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Intersquad Scrimmages Boost Preseason Prep

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9342635.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The start of the 2017 baseball season is inching closer and closer for the Nittany Lions, and the anticipation surrounding the team is growing with each passing day.

 

The anticipation, however, will need to soon be channeled into focus. Penn State faces a daunting challenge in its first action back on the diamond since last season, as the Blue and White will be traveling to Fort Worth, Texas this weekend for a three-game series against No. 1 ranked TCU.

 

"To me there's no better opportunity than opening weekend going and playing the consensus number one-ranked team in the country in all the polls because you're going to find out right away what you need to work on, what you need to get better at and that's what I think we're going to be able to do," head coach Rob Cooper said.

 

TCU was voted as the consensus No. 1 team in the NCAA by all six major college baseball polls, so there's little doubt around the country that the Horned Frogs are the team to beat this season. The Horned Frogs have reached the College World Series three straight years and have the talent to win it all in 2017.

 

"We can't really worry about any of that," Cooper said. "For us, it's about playing a faceless opponent and about trying to get better every single day. If we do that, it doesn't really matter who we play."

 

The Lions did get a taste of TCU last season, but they were swept in a home three-game series at Medlar Field. The series was much closer than a sweep usually expresses, though. Penn State was able to score on TCU all weekend and lost the second game by just one run.

 

The Lions are confident a second chance will produce more favorable results.

 

"We're going to expect a pretty good series," senior outfielder Nick Riotto said. "I think that everybody here will tell you we expect to win no matter what they're ranked or who they are really."

 

Confidence is exuding from the Nittany Lions even before the season has begun. Riotto sure shows it, and so does sophomore pitcher Justin Hagenman.

 

Hagenman will toe the rubber to start the finale of the series on Sunday. He said the Horned Frogs offense must be respected, but it doesn't scare him.

 

"They do a lot of little things right," Hagenman said. "They're really good at running the bases and stuff like that. They really don't give away at-bats, but I think if we pitch our game and we all play our game I think they're just another team. That's the way we have to look at it."

 

Barring any changes, Hagenman looks to be the regular Sunday starter for Penn State like he was last year. For this weekend, Sal Biasi will start Friday's game and Taylor Lehman will get the ball on Saturday, Cooper said.

 

Everything the Lions have said leading up to opening weekend gives the impression that they're fully prepared and excited for the test. Maybe the biggest reason for this is the emphasis coaches place on intersquad scrimmages during recent practices.

 

Penn State tried to implement live action in at least a few practices each week during the preseason. Getting players used to seeing hard fastballs and adjusting to off-speed pitches as opposed to just soft toss is crucial to full preparedness when there's a real opponent in the other dugout.

 

"It's a huge deal," Cooper said. "Honestly it's one of the reasons why I really wanted to take the job here at Penn State because I knew in January and February we can actually play intersquads and get our guys to face hitters, to have to hold guys on, to cover first. So our guys have actually played baseball games rather than just hit in a cage or throw bullpens."

 

Riotto echoed Cooper, noting that he thinks it's one of the most crucial aspects of preseason practices. He said the team started off a little slow, but now the energy is better and he thinks they're right where they need to be.

 

Riotto said Hagenman is a tough pitcher to face during inter-squads because of his changeup, but he thinks Biasi is the hardest to hit off of.

 

The Lions are getting used to their own teammates' tendencies, so facing other pitchers and hitters should be a refreshing challenge. Cooper hopes the focus on intersquad play for the past few weeks will have the team ready to jump right in and compete with the best team in the country.

 

First pitch of the 2017 season is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday. Saturday's game will start at 3 p.m. and Sunday's at 1 p.m.

Baseball Spring Sports Media Day: Five Things to Know

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com Student Feature Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper, senior outfielder Nick Riotto and senior pitcher Dakota Forsyth all participated in Spring Sports Media Day Monday afternoon. Check out the five things to know from the the Q&A session heading into the 2017 season.

Big Opening Weekend
The Nittany Lions open their season on the road Friday, Feb. 17 in Fort Worth, Texas against No. 1 TCU. Although some may be intimidated by a tough first opponent, Penn State is excited for an opportunity to challenge itself.

"The thing I love about it is that they are the number one ranked team in the country," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "That's the direction that we want to take this program and the very first weekend we are going to be in that type of environment. We are going to find out very quickly what we are doing well, what we need to improve on and we can go from there."

Last year, Penn State took on the Horned Frogs at the end of the season losing all three games of the series 6-2, 5-4 and 9-5. Some may be satisfied with keeping the game close against one of the best programs in the country, but Cooper said his team was disappointed and knew they could compete at that level. 

Consistency in Pitching
When Cooper first started coaching the Nittany Lions, the six 2017 seniors were freshman. Cooper said he is very excited to watch all of his returning pitchers grow and learn from past mistakes and be better this season.

One thing that has plagued the Penn State pitching staff over the past few seasons has been consistency. Jack Anderson, Penn State's most reliable pitcher out of the bullpen last season, graduated last spring leaving the Nittany Lions searching for a consistent leader for the 2017 season. 

"We have to make sure we give quality starts and innings," Cooper said. "That's where I feel like we are deeper throughout our pitching staff, we just need a couple guys to step up and I definitely think we have those guys."

Sloniger Developing Behind the Plate
Last season, the Nittany Lions rotated their three catchers behind the plate to try to find the best fit for the most successful team. This season, Cooper is pleased with the depth at the position, noting that sophomore Ryan Sloniger, freshman Brett Davis and Willie Burger all provide options behind the dish.  

Cooper noted that he is particularly excited to see Sloniger's development take off this year. 

"You were asking a true freshman to play arguably the toughest position on the field at a Division I level," Cooper said. "We are seeing him, right now, be a lot more relaxed and comfortable with what's going on. Because of it, he's playing more free and more athletic."

Cooper also noted that an injury to Alex Malinsky will sideline the Nittany Lion senior. 

"We are going to miss Alex and his everyday leadership and the senior moxie that he brings to the table," Cooper said. "But the next guy has to step up."

It's a Process
A theme of almost all of Penn State's spring sports teams this season is focusing on the process of getting better. The Nittany Lions are focusing on creating smaller goals this season, the most important being to win each series against each team they face. Although the team avoided being swept in a conference series last season, picking up at least one win out of three against a team, is not enough for this year's team.

Not only are the Nittany Lions focusing on the improvements on the field, but the chemistry off the field is stronger than senior Dakota Forsyth has ever seen it.

"I know coming in my freshman year the locker room was kind of separated," Forsyth said. "Over the years, we have learned to accept each other and have gotten comfortable with holding each other accountable. We are getting freshmen acclimated to what we are doing here and having them come in and being able to compete right away. We are trying to get them as ready for the season as possible."

With these mindsets, the Nittany Lions are looking to achieve much more success than last year's 28-27 season.

"The difference between being an average team and a great team is razor thin," Cooper said. "It's making the choice to compete every day. It's making the choice to be present emotionally and mentally instead of just physically. It's getting them to understand that that's what great teams do. It's being consistent with that approach rather than just when things are good."

Cooper's Town Returns
Everyone knows about the "S Zone" of the football student section or the "Roar Zone" at the ice hockey games, but at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, there's Cooper's Town. 

Last season, the Cooper's Town student section became an energetic attraction as fans would fill the stands to listen to the rowdy group of students behind the visitor's dugout. 

"Those guys are awesome," Cooper said. "They care, they are into it and they are passionate about it. It's a microcosm of what Penn State is all about. For them to take it over the way they did, there's no question they make an impact on our team and our season. They are bringing excitement and people to the stadium."

The group brings a lot of excitement to the fans, but the energy also carries over to the field.

"When it's the beginning of the year and only 40 or 50 degrees, you might be thinking about how cold it is," Forsyth said. "But then you look over and see all those students there and it fires you up a little bit and makes you go a little bit harder."

Jim Haley Opens Professional Career With a Bang

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the process of making his college decision, Penn State alumnus Jim Haley was torn between two paths.

 

Haley was a star quarterback and free safety for Bonner and Prendergast Catholic High School in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. He fielded offers to play for Temple, Delaware, Villanova and others.

 

When he wasn't slinging passes and hammering unsuspecting receivers, Haley was on the diamond. Haley batted .459 with two homeruns and 26 RBIs in his senior season. He visited Maryland, Virginia, Elon, Richmond and Penn State for baseball.

 

Most high school athletes begin to focus on one sport as college recruiting gets closer. It's extremely rare to see athletes compete in more than one sport past high school, especially in two sports as time-consuming as football and baseball.

 

But Haley was an anomaly.

 

Haley was named MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League in both sports in two separate years. He was also named the Philadelphia Inquirer Player of the Year in 2013 for baseball.

 

He had his choice: baseball, football, or both. Villanova offered Haley a spot on both the football and baseball team, which would be an accomplishment very few could mark on their resume.

 

After a grueling decision making process, Haley decided to follow his lifelong dream of becoming a professional baseball player by signing with Penn State.

 

Four years later, that dream has finally come to fruition.

 

"I went to college knowing that I wanted to get out of there in three years and get drafted," Haley said.

 

Haley accomplished just that. Following his junior season, the Tampa Bay Rays called Haley's name in the 19th round of the 2016 MLB draft. He was the first Nittany Lion since 2012 to be drafted.

 

"That phone call, all of that work that I put in from college back to high school and everything, all of those emotions just flooded me in that minute and a half," Haley said. "It was kind of surreal."

 

Haley was surrounded by his family and his girlfriend when he received the call of a lifetime. He said it will always be considered one of the best moments of his life.

 

Luckily for Haley, Tampa Bay sent him to their A-league affiliate in New York, the Hudson Valley Renegades. It wasn't too far of a trip from his home in Upper Darby, and his family was able to see a few games in his rookie season.

 

Haley even returned to his own stomping grounds at Medlar Field on a few occasions to play the State College Spikes. He recorded his first professional hit there on a triple to the wall in centerfield just like he was in Blue and White again.

 

"It was just one of those things you can't write up any better," Haley said. "Going back to your home field to get used to pro ball definitely made it a lot easier and made the transition a lot more comfortable."

 

That transition seemed effortless for Haley, who stayed on the Renegades all year without getting dropped down to rookie ball.

 

Haley batted .285 in his rookie year, which was the third highest mark on the team. He smacked 70 hits in 65 games, tallied 19 RBIs, and scored 27 runs.

 

Usually it takes players some time to get used to professional pitching, but Haley jumped right in with seemingly no issues. He was even named a starter for the NYPL league all-star game.

 

"Jimmy's a competitor," said Penn State head coach Rob Cooper, Haley's former skipper. "Moving into pro ball, that kind of challenge isn't something that scares him. He enjoys that. His swing can play with wood or aluminum, and he's got an advanced approach at the plate which allows him to have success."

 

Cooper said it didn't surprise him at all how much Haley was able to accomplish in year one.

 

Haley, on the other hand, was a bit more shocked.

 

Right after arriving in New York, Haley was asked by a reporter what it would mean to make the all-star team if he was able to do so. Haley laughed it off and said there's no way he'll make it, but it would be pretty awesome.

 

Self-confidence aside, Haley produced a promising rookie season. So promising, in fact, that the Rays sent him to Florida after the season for instructional league training.

9257392.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most young baseball players hoping to hear their names called during the MLB draft are glued to their televisions and smartphones, trembling with anticipation. It's the moment all of their hard work leads up to and a day never to be forgotten for a handful of aspiring players.

 

That moment came for Penn State alumna Jack Anderson on the third and final day of the 2016 draft, but he didn't even know it at the time.

 

Anderson was actually swimming while on vacation with a few teammates in Palm Beach, Florida when the Seattle Mariners selected him in the 23rd round with the 687th pick. He found out from his old coach Rob Cooper.

 

Cooper called Anderson after hearing the news to congratulate his former closer. He had no idea he would be breaking the news to Anderson for the first time.

 

Anderson then realized he missed a call from a Mariners scout and quickly called back in excitement. He and the rest of the crew celebrated that night as Anderson returned home the next day to a surprise party at his house.

 

Anderson spent his first professional year bouncing from A-ball in Seattle, Washington to the rookie league in Peoria, Arizona He spent most of the year in the rookie level before getting called up for the Everett AquaSox playoff run.

 

In 21 innings pitched, Anderson surrendered just four earned runs in his rookie season for a 1.71 ERA between both teams. He was a key contributor to the Mariners' rookie team winning the Arizona League championship.

 

As is typical for minor leaguers, Anderson finds himself far away from his home in Chicago, Illinois. His living arrangements have varied from host families to hotels.

 

While in Seattle, Anderson stayed with a host family who lived right next to a lake. They even had a jet ski for his amusement. In Peoria, however, Anderson lived in a small Hampton Inn with one roommate. You never know what you're going to get as a minor league ballplayer.

 

"Life has been a whirlwind ever since I got drafted, moving place to place, but it's all been good stuff. It's been fun," Anderson said.

 

On the field, Anderson is working on adding a changeup to his repertoire to compliment his sidearm, frisbee-like slider. He also wants to become more of a multi-inning pitcher next season.

 

Anderson continues to improve each year by adding new wrinkles to his game and flat-out working harder than anyone. He did just that in his four years in Happy Valley, and he hasn't slowed down.

 

At Penn State Anderson improved his ERA and increased his total appearances each year. He closed out his career with the most appearances in Nittany Lion history with 98. His 25 saves is also a school record.

 

Anderson isn't just reliable, though. He was a shut-down closer virtually his entire Penn State career. He didn't allow one home run in college and did the same in his first professional season.

 

"I just think that Jack has really worked hard and understands who he is as a pitcher, and he really relishes that role of pitching to contact and getting ground balls," Cooper said. "If you understand who you are and you don't try to do too much you can have a lot of success."

 

A lot of Anderson's steady improvement over the last few years is a credit to Cooper and pitching coach Brian Anderson. He gives both coaches plenty of praise for his accomplishments in college.

"[Cooper] really pushed the mental game on us," Anderson said. "That was a big time adjustment for me, and I think that the mental game is always going to push baseball players over the edge. He really pushed that on me."

 

With the guidance of Cooper and a strong work ethic, Anderson has a realistic opportunity to climb the ranks in the minor leagues and make a splash for the Mariners.

 

He may not have that special moment of hearing his name called on draft day, but Anderson is living out his lifelong dream of playing professional baseball.

Penn State Alumnus Climbing Minor League Ranks

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Major League Baseball draft is unlike any other in the realm of sports.

 

Roger Goodell calls the names of more than 250 lucky football prospects throughout seven rounds. The NBA draft features just two rounds and 60 total players. There's effectively no margin for error.

 

For the MLB, it's wildly different. Thousands of players every year get the call they've been dreaming of since they could barely fit a glove on their tiny hands.

 

One of those players is Penn State alumnus Johnny Walter, who got that call in 2012. The Kansas City Royals were on the line.

 

Walter was drafted in the 29th round and decided to forgo his senior season in Happy Valley to fulfill his lifelong dream. It was a moment he'll cherish forever, but he knows his journey is only beginning.

 

The minor league system can be a cruel process, knocking you down right when you thought you had a shot to surpass the next hurdle. The multitude of levels and constant traveling can be as taxing on someone as a regular 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job.

 

It takes years to climb from one level to the next. Just ask Walter.

 

He has played for various teams in four different levels of minor league ball and was released twice in his four years in the system. But he kept fighting.

 

Walter was picked up by the St. Louis Cardinals a full year after being released from the Cincinnati Reds in 2015 and has finally found a home, he says.

 

Walter reached Double-A for the Springfield Cardinals this past summer. He bounced around from Single-A to Double-A and back, but he's currently still with Springfield.

 

"I learned basically my first outing in Double A that they just don't miss fastballs," Walter said. "They're a lot more discipline hitters. It's the biggest jump I've experienced so far from high A to double A."

 

For Walter, the nonstop jumping around from team to team and city to city isn't all that bad. He has relished the opportunity to play in historic places like Lexington, Kentucky for the Royals and Springfield, Missouri for the Cardinals.

 

Throughout his minor league career, Walter has posted a 13-14 record to the tune of a 3.86 ERA. He has struck out 166 batters in 200.2 innings on the hill.

 

Although Walter has made strides to climb the ranks in the minors, he's still working toward achieving his goals off the field. Walter is currently back on campus working toward finishing his degree in supply chain with a minor in MIS.

 

Walter is in the midst of his final semester. It has taken some time because the baseball season eats up a chunk of the school schedule, but Walter is determined to finish what he started six years ago.

 

"I definitely just value my education and I think that's something my parents instilled in me when I was younger, so just to work hard and finish what you start anyway."

 

Failure is not something anyone wants to have in their mind when working toward their dreams, but the harsh reality of the minor leagues puts players in the position to take into account life after baseball.

 

Walter doesn't know when that'll come, but when it does he'll be prepared to lift himself back up and conquer the world from a different perspective.

 

"I definitely know I need a backup plan because even if I'm in the big leagues next year and have a 10-year career, that's just 10 years of your life," Walter said. "And that's a very long career, too, so it's always good to have a backup plan."

 

Walter has been working out with the Penn State team while in town. He can be found in the weight room or studying, sometimes right in the locker room.

 

Head coach Rob Cooper arrived in State College a year after Walter departed for the minors, so he was never able to coach him. Cooper has only been accustomed to Walter through his workouts at Medlar Field and his presence in the locker room in the offseason, but that presence is extremely valued by him and the team.

 

"He does a really good job of talking to [the current players] about what pro ball is like and he's a very determined guy," Cooper said. "I wish I would've gotten to coach him."

 

Cooper has never seen Walter in game action, but simply watching him throw a few bullpens has Cooper optimistic about Walter's future.

 

"He has got a chance," Cooper said. "He has just got to keep going out there when he gets his opportunities and getting it done. If he does that he's got a chance to continue to play."    

Anderson Breaks All-Time Saves Record in Maryland Series

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (25-20) dropped two of three to Big Ten foe Maryland (24-19) and now rests in seventh place in the conference over the weekend.

In the second game of the series, senior closer Jack Anderson completed a four-out save to place himself among Penn State's all-time elite relief pitchers. The save marked the 23rd of his career, breaking the record for most saves in school history.

"It's an honor to have my name in there," Anderson said. "But I think saves are really more of a team stat and a team record because I wouldn't be put in that position if I didn't have great guys around me. It's kind of a record that I hope is broken fairly shortly because then it would mean we're winning a lot of games and staying really competitive in the near future."

"This is the oldest sport on campus, and he's the all-time saves leader. That's a pretty cool thing," said head coach Rob Cooper.

Anderson has registered a 0.63 ERA this season, which would rank as the lowest in the country if he were qualified. He has pitched 42.2 innings in Penn State's 45 games, but Anderson would need to match his innings total with the team's games played to be qualified for lowest ERA.

In the opening game of the series, Penn State's bats were quieted by Maryland's starting pitcher Mike Shawaryn in a 7-1 loss. Shawaryn pitched a complete game and held PSU to four hits while striking out six.

"It was a well-pitched game by him," Cooper said. "But I thought our guys continued to stay in the game, continued to battle, and we competed. We got to have a short-term memory and turn around tomorrow."

Seemingly the only Nittany Lion to find success against the hard throwing right hander was second baseman Connor Klemann. He ripped a double and a single in his first two at-bats, but PSU couldn't capitalize on either opportunity.

"You got to hit early in the count because when you get late in the count [Shawaryn] mixes it up real good," said Klemann. "The key for that guy was just jumping on stuff early."

Klemann has started only 16 games and has appeared in 21 this season, but he has been productive when he's on the field. The freshman owns a .315 batting average and has totaled 17 hits in his first year.

Nick Riotto and Ryan Sloniger were the only other Nittany Lions to notch hits in the game, and Tyler Kendal provided the team's lone RBI. Riotto, in his first game back from a hand injury that kept him out a few games, also made a full-stretch diving catch in the first inning to save a run.

Taylor Lehman started on the hill for the Blue and White and pitched four innings, giving up three earned runs and five total. Tom Mullin added four innings of relief and held the Terrapins scoreless until an eighth inning homerun.

"I'm so proud of [Mullin]. He pitched his tail off," Cooper said. "He went a big chunk of the season without seeing the mound, and he kept working and kept fighting. He kept us in that game."

Penn State came out with a sense of urgency in game two. It wasn't until the 22nd batter of game one that PSU was able to get a run across. In game two, it only took one batter and one swing.

On the sixth pitch Riotto saw, the junior belted an inside fastball over the right field wall to waste no time getting Penn State on the board. It was his second homerun of the season.

Riotto and Jim Haley led the charge with two hits apiece in game two. They have the highest batting averages among PSU starters in 2016.

It wasn't until the eighth inning when PSU was able to tack on an insurance run, but that was enough to pull out the 2-0 shutout.

Starter Sal Biasi turned in a solid performance to improve his record to 5-4 on the season. Biasi pitched five and two-thirds innings, surrendering four walks but holding the Terps scoreless.

In relief, Dakota Forsyth tallied two innings behind Biasi and Anderson closed the door for the save. It marked Anderson's Big Ten leading 11th save of the season.

Maryland threw the first punch in game three of the weekend series. The Terrapins tallied four runs in the first four innings off PSU starter Justin Hagenman and cruised to an 8-3 victory.

Hagenman suffered only his second loss of the season. He pitched an effective six innings giving up just two earned runs, but a few errors in the early innings and another silent offensive game doomed the Nittany Lions.

Throughout the game, Penn State totaled four errors that led to four unearned runs, but Hagenman still kept PSU in the game. Hagenman has gotten used to dealing with errors all season. Out of the 40 runs he has allowed this year, 18 of them are unearned.

"It doesn't faze him," Cooper said. "He does it the way you want most of your pitchers to do it, like 'Hey you know what, now I got a chance to pick up my infielder.' He's very mature and he understands that's not in his control."

The offense struggled yet again as Maryland starter Brian Shaffer recorded the win, surrendering only four hits and two runs in seven innings of work. Maryland needed just five pitchers the entire series.

The Nittany Lion bats managed just four hits total in game three and five runs in the series. Greg Guers led Penn State with two hits in game three, while James Coates and Willie Burger recorded RBIs.

Burger's two RBIs over the weekend pushed total to 32 on the year. He leads the team in that category even though the freshman missed 15 games due to injury.

The Nittany Lions have five days off to prepare for perennial powerhouse TCU's visit to Happy Valley next weekend. The Horned Frogs stand at 29-11 and are ranked ninth in the country.


Strong Pitching Holds Nittany Lions from a Win

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11904436.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State baseball was back at Medlar Field on Wednesday facing Kent State for the second time this season.

The two teams played against each other exactly one week ago at Schoonover Stadium, with the Golden Flashes coming out on top in both games. With a late scoring by the Nittany Lions in the bottom of the eighth, the home team came up short falling 6-2.


The visiting team was first on the board in the top of the third inning, with a RBI single by Mason Mamarella. The centerfielder made the last pitch on a full count matter, cranking the ball into right field. Runner on base Luke Burch made it home after advancing to second on a ball and third on a wild pitch.

Mamarella got the next tally two batters later on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Dylan Rosa.


With four innings down and two runs on the board, Penn State's Eli Nabholz stepped up to the pitcher's mound to relieve starter Nick Hedge. In the top of the fifth, Rosa swung on the second pitch for a two run RBI single passing a diving Jim Haley at shortstop. Teammates Reilly Hawkins and Burch got the tallies making the score 4-0 Kent. 

Pete Schuler was up next, hitting the same spot getting on first base after an infield error by Haley. Zalewski came off of second, picking up speed to make it home for the fifth run of the game. 

Mamarella got his second RBI with a single that resulted in a triple. The batter singled a line driver into right field, later advancing to second then third on a fielding error by James Coates.  Making this the final run for the Golden Flashes in the top of the sixth.

A change in the lineup was in favor of the home team, as relief pitcher Eli Martin started the top of the eighth inning. Haley was first on base finding the sweet spot in centerfield for a single. Tyler Kendall followed shortly after with another hit to left center, advancing Haley to third.

It wasn't until two-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week Willie Burger stepped up to the plate to get a pair of runs for the Nittany Lions. The idea of a comeback shook Kent State, bringing in new pitcher Tim Faix for the last batter of the inning.

The Flashes saw three Nittany Lion pitchers in the span of three innings during the latter stages of the game. Nick Distasio came in for relief in the sixth, while Tom Mullin followed shortly after in the seventh, staying until the eighth. The game finished with Tim Scholly stepping in as the fifth and final pitcher for Penn State, holding the opponents until the end.

"We didn't do well getting on base to begin. Got to have opportunities to score runners," said Head Coach Rob Cooper about the teams' performance. "Their guy [Joey Murray] did a good job keeping us off balance."

Coach Cooper said that it was Murray's late life in his curve balls that threw off batters at the plate. Making the players chase for the balls. The winning pitcher had nine strikeouts and allowed four hits. Keeping the Lions of the boards for a sold seven innings.

"It was good, he had two different arm angles," said Tyler Kendall. "I think as a group we kind of let fast balls early and some breaking balls left. We were taking and put us in some holes. We're going to learn from it. Come back tomorrow, practice it, and be ready for the weekend."

As for the many faces at the pitcher's mound for Penn State, Cooper said that it was an initial plan to take Hedge out early in the game and have pitchers like Mullin and Scholly get more playing time.

"We wanted Hedge to get another start. Eli we knew we wanted him to touch the ball..." Cooper said. "We said all along that we got a deep bench and a lot of young guys that haven't as much playing time as they would like. Just trying to get some guys off their feet."

Both Cooper and players noted that Wednesday's game was not their best performance. With four fielding errors, the Nittany Lions are looking to reduce this number when playing Maryland in the next series.

"As a whole it was kind of a sloppy game. They're a good hitting team and they're a great pitching team, spotting them a couple of walks, errors, and some base running errors was not part of our game plan," Kendall said. "But it happens, its baseball. Everybody that made errors tonight is a good player and will come back tomorrow with confidence."

"At the end of the days it comes down to us. Come down to us taking care of ourselves, and it comes down to making sure that we do the things that we need to do," Cooper said. "Pitch well, get ahead of guys, and find a way to score. If we do that, it'll take us up against anything."

The first game of the Maryland series will start Friday at 6:30 p.m. 

Lions Plate Five Runs in First, Complete Season Sweep of Bucknell

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11883917.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (23-14) defeated Bucknell (16-24) by a score of 9-5 Tuesday night for its sixth straight victory and second over the Bison in a week.

The Nittany Lions handed Bucknell a loss just six days earlier, 8-1.

Penn State wasted no time getting ahead on the offensive end. In the first inning, the Nittany Lions scored five runs on three hits and three walks and ousted Bison starter P.J. Strahm before he could record even two outs.

"Even though we scored five, you still got to play the rest of the game," said head coach Rob Cooper. "I do think it helped kind of take a little bit of energy and kind of put them down a little bit emotionally, but you got to keep playing and you got to respect the game. Otherwise this game is going to jump up and bite you."

Starter Eli Nabholz held Bucknell hitless for the first three innings and ended up with the win to improve his 2016 record to 2-0. Nabholz lasted five innings, giving up just two hits and one run while striking out five.

"I felt good," Nabholz said. "I was just working with [coach Brian Anderson] during the week trying to get a little more confidence in hitting spots. That was the game plan today. Just to go out and see results kind of reflect on some of the work you've been doing is good."

Nick Distasio relieved Nabholz in the sixth inning and gave up four runs in two innings, three of which came on an inside-the-park homerun by Joe Ogren in the seventh inning.

Jack Anderson came in to close out the game and notched his ninth save of the season. He's tied for ninth in the country for most saves in 2016 and he leads the Big Ten in saves and ERA (0.72).

Greg Guers continued his onslaught of opposing pitchers by smacking two hits and adding an RBI on the night. Guers is 15-21 in his last five games with nine RBIs, and his batting average has risen from .189 in early April to .320 currently.

"It seems like every time I swing the bat it's finding a hole somewhere so that's always good," said Guers. "You just stick to the same approach you've been having, and it's been working so I'm not adjusting it too much right now."

For his spectacular efforts in the past week, Guers earned Big Ten Player of the Week and NCBWA National Hitter of the Week honors.

"It's awesome to see," Cooper said. "Even when he was struggling, we still trusted him in the middle of that lineup. His success right now started back a month and a half ago when he kept with that process and he kept with that approach. If he had just kind of scrapped everything then I don't know if he's where he is so I'm extremely happy for him."

Also logging a strong night at the plate was freshman catcher Ryan Sloniger. Sloniger went 2-4 and tied a season high with four RBIs to lead the Blue and White in that category.

"I've been working with [coach Ross Oeder] a lot in the last few weeks, and I've felt a lot better in every game," Sloniger said. "Leading up to the night, I just wanted to barrel the ball and stay in the middle of the field."

Seniors James Coates and Tyler Kendall recorded multi-hit games in the win as well. The top four batters in the lineup (Coates, Jim Haley, Guers, and Kendall) reached base a combined 13 times and accounted for six of Penn State's nine runs.

The Nittany Lions have now won 11 straight games against Pennsylvania foes dating back to 2014. Penn State still has games scheduled against Pitt and Villanova later this season.

Penn State will travel south to face Kent State in another non-conference matchup Wednesday night. This weekend, the Nittany Lions will visit Piscataway, N.J. for a three game series against conference foe Rutgers. The Lions currently sit at fourth in the B1G with an 8-4 conference record, while Rutgers occupies the 11th spot with a 3-6 conference mark. 

Hagenman Bursting Onto the Scene Earlier than Expected

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The jump from high school ball to collegiate level competition can be daunting to most young pitchers.

The hitters in college are bigger, stronger, smarter, and flat out better than anyone a rising freshman pitcher has had to face in their lives. Most, if not all, freshman pitchers take a year to work on their game in practice and, if they're lucky, occupy a bullpen slot to warm up to the college game.  

But Justin Hagenman is not most freshman pitchers.

Hagenman has come to Happy Valley and immediately asserted himself as the ace of the Nittany Lion staff in year one. The quick leap and a sharp increase in talent hasn't fazed the 19-year-old from Voorhees, N.J., one bit.

"I don't think you should ever expect a true freshman to come in and be an ace because I don't think that's fair to that kid, but you don't ever put a limit on a guy," said head coach Rob Cooper. "If you come in with the mindset 'hey I just want to be [a part of] the roster or just want to get a few innings' well then you're slowing down your growth as a player, and it's something he hasn't done. He's a guy that wants to win and wants to compete and is doing a heck of a job of it."

Cooper and his coaching staff weren't exactly going after Hagenman hard when he was in high school at Bishop Eustace. They were looking more seriously at other players on his summer team and in the area when both his high school coach and summer coach approached Cooper and urged him to take a closer look at Hagenman.

Cooper did, and it sure has paid off.

In his first year in Blue and White Hagenman has started in eight games and boasts a 4-1 record, which is tops among Penn State's starting core. Hagenman has thrown a team high 52 innings to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, and he is third on the team with 27 strikeouts in 2016.

His 52 innings pitched is the fifth highest total in the Big Ten and his 2.25 ERA ranks ninth in the conference.

"He's just a silent assassin," Cooper said. "He's a competitor that just kind of goes about his business, and you look up at the end of the game and you've got a chance to win it. He's a lot of fun to coach because he takes a lot of responsibility to make himself better, he doesn't make excuses and he wants to help Penn State win."

"My goal was to come in here and be able to start games for Penn State," said Hagenman. "Not a numbers goal but being able to keep my team in games and give them a chance to win all the games that I started."

Hagenman has done just that and more for the Nittany Lions this season. Penn State has won six of his eight starts, and his only loss was to South Carolina, which ranks third in the country at 28-6. In that game, Hagenman held the Gamecocks to just two earned runs in 5.2 innings of work.

Hagenman was heavily influenced by his father, Dan, growing up. He learned everything about the game from his dad and gives all the credit to him.

"From the youngest age he was the one that got me into baseball," said Hagenman. "He coached me throughout and he's probably my best coach to this day. He's done everything on the baseball side of it."

No matter the situation, Hagenman has competed and put his team in a position to win every game he's started. There are no nerves. This kid is simply outperforming the expectations at his age.

"I think that's one of the best things that I can do. It's the controllables," said Hagenman. "Stuff like your emotions on the mound and attacking hitters, that stuff is all something that I can control. I can't really control whether they hit it, but I can trust my stuff and being able to go right at them is something that I can do."

Go right at them he has, and hit him they haven't.

Hagenman imprinted his name as a force to be reckoned with even before the season started. During Penn State's trip to Cuba in the fall, Hagenman became the first U.S. pitcher to earn a win over a Cuban National Series team in a matchup against Mayabeque. Hagenman allowed just one run and struck out three in his historical debut for the Nittany Lions.

He hasn't taken any steps back since that day. In fact, he's only improved. Of the 198 batters he's faced so far this season, Hagenman has walked only nine. There are seven pitchers on Penn State's roster who have surrendered more walks than Hagenman, and none of them have pitched more than 44 innings.

"It's an unbelievable stat," Cooper said. "It just shows that he goes after guys and he competes. He led off an inning with a walk and you could tell he wasn't happy with it, and that's because you're not used to it. The biggest thing is he just goes out and competes, and he believes in his team behind him and he believes in his ability."

"I just try to throw strikes and get ahead in the count," said Hagenman. "I'm inviting contact, so if they want to swing that's what we're going for."

That confidence is what has brought so much success to Hagenman so early on in his career. In turn, it has brought Penn State the success it hasn't produced in a while.

Penn State (19-14) is off to its best start since 2011. The Lions' 3.31 team ERA is approximately 1.82 runs lower than last season's and ranks 32nd nationally and third in the Big Ten.

Hagenman is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons for this resurgence, and he'll be around for quite a while longer.

"Just being myself, that's the first thing [my coaches] told me when they were recruiting me and then when I got here. They don't want me to be anything that I'm not, and that's what I've done."



Bowersox's Walk-Off Seals Comeback Win in Second Frame of Doubleheader

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11860965.jpeg By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (18-14, 5-4) split a doubleheader with Big Ten-leading Michigan State (21-6, 5-1) on Sunday to get back to a winning record in conference play.

After dropping the first game of the day the Nittany Lions rallied from one run down in the ninth to win the series finale in walk-off fashion, 7-6. Jordan Bowersox was the hero of the day, knocking in Jim Haley for the game-winning run thanks to an error by the MSU second baseman.

With two outs and runners on first and second, Tyler Kendall laced a single to right field on the first pitch he saw that drove in Nick Riotto to tie the game at six.

"I was sitting on off-speed. They had been starting me off low and outside, but I took good at-bats all day with nothing to show for it," said Kendall. "I was just happy to get the next guy up. That's all I was trying to do."

That next guy up happened to be Bowersox, who ended the game with one swing.

"He threw me a fastball up and I just chopped in on the ground," Bowersox said. "I actually tripped coming out of the box. Luckily he threw it a little high and I was safe."

Riotto extended his hitting streak to nine games with a three-hit performance in game two. He also scored three runs and recorded two RBIs to lead the Blue and White.

Haley also smacked three hits in the game and scored the winning run. Riotto (.330) and Haley (.349) lead the team in batting average in 2016 and continue to produce at the plate.

Jack Anderson picked up the win in game two to improve his record to 3-1 on the year. He threw three innings in relief of Justin Hagenman, who struck out four and allowed three earned runs in six innings on the hill.

"He always battles," Anderson said of Hagenman. "He's learning more and more every start he takes. He's always battling out there. He's always shooting knees and mixing velocities. He's a stud and we all have a ton of confidence in him."

The Nittany Lions committed a season high five errors in the contest, including two in each of the sixth and eighth innings.

"We got to take care of the ball better," said head coach Rob Cooper. "We didn't value the baseball at all. We got to move our feet. We got to know when to not throw a baseball. No excuses, we got to play better defensively."

Penn State out-hit the Spartans 9-6 in the first game, but MSU capitalized on its few opportunities to pull out a 5-2 win.

Sal Biasi started on the mound for Penn State and lasted five innings, surrendering only one hit but allowing three runs. Biasi struck out six but suffered the loss to drop his record on the season to 3-4.

Nick Distasio and Marko Boricich each added two innings of relief and gave up a combined five hits and two runs.

James Coates and Ryan Sloniger each tallied two hits in game one. Seven different Nittany Lions recorded a hit in a balanced effort.

Freshman Connor Klemann, in just his third start of the season, singled in the second inning to score Jordan Bowersox for his third RBI on the year. MSU bounced back with an unearned run in the fourth inning to tie the game at one.

In the fifth, Haley knocked in Ryan Sloniger with a sacrifice fly for his team leading 21st RBI on the season. Michigan State scored two runs in both the seventh and eighth innings and held on to win the second game in the three game series.

The Nittany Lions return to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Wednesday to face Bucknell at 6:30 p.m. Penn State will then head to Evanston, Ill. for a three game series over the weekend against conference foe Northwestern.    


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