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Freshman Haley Brings Energy to Veteran Lions

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com 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."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

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.



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Nittany Lions Learn Lessons from Indiana Series

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com 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."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

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 Thon.org and to lean more about Vs. Cancer you can visit Vs-Cancer.org.

VIDEO: One-on-One with Bob Shoop & Terry Smith in Pittsburgh

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks with Pittsburgh area natives Bob Shoop and Terry Smith at the Coaches Caravan stop in Pittsburgh.




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VIDEO: One-on-One with Charles Huff on the Coaches Caravan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com catches up with special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff during the 2014 Coaches Caravan stop in Washington, D.C.





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VIDEO: Men's Tennis NCAA Tournament Preview

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the first time since 2008, the Nittany Lion men's tennis team is set to compete in the NCAA Tournament.  No. 23 Penn State takes on UNC Wilmington in the first round on Saturday at 9 a.m. in Charlottesville, Virginia.  On the heels of a record-breaking regular season, watch a video preview heading into the tournament.


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2014 Coaches Caravan Day III - Uniontown and Pittsburgh

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Uniontown Photo Gallery | Pittsburgh Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration

VIDEO: Day I Recap - York & Hershey | VIDEO: Day II Recap - Baltimore & Washington, D.C.

PITTSBURGH - The 2014 Coaches Caravan capped off its first full week on the road with two stops in the western half of Pennsylvania.

Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus played host to the final lunch stop of the week.  From there, the modified bus rolled north to Station Square in Pittsburgh for an evening reception.  Take a look through highlights from the third day on the road for the 2014 Coaches Caravan.


Stop No. 6 - Uniontown (Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus)


 
The Coaches Caravan bus departed Washington, D.C., just before 7 a.m. on Thursday for a scenic trek through the Appalachian Mountains en route to Uniontown for the sixth stop on the 17-event tour during May.  Thursday's stop at the Penn State Fayette campus was the first for the Coaches Caravan in its three-year existence.  The scenic campus is situated in a place with superb views in every direction.

"This is my first trip here, and this place is absolutely beautiful," women's soccer head coach Erica Walsh said.

Walsh, along with men's soccer head coach Bob Warming and football coach James Franklin again headlined the final day of the first week.  Walsh captivated the audience with another rendition of her visualization story of taking a prospective student-athlete on a recruiting visit.

Coaches Walsh and Warming have spent portions of the bus rides from event to event educating him on college and professional soccer.  Warming used it as a lighthearted joke with Penn State Fayette crowd.

"It has been so great to be on the bus to educate Coach Franklin about the most popular sport in the world - soccer," Warming said.

caravan_uniontown_1.jpg Having now been on the road for three days on the Coaches Caravan, Coach Franklin has gotten an opportunity to meet fans and supporters from several areas in Pennsylvania and surrounding region.  Since the day he arrived in Happy Valley, the support has stood out to him.  He is passionate towards the fan base and wants to meet as many folks as possible.

"It's great to get out around the state and connect with as many people as possible," Franklin said.  "The support has been the most impressive thing for me.  We need your support."

With two more weeks ahead, Franklin is eager to meet as many fans as possible.  The tone of his message has been constant over the first week of the Caravan.  He's thrilled to be the head coach of Penn State, and he wants to make the fan base proud of the football program.


Stop No. 7 - Pittsburgh (Sheraton Station Square)



The Caravan's first week on the road wrapped up in front of 450 fans in Pittsburgh on Thursday night.  Home to 56,000 alums in the greater metro area, the Steel City is home to some of Penn State's most loyal supporters.  The room was filled with energy from the moment the doors opened prior to the reception at 6 p.m., and  all three head coaches received a warm reception during their speeches.

Additionally, Pittsburgh area natives and assistant coaches Bob Shoop and Terry Smith joined Franklin, Walsh and Warming for the evening event.  Shoop (Oakmont) and Smith (Aliquippa) recruited in the area during the day before shaking hands with countless Nittany Lion fans at the evening event.  Nittany Lion great and former NFL quarterback Chuck Fusina was among the Pittsburgh area lettermen inside the Sheraton Station Square saying hello to Coach Franklin, as well.

caravan_pittsburgh_1.jpg All six stops this week featured passionate Penn State fans.  The individuals sitting in the rooms listening to the coaches speak are among the undying supporters the University's athletic department has.  However, Pittsburgh's rich history as a sports town, especially when it comes to football, always makes it an exciting evening event on the Coaches Caravan.  Thursday's event was no exception.

The NIttany Lions will begin a four-game series with rival Pitt beginning in 2016 (Sept. 10) when the two teams meet at Heinz Field.  The Penn State fan base in Pittsburgh is fired up for the team's return to the city, and it was clear on Thursday how excited the group is for the new era of the football program under the direction of Coach Franklin.

"This is your football program, not mine," Franklin said.  "I am so proud to be your head coach."

Thursday was the final day for Coach Warming to be on the Caravan.  The leader of the men's soccer program was terrific all week long.  He was candid, lighthearted and passionate when it came to delivering a message to illustrate how much he loves Penn State and how much he enjoys the support of Nittany Nation.

The Coaches Caravan returns to the road on Tuesday for a stop in King of Prussia.  Week two also includes a lunch stop in Philadelphia, dinner in Scranton, lunch in Northern New Jersey and an evening in New York City.

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Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles

Total - 682 miles

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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony


Senior Hurler Getting Things "Dunn"

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY Park, Pa. - Entering his senior season, Penn State pitcher Tim Dunn wasn't exactly sure what role he would have under new head coach Rob Cooper and new pitching coach Brian Anderson.

Used almost exclusively as a reliever his first three years under the previous coaching staff, the left-hander had always had aspirations earn a role as a starter but felt as though the opportunity might never come.

"I was ready for whatever role they saw me in but I wasn't quite sure what (my role) would be," Dunn said. "If anything, I was thinking long-relief."

For the first month of the season, that's mostly the role that Dunn occupied, coming out of the bullpen five times in Penn State's first 19 games. At that point, it seemed like the senior was destined to be a career bullpen guy.

That all changed on March 22nd when the Nittany Lions played the first of back-to-back doubleheaders against Bucknell. In desperate need of an extra arm, Anderson and Cooper decided to give Dunn a shot, and he responded with a five inning, one-run performance in a 4-3 Penn State victory.

Since then, Dunn hasn't looked back, establishing himself as the Nittany Lions most consistent and reliable starter the second half of the season. Entering this weekend's series against Indiana, the Coto De Caza, California, native boasts a 2.23 ERA along with a 2-2 record.

For a guy who had only three career starts in 26 appearacnes going into the season, Dunn has had little difficulty dealing with the increase in innings, going at least five innings in all six of his starts in 2014, including a five-hit, two-run complete game on April 25 at Minnesota.

"I haven't necessarily tried to change anything I've just tried to pound the zone with my fastball and get ahead in the count," Dunn said. "I definitely like starting more because you get to be out there for a while."

While Dunn may not have changed much about his pitching approach, he definitely has benefitted from having the chance to work with a new pitching coach in Anderson.

The senior hurler admitted that although he believes he always had the ability to be a starter, he might never have gotten there without Anderson's tutelage and willingness to give him a shot.

"Working with coach Anderson, I've been able to attack hitters a little differently," Dunn said. "He stresses those things along with throwing strikes and he creates a mindset that makes it easier to pitch."

When Anderson looks at Dunn now compared to when he first saw him throw at the beginning of the year, what he notices is not so much a change in technique but a change in demeanor.

For the 6-foot-3, 205 pounder to slide into the role of the ace of the staff, he had to first believe that he could do it, and Anderson thinks that adapting that mindset has been Dunn's biggest growth.

"I don't think his stuff has gotten better, I think his confidence and his ability to attack hitters has improved," Anderson said. "He's throwing on Friday nights for us and it takes a special guy to go out there against another team's number one (starter)."

Anderson admitted that Dunn was originally not one of the guys he expected to end up as a starter on a staff that includes pitchers with more starting experience like Nick Hedge, Patton Taylor, and Greg Welsh, but that the team's leader in ERA never let what role he was given change his attitude.

At the same time, seeing him embrace being a workhorse for the team, especially during the team's most challenging portion of the season against their Big Ten opponents, has easily been one of the Nittany Lions most positive developments in the past month for the coaches.

"What's impressed me the most has been the fact that he didn't have a set role going into the season and he's been able to take advantage of a starting role without letting go of it," Anderson said. "He's welcomed it with open arms."

Dunn has been so focused on pitching this season that he's barely had a chance to think about the fact that his career as a Nittany Lion is winding down.

An Academic All-Big Ten selection in 2012, Dunn has already taken advantage of his upcoming degree in business by getting a job with an investment company in Newport Beach, California, though he is not quite ready to hang up his glove yet.

For a kid who traveled across the country to realize his dream of becoming a college baseball player, Dunn wants to make the most of his last few starts so that he can leave the Penn State program with no regrets.

 "I haven't thought about it (graduating) that much but it's a strange feeling and it's definitely bittersweet," Dunn said. "Being able to be a starter has definitely been a nice way to end my college career."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Nittany Lions Draw Familiar Foe To Begin NCAA Tournament

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Right around 9:15 p.m. on Sunday, room 133 in the East Area Locker Room exploded as the Penn State Nittany Lions learned they had been selected as one of 26 teams to compete for a national championship in the NCAA Tournament.

The celebration lasted around 60 seconds before head coach Missy Doherty addressed her team and the focus shifted from celebrating to preparing.

Penn State drew Princeton in the first round of the tournament, and will travel to the Charlottesville, Va., home of the University of Virginia to open play on Friday.

"I think it's awesome," Doherty said of her program making the tournament. "This is where Penn State should be. I'm excited for our team, that we made it to the NCAAs again. It's a great goal to have every year. And to be ranked as high as we are in the country as well is just a credit to what they have done all year."

The Nittany Lions and Tigers have become very familiar with one another over the years and the two programs just met on the lacrosse field 11 days ago. Penn State defeated Princeton, 13-12, in their regular-season finale.

"Yeah, I mean, I think it's been a good week," Doherty said. "I think we could rest after our ALC tournament; the girls have been in exams all week, so it's been a good pace to work up towards this weekend. [We] potentially have two tough games, especially facing Princeton, who we just beat by a narrow margin, we know it's going to be a battle come Friday."

Princeton poses an interesting challenge for Doherty's squad. The Tigers will enter the game hungry for a win after falling to the Nittany Lions in their last matchup. They are a quick team, who likes to outhustle their opponents, and they are very effective on offense.

In their matchup on April 26, the Nittany Lions ended the first half with an 8-4 lead after outscoring the Tigers 5-1 over the last 12:44. A strong start to the second half widened the lead to 13-7. Princeton responded well, but the stingy defense from the Nittany Lions limited the Tigers offense and helped secure the victory.

For Doherty and her team, the schedule will remain the same and their focus will remain the same - win. Penn State has been hungry for this opportunity all season long. The Nittany Lions have qualified for the NCAA Tournament the previous two seasons, and have yet to advance beyond the quarterfinals. This season, they feel they have a better opportunity to make their mark on this tournament and move beyond the quarterfinals.

One of the factors heading into this game is the Nittany Lions already having experience playing at Klöckner Stadium. They traveled down to Virginia earlier this season to take on the Cavaliers and have become familiar with the stadium and all its nuances.

Historically, balanced teams also have tremendous success in this tournament. Nineteen Nittany Lions have registered at least one point this season, and it seems as if the offense can come from anyone on the roster. Heading into this first round game, the balanced attack Penn State has should be very helpful as they try to make a postseason run.

The Tigers enter their matchup with the Nittany Lions after falling to the University of Penn in the Ivy League title game, 9-6, while Penn State enters after falling to Johns Hopkins in the first round of the ALC tournament.

After a long week of practice, the moment has finally arrived in just a few days. Game time is set for 4 p.m., on Friday and you can bet Doherty and the Nittany Lions will be ready to go.

"NCAAs are one-and-done," Doherty said. "You have to go in, be ready to take advantage of each play, each moment, and play those out and have a good game."