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After One Year, Farkes Reflects on Boston Marathon

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Growing up in Boston, Penn State senior catcher Alex Farkes had his own little Patriot's Day tradition.

Every year, Farkes and his friends would attend the Boston Red Sox game in the afternoon and then walk to Boylston Street to catch the end of the Boston Marathon. For Farkes and many Boston natives, it was not just another day on the calendar, it was the city's own holiday.

"[Patriot's Day] is a very important day in Boston and it's part of the city's identity," Farkes said. "I'm blessed to be from [Boston] and I'm proud of it."

Last year, as Farkes spent his Patriot's Day afternoon preparing for practice, he received the same shocking news as the rest of the country: a bomb had gone off near the Marathon's finish line at Boylston Street.

Suddenly, all of the trivial things that had been on the Nittany Lions catcher's mind, such as his team's 8-1 loss to Michigan the day before, didn't seem to matter much. After speaking with the coaching staff, Farkes quickly called his three older brothers and his parents to make sure they were unharmed, which thankfully, they were.

While the reassurance of his family and friend's safety helped ease his mind somewhat, the news and the aftermath of the day were still hard for the junior to process.

"It's hard when you live so close that you can feel the ground shake when you talk to your family," Farkes said. "I just prayed for the victims and hoped that they would be rushed to safety and that everything would be okay."

Looking back on the fateful day a year later, Farkes is able to take pride in the resiliency that his hometown showed during the traumatic period. However, the week following the bombing remains one of the toughest of the 22-year-old's life.

With the city of Boston on lockdown as police searched nearby Watertown, Mass. looking for the culprits, Farkes tried to remain focused on the team's upcoming series against Iowa, something that wasn't easy to do with his family on his mind.

Luckily for Farkes, he had fellow Massachusetts natives in pitcher T.J. Jann and outfielder Sam August to lean on throughout the week. On April 20th, the day following the successful manhunt, Farkes managed to go 2-for-4 in a game against Iowa, though his mind was still largely elsewhere.

"[That week] was tough because my brothers live near Watertown and it was scary. It hit right at home...right there and it was pretty crazy," Farkes said. "I try to play the game the same way every time but it definitely put things in perspective and I just wanted everyone to be okay."

The 2013 season was still in full swing and Farkes did his best to go about his normal routine as usual. When the Nittany Lions final game on May 18 ended, however, Farkes knew there was something he needed to do.

Returning home a few days later, the loyal Boston native made a special stop before he did anything else. He walked to the spot of the finish line and took a moment to let everything sink in.

"I walked to Boylston Street, walked up the street for five minutes and I just stood there for a while," Farkes said. "There's a Marathon Sports (running store) there and I bought a "Run to Remember" t-shirt and stood there and just took it all in."

For Farkes, Boylston Street had always been a part of his childhood. In that moment, it dawned on him that the place now represented so much more.

"It's scary because I walked around there my whole life, to get a bagel or get food and those are the streets that I grew up on, and everyday my parents let me go out," Farkes said. "My heart slowed a little bit walking around there."

Over the past year, Farkes has watched his hometown rebound slowly but surely. The Stanley Cup Finals appearance by the Boston Bruins and the World Series victory by the Red Sox helped bring the city's community together and will forever remain highlights for him.

Though the senior said he never needed a reason to be proud to call Boston home, watching the response to the attacks by both civilians and hospitals as well as the actions by the Boston Police Department made him realize how lucky he is.

"I'm so blessed to know that those people were protecting me my whole life and I feel very lucky for that," Farkes said. "I was already proud of that city and I guess I'm even more proud now. I'm just thankful that they were able to save so many people."

Watching the tributes given this past Tuesday by Vice President Joe Biden and many others on the one-year anniversary of the day, Farkes was reminded of the importance of Patriot's Day and the Boston Marathon, two things that will always hold a special place in his heart.

He may currently be enjoying his senior season on a team striving to give new head coach Rob Cooper a winning season, but if there is one thing Farkes learned over the past year, it's that some things are more important than baseball.

"Some people can do some scary things," Farkes said. "If there's one thing I take away it's that each day is a blessing."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Takeaways Abound After Weekend Series at Ohio State

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio - It was a back and forth weekend between Ohio State and Penn State during the Nittany Lions three game set in Columbus. After Penn State took game one of the series, 5-4, in dramatic fashion, the Blue and White dropped the next two games of the series, 7-0 and 12-6.

Friday night Penn State held on to win the first-game of the series, 5-4, and led 4-0 after four innings of play. Jack Anderson was stellar out of the bullpen throwing three shutout innings and recording five strikeouts for his fourth save of the season.

Head coach Rob Cooper was pleased with his team's resiliency in series opener.

"These guys have been coming to the ballpark every day whether it's a practice or a game and really making the choice to compete and play hard. They did that again today [Friday]. Even when Ohio State chipped away at our lead and made it close that [competitiveness] didn't change."

However, just as the scores indicated, Penn State's execution was back and forth on the weekend. Saturday the Nittany Lions' went cold on all fronts, including at the plate getting just four hits on the day, two of which came off of the bat of redshirt sophomore Greg Guers.

Sunday Penn State was down in another deep hole, trailing 5-0 after three innings, but then put up five unanswered runs to tie the game after five full innings of play.

Infielders Ryan Richter and Ryky Smith both had multi-hit games on a day where they were put in the lineup for extended time in Big Ten play for the first time in 2014. Richter got the start at third base and took advantage of the opportunity.

The redshirt sophomore was 2-for-4 on the day with 3 RBI.

"I've been waiting for the opportunity so I knew that if I went in there and played hard things would go my way," Richter said.

Smith received his chance in a little bit different of a fashion as he replaced Sunday's starting second basemen Taylor Skerpon after he was injured sliding back into first base in the second inning of the series finale. Cooper said after Sunday's game he had been impressed with Smith's work ethic all season long and wasn't surprised he had a big day.

After Tuesday's game against West Virginia, Cooper heard Smith in the batting cages getting swings after 10 p.m. continuing to work hard even though he wasn't seeing much playing time. That work paid off Sunday as Smith had a career high three hits in three at bats, scored two runs and had an RBI.

"I didn't really have time to put pressure on myself too much," Smith said of his play off the bench. "I didn't put too much pressure on myself and didn't try to do too much and that's why I felt good out there."

Besides Saturday where Ohio State starting pitcher Greg Greve threw a complete game shutout, Penn State fared well at the plate, despite leaving seven runners on base on Sunday in a game where they had 13 hits.

Aside from Richter and Smith's huge offensive days Sunday, outfielder Steve Snyder was 6-for-14 on the weekend upping his season batting average to .374 which is now good for third in the Big Ten.


However, Friday's win and Sunday's hitting performance is overshadowed in the minds of the players by dropping the series to the Buckeyes. With that said though, there is a lot for Penn State to take away from the road series moving into this weekend's home conference series with Illinois.

"We're pretty disappointed that we couldn't win the series, but we did some things right. We need to remember that we did some things right offensively," Smith said. "Limiting the mistakes [errors] is the key. They aren't huge mistakes but they are little mistakes that add up so we need to clean up those little mistakes and remember what we did well, too."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Guers, White Form Reliable Three-Four Punch

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Most successful teams in baseball have a lethal three-four punch in the middle of their lineup. One that blasts homeruns and sprays doubles across the field. Since day one at Penn State, first year head coach Rob Cooper has stressed he doesn't want exactly that, just a few guys that can get simple and timely hits. It's safe to say midway through the season, Penn State has that.

Designated hitter Greg Guers and first basemen JJ White have become that very reliable and consistent three-four duo in the Nittany Lion lineup. They enter this weekend's three game series at Ohio State hitting a combined 17-for-54 with 12 RBI since March 28. In those seven games, Penn State is 6-1 and off to a 4-1 start in Big Ten play.

During that stretch, they have posted just one three-hit game and neither player has hit a homerun. It's been singles up the middle or knocks into the gaps scoring the table setters - James Coates and Steve Snyder. It's just simple and easy.

"We're just trying to do what's best for the team so if we need a single that's all we are trying to do," White said. "We're just trying to get a base hit, but whatever happens, happens and getting base hits in clutch times is awesome as long as we get the win."

On the year, Guers sits at a .261 batting average with 18 RBI and White has a .246 average with 19 RBI. As Cooper puts averages aside, the RBI are key with the two Nittany Lion hitters and have mainly come in clutch situations.

Just as White said, Guers believes they have had success because of the simplicity of Cooper's offense.

"It's awesome because you don't feel like you have to do too much," he said. "A routine single up the middle or one that finds the hole gets the job done. You don't have to hit the ball off the wall or out of the park."

They have been pretty consistent over the past two weeks. There have been five multi-hit games between the two and Guers says it's because they both know they have each other's back.

"If he's having a good game then I pick him up and drive him in. If one of us is having a bad game we work off each other and pick each other up," Guers said. "Coates and Snyder have done a good job getting on base so it's been giving us great opportunities to be successful in those spots."

There's a little more to this connection, though. Guers and White are roommates. They see each other every day at the field and at home and joke that their constant interaction is why they have had such success this season.

That also may be a common theme for this Penn State team. Over the past year, they have become so tight knit because there has been no pressure for one individual to succeed more than another.

"We live right next to each other on the same floor so it's a great connection," Guers said of him and White. "Our whole team is close so if anyone is having a bad game someone is there to pick them up. It's just good chemistry that JJ and I have going on right now so it's fun."

It's been fun all year for this Penn State team, not only because of the wins, but because of the brand of baseball they are playing. Guers and White were all smiles when describing their simple approach at the plate and the dividends it has paid thus far because they know if it continues, the wins will keep coming.

"It's awesome," White said. "Wherever coach needs me to do, I'll do. I just want to do my job. It's pretty cool being in the middle of the lineup with Guers behind me and having Snyder with the year he's having and then Coates.

"Something really special is happening here and it's really cool."

The Nittany Lions will take their 16-14 record and 4-1 Big Ten mark to Columbus this weekend, with a three-game series with the Buckeyes (19-14, 2-7) starting on Friday at 6:35 p.m.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Boylston Holds Down the Fort in First Career Start

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- Geoff Boylston had been waiting for the opportunity to be a starting pitcher for so long, so nobody could blame him for being a little nervous when the chance finally came.

Making the first start of his career against West Virginia last night after spending the past three and a half seasons either injured or occasionally coming out of the bullpen, the redshirt junior gave up three runs - two earned - on four hits in the first two innings, and he knew something needed to change.

"I was a little tentative at first and I was trying to get a feel for things instead of just going after [hitters]," Boylston said. "At that point I just stopped caring and decided they could hit the ball as hard as they wanted because my defense was playing well behind me."

Settling down, Boylston gave up just two more hits over the next three and two-thirds innings in the longest performance of his career, as the Nittany Lions (16-14) defeated the Mountaineers (16-12), 8-4, to improve to 8-0 at home on the season.

Though he only recorded one strikeout, he also issued just one walk and retired nine straight batters from the end of the second inning through the start of the fifth as Penn State quickly erased an early West Virginia lead.

With his longest outing having previously been just three and one-third innings in 2011 against Albany and having not seen the mound since a March 12 relief appearance at Fresno State, even Boylston couldn't have predicted that he would wind up going longer than five innings on Tuesday.

"Coach [Rob] Cooper preaches taking everything one pitch at a time, so I was only thinking about [getting] strike one," Boylston said. "Things compounded and the next thing I knew I was sitting in the sixth inning."

Afterwards, the West Chester, Pa. native still seemed to be somewhat in awe of the fact that he had just won his first ever collegiate start.

It was only yesterday that the biggest stress in his life had been his upcoming accounting exam. That was until he received a surprise phone call from fellow pitcher Patton Taylor.

"I was in the library studying and I get a call from Patton and he said 'dude you're starting tomorrow,' and I just said 'wait, what,'" Boylston said. "Then I found out again when I walked into the locker room."

As surprising as it may have seemed to go with a pitcher who had never started a game against easily one of the Nittany Lions toughest opponents, Cooper and pitching coach Brian Anderson never hesitated with their decision to go with the untested Boylston.

Although he had only appeared in four games and thrown just two and two-thirds innings previously this season, Cooper knew the fourth year pitcher deserved a chance to prove himself, even if it was against a tough Mountaineers squad.

"Geoff has been working hard and what you saw tonight is what we all felt [Geoff] could do," Cooper said. "His biggest problem has been trusting himself and he just needed to slow the game down and compete."

As big a win as it was for a Penn State team that has now won 11 of its last 13 games, it meant even more to the former Archmere Academy standout, who's career hadn't exactly gone the way he originally expected it to.

The past three years have included more time sitting in the dugout than on the mound for Boylston, who entering this season had appeared in 27 games in two active seasons while missing all of 2012 with an injury.

Having the chance to not only run out to the mound and hear his name announced as the starter, but also to exit the game to a standing ovation from the fans and his teammates, are two moments that Boylston will never forget.

"Running out at the start was probably one of the greatest feelings I've had in the past three years," Boylston said. "The last three years of my baseball career haven't been too bright and there have been a lot of dark spots. To have an ovation like that was truly special and I want to thank everyone."

Now that he has proven he can beat an elite team, it might not be long before Boylston gets to hear hears his name called again.

"He's a guy that deserves another shot for sure," Cooper said. "Hopefully he can show that this is something he can do on a consistent basis."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Lions Take Home Momentum With Them on the Road

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As soon their home schedule began in the middle of March, it didn't take long to realize that the Penn State baseball team clearly enjoyed the comforts of Medlar Field.

Having achieved their best home start since 1980 with a 7-0 record, the Nittany Lions faced a new challenge. Could they manage to win on the road in the Big Ten after going just 5-12 away from State College during the opening month of the season?

Taking on Purdue in their second Big Ten series of the season, the Lions kept the momentum that saw them win eight of their last nine going, taking two out of three from the Boilermakers over the weekend. Penn State won twice on Saturday by scores of 2-1 and 6-5 before their six game winning streak ended on Sunday with a 4-0 loss.

"It's hard to win on the road but it's part of the process and we have to choose to compete every day whether we're home or away," head coach Rob Cooper said. "Our guys fought and on Sunday they had a chance to win at the end."

As it has been the last few weeks, the key to success for Penn State laid with their bullpen, which over the three games combined pitched 15 and one-thirds innings and gave up just two runs.

During the first game of a double-header on Saturday, the Boilermaker offense couldn't figure out either starter Tim Dunn or reliever Dakota Forsyth, who combined to give up just one run on one hit. Forsyth, who tossed four hitless innings with just one walk in getting the victory, now has given up just two runs in his last two appearances, which span nine and two-thirds innings.

In the second game, Ian Parvin entered in the fourth inning and managed to cool down a Purdue rally and went two and one-third innings to get the win before closer Jack Anderson pitched three scoreless innings of his own for the save. Even Ryan Harper shone in Sunday's defeat, going five innings and giving up only one run on three hits.

"We had an unbelievable effort from our bullpen [this weekend] and they were lights out," Cooper said. "When you can turn the ball over to those guys it shortens the game. Our starters haven't always gone far but we're winning because we have guys who can come into the game in big situations and succeed."

Offensively the Penn State hitters were challenged by the Purdue pitching staff, but still managed to produce the runs they needed in the first two contests.

In the first game, the Lions mustered only four hits but a clutch single from utility infielder Nick Riotto in the fifth and a double from shortstop Jim Haley in the seventh helped Penn State overcome an early 1-0 deficit.

The next contest, the Blue and White gave themselves some breathing room early, getting all six of their runs and six of their seven hits in the second inning, highlighted by James Coates three-run home run, the team's third homer of the season.

Looking back, Cooper was impressed with his team's one-inning hitting explosion but stressed that they team can't allow itself to get complacent with a big lead and allow their opponent to sneak back into the game the way the Boilermakers did by scoring the game's next five runs.

"We took them out of the game pretty early but give Purdue credit for fighting back," Cooper said. "We need to do a better job of continuing to play."

On Sunday, the Lions swung the bats as well as they did all weekend but just couldn't get come through in big moments, recording 11 hits but failing to score a run.

Cooper credited the Purdue pitching staff for getting the clutch outs they need, and although he is never satisfied with a loss, the first year Penn State manager cannot help but be satisfied with where his team is currently at, having now won 10 of their last 12.

At 15-14, the Blue and White have already topped last season's win total of 14, not that Cooper is paying any attention to things like that.

For Cooper and his staff, the past is the past, and the Nittany Lion's goal is to be the best team they can be, not simply be better than last year.

"What they did last year is last year and it takes too much time and energy to worry about those things," Cooper said. "We need to concentrate on making each day and every practice the best it can be. I owe it to our guys to do that."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

First Inning Eruption Leads to Easy Win for Lions

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- After watching his team come from behind to win its past two games at home, Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper was waiting for the Nittany Lions to jump out to an early lead for once.

Taking on Youngstown State last night, the Nittany Lions more than answered their coach's wishes, erupting for seven runs off of five hits in the first inning on their way to a 15-2 victory over the Penguins.

In topping their previous season high of 10 runs, the Lions got 15 hits from nine different players, with six of them (James Coates, Greg Guers, Alex Malinsky, Aaron Novak, Taylor Skerpon, and Steve Synder) all recording two hits apiece.

"Our guys did a great job," head coach Rob Cooper said. "They really did some good things at the plate and jumped on them and took them out of the game really early. It was nice to be ahead going into the second inning."

With the bases loaded just three batters into the bottom of the first, Guers got the ball rolling by lacing a double to right field that brought home both Coates and Synder.

Guers, who finished the day 2-for-3 and drove in three runs vs. the Penguins to give him seven RBI in his last three games, said that he and his teammates were determined to get off to a hot start after receiving a challenge from Cooper before the game.

"Cooper told us before the game to get ahead of them early and we took that to heart and proved it out there," Guers said. "(Getting an early lead) felt good and it was really fun out there today."

Penn State wouldn't settle for just two runs however, as Taylor Skerpon followed up Guers' double with an RBI single of his own. The Blue and White would bat around and score four more runs as Youngstown State starter Anthony Konders managed just two outs before being relieved.

It wouldn't get any easier for the Penguins going forward, as the Nittany Lions answered a two-run fourth inning by the Penguins with back-to-back three run innings of their own in the fifth and sixth to give them a 14-2 lead.

"We came out saying that we wanted to get out on top and take them out of the game early," catcher Alex Malinsky said. "It was fun to see."

Taking their offensive performance to the next level was the performance of the Nittany Lions bench, as utility players Aaron Novak (2-for-2, 2 RBI) and Mike Wilcox (1-for-1) each got hits in addition to seven of the team's starters.

The number of contributors that came through is what stood out the most to Cooper about the win, far more than the number of runs that his team scored.

"This is a team and we preach all the time that we have 35 guys and we don't keep anybody that we don't think can help us win," Cooper said. "Seeing a guy like Aaron Novak come in and do well...I love that because it's a team effort and a team game."

The large cushion gave Cooper a chance to give five different pitchers the chance to pitch as starter Nick Hedge went three and one-thirds innings before being relieved by Ryan Harper and later Tim Dunn, Zach Ell, and Tim Scholly.

While the pitching staff certainly did their job, giving up just two unearned runs on five hits, Cooper was even more impressed by the performance of Malinsky, both at and behind the plate.

Getting the start on Tuesday over senior Alex Farkes, Malinsky went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and two RBI in addition to handling five different pitchers.

"He's a real calming influence on our pitchers and he's really smart and gives our pitchers confidence," Cooper said. "He swung the bat well today and you can ask him to do just about anything and he will."

The win improves Penn State (13-13) to 7-0 at Medlar Field, their best start at home since 1980.

As they move back to their Big Ten schedule this weekend when they play a series against Purdue, the Lions will look to keep the offensive momentum that has seen them score 25 runs in their past two games combined going.

"As a team we've all been hitting really well," Guers said. "I think everyone is feeling really comfortable at the plate so going into Purdue this weekend it should be good to have that [confidence]."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

VIDEO: Baseball vs. Youngstown State Postgame

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- The Penn State baseball team claimed a 15-2 victory over Youngstown State on Tuesday evening inside Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. We caught up with head coach Rob Cooper and sophomore designated hitter Greg Guers to talk about the game, their impressive record at home and the upcoming trip to Purdue.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Lions Shake Off Early Deficits Against Northwestern

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By Matt Allibone, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- As the Penn State baseball team wrapped up a road trip to California two weeks ago, head coach Rob Cooper noticed something concerning about his team.

It wasn't just that they went 2-6 in an eight game stretch against Saint Mary's, Fresno State, and Santa Clara, but the fact that they fell behind in the first or second inning of each loss without being able to fight their way back.

Opening up Big Ten play with a weekend series against Northwestern, the Nittany Lions found themselves in a similar situation in back-to-back games, falling behind 2-0 in the first on Friday, and 3-0 in the opening frame on Saturday.

Both times however, Penn State kept its composure, rallying back each day to take the series with two straight wins by scores of 7-3 and 10-6, respectively.

"Earlier in the year, that might have been it for our guys," Cooper said. "After the first inning, I felt like our mindset was right and (we knew) there was a lot of game left and we were going to just play. I don't think we do that a couple weeks ago and that shows you the kind of growth and the choices they've made."

Not only did the weekend get Cooper's Big Ten coaching career off on the right foot, it also reaffirmed that the players have been buying into the principles that their new coach preaches, namely that being a good offensive team is more important than being a good hitting team.

While the Blue and White registered nine hits in each game, they produced runs by not by bashing the ball all over he park, but with timeliness and patience, drawing 19 walks in the two games combined and forcing Wildcat pitchers Brandon Magallones (Friday) and Matt Portland (Saturday) to each top 100 pitches.

"Only Zach Ell had multiple hits (on Saturday) but we scored 10 runs," Cooper said. "Early in the season we were trying to do too much and we were chasing pitches but today we had a lot of two-strike at-bats that our guys battled back in to walks or productive at bats."

Leading the charge for Penn State was the three-four combination of J.J. White and Greg Guers, who drove in two runs apiece both nights.

They also came through in big moments, opening up the fourth inning on Friday with a pair of hits with the Lions down, 2-0, and then scoring to even the game at 2-2. Later in the sixth, the duo came up with consecutive RBI to cap a four-run inning that turned a 3-3 tie into a 7-3 lead.

"We're just trying to do our job," White said. "The guys in front of us have been doing a good job getting on base and whether it's a sac fly or a hit we're trying to find runs anyway we can."

For the Nittany Lions to pull off both comebacks, they needed their pitching staff to prevent Northwestern from expanding their leads, and on both days, that required big performances in long relief from the Penn State bullpen.

Six days after a masterful relief performance against Bucknell in which he struck out the final seven batters of the game, Ian Parvin relieved T.J. Jann in the fifth inning on Friday and picked up right where he left off. Though he only recorded one strikeout this time around, the right-hander gave up just two hits over four and one-thirds scoreless innings to get the win.

"My off-speed stuff wasn't working very well so I basically just pitched off my fastball and let the guys behind me make plays," Parvin said. "These are the days when you really have to dig deep and find something inside you."

The next day it was Dakota Forsyth's turn to get the Blue and White out of a jam, as the freshman came in for Greg Welsh in the third inning with men on first and second and one out, with Penn State clinging to a 5-4 lead.

Making just the sixth appearance of his college career, Forsyth retired two straight batters before going an additional five innings, giving up two runs on four hits in the process. The offense took care of the rest, matching their season high of 10 runs in the victory.

"Going in coach Cooper just told me to throw strikes," Forsyth said. "I wasn't really expecting to go five innings but when your pitch count is low you can go a little longer."

Now 6-0 at home and having won their last three series, the pieces appear to be coming together for Cooper and his crew. With the Big Ten season now in full swing, the Nittany Lions (12-13) will continue to focus on each day moving forward.

"It's fun to play at home but I'm just glad we're playing well," Cooper said. "When you win at home it helps you moving forward but we need to prove we can win on the road now."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Relief Pitching Strong in Sweep of Northwestern

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUSports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Relief pitchers perhaps play the most unexpected role in baseball. One poor batter could lead to an equally poor inning and a short-lived outing. One strong batter could lead to a strong inning followed by another and another and another.

The latter scenario is what took place for Penn State relief pitchers senior Ian Parvin and freshman Dakota Forsyth during Friday and Saturday's two game sweep of Northwestern to open Big Ten play. Neither pitcher had an incredibly strong outing by their coach's or their own standards, but they got the job done to secure both Nittany Lion wins.

Parvin went four and two-thirds scoreless innings, surrendering just two hits and striking out to hold Northwestern at bay after three runs in the first four innings. Forsyth followed suit the next morning tossing five and two-thirds innings, giving up four hits and two earned runs.

"It was awesome," Cooper said of Forsyth's performance. "It was like what he did against Bucknell. He was lights out. He didn't pitch very well today command wise, but he competed. When he needed to he said 'alright here you go hit it.' That's big. It was a great effort and we needed it."

Parvin did almost the exact same thing one night prior. Relieved the starter in a time of need and got outs regardless of the way it happened. Having that as a cemented luxury with a young team going through a learning process is a big advantage for Cooper and he knows it.

"If you have those two guys and they are pitching the way they have been and your starter can give you five innings and you bring those guys in for an inning or two and then have Jack Anderson who you can extend [for more than one inning], it makes games really short for your pitchers."


Neither pitcher will blow opposing batters away and they didn't this weekend combining for just two strikeouts in their ten and one-thirds innings pitched. That's not what they are effective though.

Both Parvin and Forsyth understand that they're not going to overwhelm many of their opponents, but if placement is accurate and the right pitches are thrown at the right time, the ball, hit or not, has the chance to be recorded as an out, which is all they want.

"I didn't have your slider today and my changeup wasn't very effective, so I just went straight fastballs," Forsyth said. "When you put it on the corners more times than not the batters are going to get themselves out."

Cooper said the same thing about Parvin. His velocity wasn't anything above average, but, even on a day where his location wasn't superb, he wasn't afraid to attack the Northwestern hitters and trust his teammates to get outs and that's more important than anything else in his pitching arsenal.       

"Here's a guy that maybe sits at 87 miles an hour, which is not a negative thing, but he just competes so hard," Cooper said. "I'm not afraid to bring him in whenever if we need him to stop a rally or keep us in there and give us a chance. As long has he keeps going like this then we're going to do use him in that role."


Throwing Forsyth and Parvin into the mix out of the bullpen with Jack Anderson, who has been a reliable closing presence and then some, the Penn State pen is one of the more confident areas for the Nittany Lions.

In the two games against Northwestern the three Penn State relief pitchers threw eleven and one-thirds innings allowing just two earned runs and six hits.

The even crazier stat, they only had three combined strikeouts. Cooper has said it all year though, it doesn't matter how they get the job done, as long as they produce good results. Friday and Saturday, the Penn State bullpen did just that.

--NITTANY LIONS--

Still a Process for Penn State Entering Big Ten Play

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By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With conference play beginning tonight at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park against Northwestern, nothing has changed for first year Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper.

He's still focused on the process.

"I really am not looking at a Big Ten series any different than any other series," Cooper said. "I'm excited to play at home again and get back on the field, but honestly for us to keep getting better and moving forward we can't look at this series any different than any other.

"If we don't do that then we aren't respecting the game. Baseball is a beautiful game and anyone can beat anyone at any given time."

In 2013, Penn State went 14-36 and 4-20 in conference play. This season, with a new skipper the Nittany Lions stand at 10-13 entering conference play after finishing the non-conference season with six wins in their last 10 games.

Still, Cooper is simply focused on this year and the process.

"I don't even know what our record was last year during the Big Ten schedule," Cooper said. "I know that last year's team is for last year and this year's team is a different team. It's important for this year's team to do everything it can to be in a position to go to the Big Ten Tournament."

While Cooper and his team may not be looking at it, the Big Ten is continuing to be a deeper conference each year. Indiana advanced to the College World Series in 2013 and returns a majority of its starters. The Hoosiers already sit in a four way tie atop the conference at 2-1 and 12-10 overall.

Ohio State, Iowa and Minnesota all had strong non-conference seasons and starts to Big Ten play sitting at 2-1 in the conference and 16-7, 14-7 and 13-7 overall, respectively.

Then you have Nebraska (14-10, 1-2) and Michigan State (10-10, 1-2), but have wins over then-No. 1 Oregon State at the Aramark Pac-12-Big 10 Tournament in late February.

Illinois and Purdue meet in the Big Ten opener for both team's tonight, with the Illini entering at 12-10 and the Boilermakers sitting at 4-16.

Michigan and Northwestern each opened their conference schedules last weekend and are 1-2 in conference after series losses to Indiana and Minnesota, respectively.

Cooper said he has been able to take a look at a lot of Big Ten teams already as coaches have traded scouting reports. The Nittany Lions have been able to take a look at Paul Stevens' team and know they're going to be ready to play.

 

The goal for Penn State during the beginning of Big Ten play is to continue to improve as they have over the past week according to Cooper.

"I'm happy with the way we played this past week," he said. "If we can make that a habit in terms of our daily approach and mindset then I like where we're at right now."

Ultimately, as Cooper stated above, the eventual goal would be to be playing in the postseason. However, per his team motto and team goals, they haven't talked about anything other than the upcoming opponent each week.

"We talk about the process and taking care of the day," Cooper said. "If I start talking about what possibly could happen during the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA postseason then we're really not focused on today. Don't get me wrong, I really want these guys to play as long as they can but the truth of the matter is that we can't control any of that right now except for today."

This week's "today" is Northwestern, beginning tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Medlar Field.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--