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Bullpen Bounces Back with Complete Game Effort

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Normally, when a team's starting pitcher can't make it out of the first inning, it spells big trouble.

 

Teams rely on their starters to carry the game as long as they can to keep stress off the bullpen, but sometimes it isn't your day. That was the case Sunday afternoon for Penn State starter Taylor Lehman against Northwestern.

 

Lehman made it to at least the fourth inning in all of his eight previous starts this season, but he didn't have his best stuff Sunday. The senior lasted four hitters in the first inning before getting pulled with the bases loaded and no outs. He gave up a run on two hits and two walks.

 

A troubling scenario for a bullpen pitcher - entering a game with the bases loaded and no outs, is seldom worked out of without any damage incurred. While Penn State seemed to be in a heap of trouble early, the  game could've gotten out of hand quickly.

 

Freshman Bailey Dees wasn't going to let that happen.

 

Dees expertly maneuvered his way out of the inning without allowing another run. He got some help from shortstop Tommy Gibson, who snared a line drive and turned an unassisted double play by himself to get the Nittany Lions out of trouble.

 

"He threw strikes and got outs and was able to limit the damage to one," head coach Rob Cooper said. "You can't worry about the guys that are on [base], you got to take care of each pitch and he did a good job."

 

Dees said he barely got any time to warm up before entering the game but was ready to go when he got the call.

 

"You just got to attack guys, go right after these Northwestern guys and make them swing the bat," Dees said. "You can't defend walks, so if we go out there, get ahead with first-pitch strikes and go right at guys, it gives us a much better chance to get hitters out."

 

Penn State was able to tie the game in the second inning with a sacrifice fly courtesy of Shea Sbranti. What could've been another disaster for the Blue and White flipped around and they seemed to be in the driver's seat.

 

Dees continued to pitch 2.1 innings and surrendered just two runs in the game. They were the only two earned runs he's allowed in his last four appearances.

 

Penn State was still at a disadvantage having to go to its bullpen so early in the game, but three more relievers took the mound and kept the Nittany Lions within striking distance all game.

 

Senior Jake Pilewicz replaced Dees in the third inning and pitched two solid innings of his own. He allowed just one earned run on two hits.

 

Penn State tallied another run in the third to make it a one-run game via a Braxton Giavedoni sacrifice fly that scored Connor Klemann. At that point in the game, the Nittany Lions had yet to record a hit in the game but still pushed across two runs.

 

Kyle Virbitsky and Marko Boricich finished the final four innings in impressive fashion, limiting Northwestern to one hit and no runs. Boricich pitched two perfect innings to end the game and tallied three strikeouts, but the offense was unable to come alive and Penn State fell 6-3.

 

After the bullpen surrendered two late leads to the Wildcats in the first two games of the series, Cooper and Virbitsky said it's encouraging to see the bullpen perform well from the first pitch to the last.

 

"Just as a staff lately, especially yesterday you can point some fingers toward the staff for what happened, but being able to come out today and at least keep it under control was huge," Virbitsky said.

Duo Stays Hot in Close Loss

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State freshman Parker Hendershot and junior Conlin Hughes went through each of their own cold streaks at one point during the 2018 season, but both are seemingly finding a groove offensively as the Big Ten schedule winds down.

 

Still, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper stuck with the duo in the lineup despite their recent slumps and in return, they've rewarded him with blistering play at the dish.

 

Hendershot has been the hottest Nittany Lion in Penn State's lineup over the last two weeks. Since a nine-game slide, Hendershot burst immediately into an eight-game hitting streak that he extended Saturday afternoon against Northwestern.

 

Over the course of his hitting streak, Hendershot is hitting .533 (16-30) with 13 RBIs and four runs scored. He has three multi-hit games during the streak.

 

"He competes. He doesn't let one pitch faze him," Cooper said. "He's been tough to strike out lately and he uses the whole field."

 

Hendershot extended his hitting streak to eight games Saturday going 2-for-4 at the plate against Northwestern. He added two RBIs and worked a walk in the game as well.

 

In the third inning Hendershot cranked a double off the wall in left centerfield and then added an RBI single in the fifth inning to put Penn State up 4-0.

 

Hendershot has used his recent hot streak to vault his batting average to .353 on the season, a .142 increase from before his hit streak began. He now owns the highest batting average on the team.

 

Similarly to Hendershot, Hughes recently broke out of his nine-game skid with a season-high three hits against Lafayette this past week. He added an RBI and two runs scored in the game.

 

Hughes extended his own hitting streak to three games Saturday with another multi-hit game. He went 2-for-4 in the game with an RBI and a team-high three runs scored. Hughes had only one multi-hit game all season before this week, but has recorded two multi-hit games in the past three games.

 

Hughes could've had another hit and RBI in the seventh inning, Northwestern's first baseman made a diving snare to rob Hughes of an RBI single.

 

Hughes is 6-for-12 over his three-game hit streak, coming off a 2017 season in which he batted .255 and was second on the team with 50 hits.

 

Cooper said he sees Hughes getting back to that hitter he showed he could be last year.

 

"He's definitely been better and it's good to see because he's a guy who's done good things in his career here," Cooper said. "We could really use his veteran play and he's a good defender."

 

This season, Hughes hasn't seen his batting average hit the .200 mark yet, but his current .183 average is his highest of the season.

 

Penn State dropped a heartbreaker 8-7 Saturday, but Hendershot and Hughes continue to pressure opposing pitchers as the home stretch of the season approaches.

Hagenman Sharp in Suspended Series Opener

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Justin Hagenman has been the workhorse Penn State has relied on countless times over the last three years. The junior has led the team in innings pitched all three of his seasons, throwing 82 innings in 2016, 80 1/3 innings last season and 53 2/3 this year entering Friday night's game.

Hagenman continued that trend against Northwestern Friday evening when he cruised through eight innings allowing just two earned runs before a thunderstorm postponed the final 1 2/3 innings of the game Saturday.

"The thing about Justin Hagenman is he's a competitor. Always has been," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "Tonight we got exactly what I thought we would from Hag[enman] and if we play just a little bit better defense and help him out, I think the game is over and the final score is probably 6-1 and I'm at home right now."

Not only did the Penn State ace give his bullpen a night off with his eight strong innings on the mound, the right hander also recorded eight strikeouts, which is the second most of the season behind his nine-strikeout night against Purdue March 30th.

"[He had] command, was pounding the strike zone, able to go in, keeping the ball down and being able to repeat his off-speed stuff for strikes," Cooper said of what was working for Hagenman against the Wildcats.

Despite leading the team in both innings pitched and strikeouts through the first 34 games of the season, Hagenman (2-5) has struggled to maintain a decent record. But, this is not something new to the junior starter.

The right hander has struggled to get run support from his team the last two seasons on the mound. In 2017, Hagenman went 1-11 receiving just two or less runs of support in eight of his 14 starts and three or less in 11 of 14 starts.

Unfortunately, the pattern has continued into the 2018 season. Despite allowing three or less runs in seven of his 10 starts, Hagenman has only picked up two wins so far this year. If the Nittany Lions hang on to the 6-4 lead and secure the win in game one Saturday, the right hander will pick up his third win of the season.

Although a lot of players would mentally struggle without the constant run support of their offense, Cooper said that Hagenman has never once battled that issue. 

"It's mental toughness, it really is," Cooper said. "It's why he's good. It's why he's going to get a chance to play professional baseball. That's an example of a guy that could get upset and be like, 'Hey I rolled a ground ball we should've gotten out of this inning.' If a guy is not mentally tough, if he doesn't worry about just what he has to do and stay in the present, they can probably let that get to him. And he didn't do that."

The Nittany Lions sit in a good position leading the Wildcats 6-4 with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning that will be finished at 1 p.m. Saturday. Although Penn State is just five outs away from its first conference win since March 25 against Rutgers, Cooper and his team are not taking any lead for granted.

"Obviously this isn't over," Cooper said. "We still got some work to do tomorrow. Obviously if you give me an opportunity to have a two run lead with three outs to go on defense, then I think we'll take it. We'll come tomorrow and go through our regular pregame routine and get ready to go and try to finish this one off. We will worry about game two when it happens."

Penn State Offense Comes Alive

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The second inning Wednesday night was the type of inning the Penn State offense has been waiting for all season long. 

The Nittany Lions kept the bottom of the second going for about 30 minutes, sending 11 total batters to the plate. The result was six runs on seven hits that led Penn State to a 7-2 victory against Mount St. Mary's.

"It's good for us," left fielder Parker Hendershot said. "Obviously we have been struggling lately. It's good to have a game where we get these runs and these hits here and there and it's hopefully something that can get us started for the rest of the season."

Hendershot got the second inning started with a single through the right side. After moving to third on a wild pitch and a ground out, shortstop Joe Weisenseel singled him home with a lined drive under the second baseman's glove. Tommy Gibson then knocked in Weisenseel on a single down the left field line before Ryan Sloniger brought home two more on a single to center.

Third baseman Connor Klemann kept the offense rolling with his first career triple on a shot to deep left center field. Hendershot, who started the inning, then knocked in the final run of the second with a double down the left field line. 

"It was fun," Hendershot said of the second inning. "Everyone was into it and we just kept piling them on. Hopefully we can continue to do that."

The offense tacked on another run in the third inning, but was unable to put another run on the board for the rest of the game. 

Although the scoring may have slowed down, Klemann did not. 

On top of his first career triple, the third baseman tied his career high with three hits on the evening with a run scored and an RBI.

"It definitely feels good," Klemann said of his three-hit night. "Baseball has its ups and downs. It's a long season and we're only half way. I've been hitting some balls hard, so I've been sticking with it. It was good to finally see some results tonight." 

Klemann got off to a hot start to the 2018 season hitting .297 through the first 20 games of the year, but over the past few weeks he has struggled at the plate. Entering Wednesday's game, Klemann was hitting just .243, but the third baseman was able to bump his average back up to .259 after his three-hit night.

Slumps are not something Klemann has had to battle in his time at Penn State. The third baseman has played and started in all 30 games this year, which is more games than he has played in a single season since his first season with the Nittany Lions in 2016.

In his freshman season, Klemann was named the opening day starting second baseman, but ended up with an injury in the first game that sidelined him until April, allowing him to play in only 28 games. Again in 2017, Klemann only played in 10 games before he was forced to end his season due to another injury.  

For Penn State head coach Rob Cooper, because Klemann hasn't be able to get a full season under his belt, he hasn't had to learn how to bounce back from hitting slumps. 

"It's been awhile," Cooper said. "It's one thing that we talked about earlier. It was like, 'Hey man, I know you're struggling. I know you want to get out of it. It's kind of new to you. You got to stay with it.' He made some adjustments to his swing yesterday and it kind of showed up today."

The adjustments the third baseman made to his swing prior to Wednesday's game paid off with two singles and a stand up triple that gave Klemann his first multi-hit game since March 30 against Purdue.

"Obviously he can really hit," Cooper said. "He's a guy that hits in the middle of our lineup and when he can do some damage it helps."

Along with Klemann's hot bat, Hendershot continued his hot streak going 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI, while Weisenseel went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI. The hot offensive night gave Penn State its first win since March 25 snapping an 11-game losing streak.

The Nittany Lions hope that the hot bats continue in Ann Arbor, Michigan this weekend when the team takes on the Wolverines.

"I think we should treat every game the same no matter who it is," Hendershot said. "I think we should go in there knowing what we are capable of and put the past experiences behind us. Just focus on the task at and just knowing that we can beat any team in the country as long as we just focus and put our mind to it."

Hendershot's Unconventional Journey

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Last spring Penn State freshman Parker Hendershot was just a few months away from starting his collegiate baseball career at the University at Buffalo when he found out on social media that his future was about to change. 

Hendershot scrolled through Twitter early one morning to find out baseball was one of the four programs Buffalo would cut at the conclusion of the 2017 season.

"I kind of panicked because it was late in the recruiting process," Hendershot said. "I didn't know who was going to give me another opportunity or where I was going to go."

Committed to Buffalo since the spring of his junior year in high school, Hendershot was forced to start from square one exactly one year later.

Not only was it late in the recruiting process, but most schools also require an academic decision from the institution by the beginning of May. With Hendershot receiving the news around March, that left him just two months to create a new plan. 

Instead of taking all two months though, Hendershot got things turned around in just two weeks when he selected Penn State as his new home.

"Unfortunately, in the last 10 years, we've seen some [baseball] programs get cut and that has not good for our game," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "It's worked out where it's been really good for Penn State baseball. He's an unbelievable young man. He comes from an unbelievable family. He works extremely hard."

Although Hendershot was looking for the best place to continue his baseball career, he also wanted to find a school that he loved outside of baseball.

Penn State's campus was the perfect fit.

"I wanted to go to a big school and Buffalo was a big school too," Hendershot said. "Obviously, this is a step above. I liked all of the facilities here and the coaches. Obviously every program here is a great program. I told myself once I committed here that if I don't get to the next level, that's on myself because obviously the coaches and the facilities are going to put us in a place to thrive. If we don't perform and improve the way we want to, then that's our own fault."

As ready as he was to start his journey to the next level, Hendershot was thrown yet another curveball. With an injury plaguing him through the entire fall season, the young freshman was not able to start the 2018 season as ready as his teammates were.

"Some of the things he's gone through in January, February and early March, a lot of our guys got to go through in September, October and November," Cooper said.

In the first series of the season at Elon, Hendershot was not selected to travel with the team because Cooper and the coaching staff felt as though he was not quite ready.

"He never pouted. He never complained," Cooper said. "He said, 'Yes, sir. I'm going to keep working.' In fact, the morning we left for our first trip, he and some other freshmen were there at the bus wishing our guys luck. It shows the kind of person he is. It shows you how he works."

While some freshmen may get frustrated under tough circumstances, Hendershot uses it as motivation. Although he's a natural hard worker, Hendershot has previous experience being a young member on a veteran team, which has helped him keep his confidence throughout the beginning of the 2018 season.

Hendershot is from Barton, New York, where high school sports teams sometimes allow middle school students to play up if the player is good enough to make the cut. In middle school, Hendershot made his high school team and graduated as a five-year letterwinner from Tioga Central High School.

Serving as team captain in his senior year, the Tigers MVP was ranked the ninth-best player out of New York and the second-best third baseman ahead of arriving in Happy Valley.

"It does [help] because there are some teams that have freshmen that struggle and then there are teams that freshmen thrive on," Hendershot said. "I think, in regards to this program, the freshmen have gotten a lot of opportunities and I think we've done our fair share of contributing."

Despite the early season challenges, Hendershot has started to heat up at the plate, hitting .313 (5-for-16) in his last four appearances. Last time out, the freshman had a career day, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored, two RBIs and a walk. 

For Cooper though, he believes this is only the start for the young freshman. When it comes to Hendershot's future, the sky is the limit.

"One thing he does love to do, is he loves to play baseball," Cooper said. "He's not afraid of competition and he's extremely coachable. He wants to soak up knowledge. Love having him. We're lucky."

Underclassmen Flash Future Potential

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State has an extremely young roster this season that features 13 freshmen and nine sophomores. Only five of the team's 35 players are seniors.

 

While the young roster may have experienced trouble adjusting to division I pitching and hitting early on this year, many of the promising Nittany Lions of tomorrow are hitting their stride in the middle of the season.

 

Penn State lost both games of its Saturday doubleheader against Ohio State by scores of 5-1 and 19-8, but multiple underclassmen showcased what the bright future of Penn State baseball could look like in the process.

 

Most notably, sophomore infielder Logan Goodnight broke out of his recent slump in the three-game series with the Buckeyes.

 

Goodnight had gone three straight games without reaching base leading up to the weekend series, but he rocked Ohio State's pitching for two multi-hit games and went 5-for-12 with a run scored in the series.

 

Goodnight has only started 11 games so far this year, but head coach Rob Cooper has given him the nod the past four games. He could become the regular starter at shortstop if his bat stays hot.

 

"This is a guy that we thought a lot of coming out of high school. He was an All-American coming out of high school," Cooper said. "He's a kid that we think has a lot of potential. I hope this is a sign of things to come with him."

 

Freshman Parker Hendershot also started all three games as the designated hitter against the Buckeyes and made his own case to stay in the normal rotation. Hendershot exploded in game two of the doubleheader, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs and two runs scored. His three hits Saturday marked a career high.

 

"One thing I love about Parker is that he will basically do whatever you ask him to do," Cooper said. "He's super coachable. He takes his role here personally. He wants to be the best he can be."

 

Hendershot's .262 average is the highest among underclassmen and third highest on the team.

 

Fellow freshman Curtis Robison also put together a solid weekend at the plate with a hit in each of the three contests. Robison was less than a foot away from his second career home run in game two of the doubleheader when his bomb in the third inning hit the top of the right field fence.

 

Robison's 21 starts are the most on the team out of all freshman.

 

On the mound, a duo of freshman put together the two best relief performances of the weekend.

 

In game one Saturday, Conor Larkin relieved starter Taylor Lehman in the fourth inning with two runners on base and promptly struck out Ohio State's best hitter, Noah McGowan, to end the inning.

 

Larkin tossed a career-high 4.2 innings out of the bullpen and held the potent Buckeye offense to just two hits and no runs. Ohio State may lead the Big Ten in runs scored, but Larkin handled the Buckeyes with ease.

 

"I think the sky is the limit [for him]," Cooper said. "Right now, being a freshman, he's trying to learn how to pitch at this level. At times it can feel like drinking water out of a firehose for these young guys. He's gotten back in the bullpen and he's really starting to pitch well."

 

Larkin has now gone three straight appearances without allowing a run.

 

Freshman reliever Mason Mellott followed Larkin's performance in game one with a 2.2-inning effort in which he didn't allow a hit in game two. Mellot's 3.63 ERA is the lowest of all Penn State bullpen pitchers.


Despite Penn State's recent slide, the team's rich pool of underclassmen are getting more opportunities to showcase what the future may hold. If Saturday's performances are any indication, there's nothing short of excitement and optimism to look forward to. 

Bowersox, Hagenman Continue Hot Streaks

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Juniors Jordan Bowersox and Justin Hagenman have been the leaders for Penn State both offensively and defensively across the past two and a half years.

 

Coming in as a freshman, Bowersox played in 42 games, starting in 34. He batted .244 on the season and recorded a .310 on-base percentage. As a sophomore in 2017, Bowersox took a big leap with his bat. The centerfielder batted a team-best .333 in 33 games and also led the team in slugging percentage (.480) and on-base percentage (.418).

 

Bowersox was poised to top the lineup in 2018 as a junior, but his offense hasn't translated to statistical success quite yet this season. Bowersox, though, is seemingly heating up at the dish.

 

Hitting .259 coming into Friday night's matchup with Ohio State, he's currently riding his hottest streak of the season. Over the last seven games, Bowersox is 11-27 (.407) and has recorded at least one hit in six of those contests.

 

"I think he'd be the first to admit to you that early he was trying to do way too much because he felt like he [had something] to prove to [MLB] scouts, whereas he's really got to look at it the other way," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "What he did up until that point is what got him noticed in the first place, so he's starting to get back to that. You're seeing him have unbelievable at-bats against good pitching."

 

"J Bo" continued his dominance Friday, going 3-3 at the plate and reaching base in four of his five at-bats against the Buckeye pitching staff. The only time he failed to reach base was in the seventh inning, when Bowersox put down a sacrifice bunt to move a runner to second.

 

Bowersox roped a two-out double in the bottom of the ninth inning to advance the tying run to third, but junior Ryan Sloniger flew out to center field to end the game.

 

Bowersox increased his 2018 batting average to .279 Friday, good for second highest on the team behind Sloniger.

 

"I feel more comfortable at the plate, more calm," Bowersox said. "I've been working hard. I started off a little slow but this game is a game of failure and you get new opportunities every day."

 

As much as Bowersox has conquered opposing pitchers of late, Hagenman has done the same to opposing hitters.

 

Penn State's ace has given up just three earned runs combined in his last three starts. Over his last 18.1 innings, Hagenman has racked up 22 strikeouts and surrendered just 12 hits.

 

On Friday, Hagenman held the Big Ten's highest scoring offense to one unearned run off a throwing error in 6.1 innings pitched. Ohio State averaged 7.23 runs per game before Hagenman shut them down to the tune of seven strikeouts and just four hits allowed.

 

"Those guys can definitely swing it, but that doesn't change the way I go about pitching against them," Hagenman said. "It's up to me to go at them with my best stuff."

 

Hagenman said he made an in-game adjustment with his curveball, and once he started throwing it for a strike it opened up the zone and he rolled through the Buckeye lineup.

 

Hagenman brought his season ERA down from .333 to .292 with the effort. That's the lowest mark on the team even though Hagenman has tossed almost 20 innings more than the next pitcher.

 

"[Hagenman has been] unbelievable," Cooper said. "I love coaching him. If I'm a professional scout, I'm drafting Justin Hagenman because he's a good pitcher and he can really compete."

 

One of the biggest reasons for Hagenman's recent success has been his ability to get hitters to look at strike three. Of his 49 strikeouts this season, more than half have been looking.

 

Hagenman is second in the Big Ten with 25 backward K's on the year.

 

"That's because he executes pitches," Cooper said. "If a guy can execute a pitch when he needs to and where he needs to, you're going to freeze some kids and that's what he does."

 

Penn State dropped the pitcher's duel to Ohio State 1-0 Friday in the first of a three-game series at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

 

Even so, it's encouraging for two of Penn State's most consistent contributors over the last few years to be clicking at the same time.

 

The Nittany Lions return to the diamond Saturday for a doubleheader against the Buckeyes to finish the three-game set. Game one's first pitch is set for 2 p.m.


Mellott Finds Home at Penn State

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Many college students struggle with the transition from high school to college because it is often their first experience away from home. For freshman Mason Mellott, his collegiate choice happened to be right in his back yard.

Mellott was born in State College at Mount Nittany Medical Center, which is just one mile away from Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The freshman pitcher grew up just five minutes away from campus and has had Penn State football and wrestling season tickets for as long as he can remember.

During his decision-making process, Mellott looked at schools like VCU and George Washington to continue his baseball career. With Penn State as his dream school though, it seemed to be a perfect match. 

"I always thought about playing college baseball and Penn State was always the big school for me, but I didn't pick this school right away," Mellott said. "It was definitely in the conversation, but I looked other places and then my love for the school brought me back to here. It was an easy decision for me then."

Penn State head coach Rob Cooper can also recall his initial impression of Mellott.

"The thing that stuck out to me the most was he has this competitive nature that's very infectious," Cooper said. "He kind of pitched on the attack the entire time. You could tell that he enjoyed that. You could tell he enjoyed playing. He kind of had this personality out there that you're like, yeah, that's what you want when you see a guy pitch."

His childhood home may only be five minutes away, but Mellott opted to live on campus to get the full college experience. Being closer to home helped the freshman through some early college struggles. 

"Having family around me all the times during the struggles I went through helped me cope a little better," Mellott said. "Obviously being used to the weather and everything that comes with being in the north and playing baseball I was used to, so I definitely think that helped me."

On top of transitioning to college, Mellott had to undergo yet another transformation, going from starter to reliever. While he may not have had much experience working in relief, he turned to a few veteran relievers on the team for advice.

"Nick Distasio [helped me]," Mellott said. "Marko [Boricich] has really helped me and Jake Pilewicz has helped me on how to come out of the bullpen and how to be a reliever. Like the mental side of it and what you have to do to prepare yourself to go into a bases loaded situation with no outs or something like that, to not freak out on the mound, and stay composed. Their experience has helped me learn and helped me have this early success."

Whatever the veterans shared with him, it worked. Mellott has the most appearances (13) out of the bullpen of anyone on the team. In his 19.1 innings this year, Mellott has posted a 3.72 ERA with three saves and 17 strikeouts. 

For Mellott though, it's hard to pin-point why he has had so much success.

"I think just trusting myself, trusting the coaches, sticking to a plan and how I went out and pitched in high school. Just stay with the same mentality. Obviously players are a little better at this level, but I think just sticking to the same mentality and going out there and pitching with the same heart and my head in the right place has helped me get to where I am right now."

For Cooper, it's his ability to remain calm on the mound that has been the major reason for success.

"I think the biggest thing with Mason is he loves to pitch," Cooper said. "When he comes into a situation or he looks at making that jump from high school to college, he doesn't look at it the same way some other guys do, where it's a stressful deal. He keeps it real simple and so because of that, he has been able to have some success that maybe some other guys haven't been able to have yet, but they will."

Cooper is unsure whether Mellott will stay a reliever or transition back to a starter in his three years to come with the Nittany Lions. For now though, Mellott is enjoying his time in the new position.

"I do like the role," Mellott said. "It was definitely different to get used to because you have to warm up before the game and then kind of get your body ready and your mind ready late in the game. It's fun to come in with the pressure and the game on the line and obviously save the game for the team."

Hagenman, Weisenseel Lead Passionate Purdue Series

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After Wednesday's loss to Cornell, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper was quick to point out his team didn't bring the effort and passion to the field Penn State is accustomed to.

 

"We have to decide if [respecting the game and our uniform] is something that we want to do and we can," Cooper said after the game.

 

Following a day off Thursday, Penn State rebounded Friday with a passionate effort against Purdue featuring Nittany Lion fielders diving for anything near them, batters fighting for every pitch and pitchers digging deep to give it all they had.

 

Friday's battle ended in a narrow 3-2 victory for Purdue, but Cooper was nevertheless proud to see his team fight again.

 

"I was not pleased with our team after Wednesday's competitive level," Cooper said. "I'm 180 degrees the other way [tonight]. "I thought our guys fought like crazy. I thought our guys played with great energy. I thought they competed, I thought they fought. I'm proud of this team's effort today, and if we can learn from that I think we're going to be in a good spot moving forward."

 

Junior starting pitcher Justin Hagenman turned in a gritty performance on the mound for the Nittany Lions. Hagenman notched season highs in innings pitched (seven), pitches (104), and strikeouts (nine). He surrendered just five hits and one earned run in the game.

 

Hagenman hasn't been able to pitch that deep into games this season so far, but he fought through the fatigue and put together one of his finest starts of the season Friday. Even when his offense wasn't giving him any run support, Hagenman battled to keep Penn State within striking distance.

 

"You know there are going to be days when you get all the run support and days when you get no runs until late in the game, but it's just your job to do all you can do to keep your team in the game until you hand the ball off," Hagenman said. "It doesn't really change the way I go about it."

 

Cooper said Hagenman's statistics this year and last don't reflect how good of a pitcher he really is.

 

Last season Hagenman received less than two runs of support in eight of his 14 starts and three or less in 11 of 14 starts. Despite leading the team in innings pitched (80.1) and placing second in strikeouts (75), Hagenman recorded just one win in 2017.

 

"He's a tough kid, competitive kid," Cooper said. "I thought he took a huge step today because even in the seventh inning his [velocity] was good and his stuff was sharp, and that's the mark of an ace."

 

On the offensive and defensive ends, sophomore Joe Weisenseel also exemplified what it means to be a Penn State athlete during the weekend series against Purdue.

 

In the seventh inning of game one with a runner on third, Weisenseel ripped a ground ball off the pitcher's foot and the ball sprayed to the second baseman for what seemed to be an easy, lucky out. However, Weisenseel shot out of the batters' box and slid head first into first base to beat the throw and drive in Penn State's first run of the game.

 

"Every time [Weisenseel] has been healthy since he's been here, he hasn't had a whole lot of fear," Cooper said. "He's not a physical kid, so he has to play with that mindset. He's able to have success at this level because of that."

 

Weisenseel kept his foot on the pedal for Saturday's second game and his contagious energy spread throughout the dugout.

 

Junior Shea Sbranti ran about 100 yards combined on two foul ball plays--sprinting backward with his hat falling off both times, Sbranti bolted toward the dugout and laid out for the two pop ups. He was unable to reel in either of the fly balls, but Cooper praised his and others' efforts during the doubleheader.

 

Both Weisenseel and freshman Curtis Robison made diving plays that seemed impossible to make off the bat to save runs.

 

Penn State ended up dropping all three games to Purdue over the weekend--two in close fashion that could've gone either way. The bats and arms haven't quite clicked at the same time yet this season, but a confident mindset is necessary for success. Penn State seems to have found it again.

 

"Sitting here right now I don't think we're going to be like this the entire year," Cooper said. "There's a lot of season left. There's a lot of Big Ten play left. There's nothing else you can do except put your head down, keep working, stay positive, and try to pull the good out of what we did today and improve on it."

Nittany Lions Look for New Start

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State finally returned home Wednesday after not playing at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park for nearly two weeks because of three postponed games. Despite being back on their own turf, the Nittany Lions hardly had home field advantage.

In a game where the box score may only reflect sloppy play, both Penn State and Cornell battled less than ideal weather conditions. What started as a hazy evening at first pitch turned into extremely dense fog by the seventh and eighth innings.

"I've never played in fog like that before," catcher Derek Orndorff said. "That's a first for that."

The Nittany Lions trailed by just two runs entering the eighth, but the fog became so thick that it was nearly unplayable. After two fly balls were hit to the outfield and neither left fielder Braxton Giavedoni nor center fielder Mason Nadeau was able to see them, the umpires decided to call the game early with Cornell ahead, 10-6.

"I couldn't see the ball," left fielder Braxton Giavedoni said. "It was kind of distracting. It probably was one of the craziest [games I've played] I'd say."

Although Orndorff and Giavedoni said it was difficult to see, they definitely did not show it in the batter's box. Giavedoni went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored, while Orndorff drew a walk in each of his four plate appearances. 

"It was easy close up to see," Giavedoni said. "Once I [went] into the outfield, it was kind of hard seeing the ball go over the plate like the whole game."

"I felt like I was seeing the ball pretty well," Orndorff said. "Just taking it one pitch at a time and really focusing on what I could control." 

Although the weather conditions were not favorable, Giavedoni and Orndorff were sure to point out that the fog was no excuse for the team's loss. Leading into this weekend's series against Purdue, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper wants the Nittany Lions to focus more on their mindset and passion rather than working on hitting or fielding. 

"We're not practicing tomorrow," Cooper said. "Us practicing tomorrow is not going to make us better. Tonight wasn't about being able to field a ground ball or take batting practice. We didn't compete." 

"We practice great. We really do. We have great practices. This is about [the players] making a choice and us as a group making a choice of what kind of team we want to be. If we come out Friday, Saturday and Sunday, whether we win any of them, but we fight hard and we compete and we play the game at the level that I think we can, then we will get right back at it."

With a 7-12 record to start the season, Cooper noted it's easy for the team to add pressure at the plate, especially with runners in scoring position. However, Cooper is hoping Penn State can push that pressure aside and relax at the plate. 

"We're 19 games into this," Cooper said. "At some point you have to go, 'I don't care what my average is. I don't care if I make a mistake as long as I make a mistake doing it the right way.'"

After Sunday's 9-3 win against Rutgers Sunday, Cooper knows that his team is capable of playing at a much higher level than Wednesday's performance demonstrated. The Penn State head coach is hoping that Friday's series opener against Purdue will get his team back on the right track. 

"We have to decide if [respecting the game and our uniform] is something that we want to do and we can," Cooper said. "We did it opening weekend against Elon. We did it Sunday against Rutgers. We can do it."

@GOPSUSPORTS

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