 30 RBIs.
A defining key to the series for Penn State will be limiting walks. Maryland has a patient lineup that has worked the second most free passes in the B1G this year, so the PSU pitching staff will have to pound the zone and force U of M to beat them with its sticks. The Nittany Lions have surrendered 159 bases on balls this year.
Another X-factor for the Blue and White will be Mollie Sorenson. The freshman has slowly moved up to the two-hole and has been incredibly efficient since B1G play began. Sorenson is batting .297 on the year, but she's hitting .417 in conference games with 20 base knocks and 12 runs scored. She will need to stay hot in the B1G to give the offense a boost this weekend.