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Burger, Nadeau Highlight Minnesota Series

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK - Despite a sweep by Big Ten foe Minnesota, Penn State's Mason Nadeau and Willie Burger highlighted the Nittany Lion offense throughout the weekend. 

On Friday, Nadeau was the only Nittany Lion with a multi-hit game going 2-for-5 with a run scored. Penn State entered the bottom of the ninth inning with a 6-2 deficit, but was not willing to go down easily. After an Alex Malinsky single to start off the inning, Nadeau followed with a single through the right side to keep the inning alive. The Nittany Lions managed to cut the deficit to 6-5, but could not score enough runs to come back.

However, Nadeau was only getting started.

On Saturday, the Nittany Lions found themselves in a quick 5-0 hole after the top of the first inning. Despite a Nadeau leadoff single up the middle, the Nittany Lions were never able to catch the Golden Gophers. Penn State was able to put one run on the board coming off of the bat of Nadeau.

In his third at bat, Nadeau was due up first in the bottom of the sixth inning. As the Golden Gophers were warming up prior to the start of the inning, Nadeau prepared for his at bat the same way he always does -putting his left batting glove on first, followed by his right. The freshman then has to strap his right batting glove before he straps his left before he's ready to go.

Despite falling behind 1-2 in the count, Nadeau drove the next pitch he saw deep into right field for his second career home run.

"I never hit home runs in high school," Nadeau said. "I hit one home run in a fall-league game and that was it. Before that, it was eighth grade travel ball. It's a pretty great feeling. Everyone loves the long ball, me included. But, I know that's not what I am here to do so if it happens it happens. I'm just trying to get on base and help my team win whenever I can."

Nadeau ended the evening going 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.

"I think the biggest thing right now is even though Mason [Nadeau] is a freshman, he has an unbelievable competitive spirit," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "He doesn't take pitches off. We have some other guys like that, but there's a reason he's swinging the bat well. He'll get down two strikes and he doesn't let it bother him. Everyone once in a while he takes a bad swing, but he gets rid of it and comes right back. To be able to flush everything and move on to the next pitch is what we need to be doing as a group." 

After falling to the Golden Gophers 17-1 the night prior, the Nittany Lions found themselves in another quick 9-0 hole after just three innings on Sunday. This time, Penn State got on the board an inning earlier when Burger stepped up to the plate.

With runners on first and second, Burger singled to right-center field bringing home Braxton Giavidoni from second. Burger then picked up his second RBI of the evening in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners again on first and second. The sophomore sent a line shot up the middle to bring home the fourth run of the game. 

"I thought he made a great adjustment in the middle of the game," Cooper said. "He really tried to stay within himself more. One of Willie's greatest strengths is he has a deep reservoir of confidence. He believes he can do just about anything on a baseball field. He just kind of simplified stuff at the plate tonight rather than trying to add more to it."

On top of his 4-for-5, two-RBI night, the typical first baseman made his fifth consecutive start at third base.

"I played [third base] for the first half of my freshman year," Burger said. "Then, I broke my rib and missed a substantial amount of time. When I came back, based on necessity, I moved to first and never really went back to third. So it was a pretty easy transition for me. It's a little bit different because I spent so much time away from that corner, but the two corners are pretty similar. If you're an infielder, you're an infielder."

Of the team's 22 hits throughout the series, Nadeau and Burger were responsible for 11 of them. Combined, the two went 11-for-26 (.423) with two walks, three RBIs and three runs scored. 

Despite standout performances from Burger and Nadeau, the Nittany Lions are looking to put a full team effort into the two-game series against West Virginia on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"The big thing is we want to try to continue to improve our collective toughness as a group," Cooper said. "We also want to eliminate negative thoughts. It doesn't' matter who puts it in your head. We need to control what we can control and then we will go from there."

The Nittany Lions will travel to Morgantown on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. to take on West Virginia.

Balance Propels Penn State to Victory

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Eight different Nittany Lions recorded hits with seven scoring at least one run in Penn State's 9-2 victory against Lafayette Wednesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.


The win was a sheer clinic in balance from top to bottom of the roster, as four Lions recorded multi-hit games with four pitchers combining to allow just two runs.


Penn State tallied 12 hits in the game with its nine runs marking the most for the Blue and White since scoring 10 runs in a win over Columbia March 25.


"We came into the game ready to go from the get go," Nick Riotto said. "Once we got a few, we weren't going to be satisfied. We just kept putting together quality at-bats and kept it going one through nine."


Freshman Mason Nadeau slugged his first career home run in the sixth inning on a two-run shot to right field. 


"It was pretty awesome," Nadeau said. "I actually wasn't entirely sure if it was going to go out at first, but I knew I barreled it up pretty well, so seeing it hit the bleachers was a really good feeling."


Nadeau went 2-4 in the game, scoring two runs and tallying two RBIs from the leadoff spot. He also anchored the defense with a few running catches in the gaps to save extra base hits from centerfield. Head coach Rob Cooper said a few days ago he would like to see Nadeau improve as a fielder, but he looked extremely comfortable in center Wednesday night.


"[Defense] is the one thing that I always try to keep constant and at a high level because it's something I can kind of rely on when the bat's not going as well," Nadeau said.


Nadeau has been on an absolute tear since returning from an injury April 18 against Pittsburgh. In five games, Nadeau is 8-15 (.533) with four runs scored and five walks since his return to the lineup.


Nadeau owns the highest batting average (.365) on the team this season. He has missed 21 games in 2017, but his presence back in the lineup has helped Penn State snap a six-game skid and win two straight.


"He's a workhorse," pitching coach Brian Anderson said. "He's super energetic. He's a little pack of dynamite. He can swing the bat pretty darn aggressively and he can used the whole field. When he barrels up the baseball odds are it's going to be hit somewhere pretty good."


Riotto, Conlin Hughes and Alex Malinsky joined Nadeau with multi-hit games in the contest. Riotto led Penn State in the game with three RBIs. 


The only Penn State starter who failed to record a hit was second baseman Christian Helsel, but even he scored a run in the game after he was hit by a pitch in the first inning. The Lions broke the game open early with four runs in the first.


Hughes started the scoring with an RBI single to score Nadeau. Riotto then hit a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Helsel.


With two outs, Hughes and Willie Burger displayed incredible hustle by both scoring on a dropped pop fly by the pitcher with two outs in the inning.


Schuyler Bates started on the mound for the fifth time this season and recorded his second win. The junior tossed five innings and allowed two runs on five hits against the Leopards. 


The win was Bates' first since March 29 against Cornell in which he posted five innings without allowing a run. Bates owns a 4.15 ERA in 13 appearances this season. He only pitched in five total games in his first two seasons combined.


"He's taking every advantage to be a Tuesday or Wednesday guy for us and he's running with it," Anderson said. "He actually helps and assists us for our bullpen for our Friday, Saturday series and that's huge."


Three pitchers relieved Bates and didn't surrender a run in the final four innings. Dakota Forsyth replaced Bates in the sixth inning and tossed two scoreless innings while allowing just two hits. 


Taylor Lehman then took over in the eighth inning and was relieved in the middle of the ninth by Nick Distasio, who closed the game out.

Giavedoni Making an Impact

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student feature writer

UNIVERSITY PARK - The first year on a collegiate baseball team is often difficult for any freshman. It's a new field, new coach and new teammates. When given an in-game opportunity, it's easy for any first-year student-athlete to pressure himself to prove his worth to his team and coach, but for freshman Braxton Giavedoni, he thrives in the spotlight. 

"I just have confidence," Giavedoni said. "I have confidence in my ability. My dad always preached to have confidence and with confidence, I just feel like I can achieve anything."

Sunday evening, Giavedoni was in a situation that nearly every young baseball player envisions in the back yard with a wiffle bat in his hands. It was the bottom of the ninth, one out, bases loaded with the game tied at one. Giavedoni was ready for the first pitch fastball and drove it into left field to win the game.  

The freshman has been one of the team's most consistent hitters all season. With appearances in 33 of the 39 games so far, he has batted .274 with 12 RBIs, leading the team in doubles (8) and launching three home runs.

Not only is Giavedoni a newcomer who plays like a veteran, but he is also a walk-on who did not officially make the team until the fall 2016 semester began.  

"I think he is an example of college baseball because you're only allowed a certain number of scholarships," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "On a roster of 35, which is what we have, only 27 of them can be on scholarship. So, you're going to have eight kids who are walk-on kids and you've got to find a walk-on or two that will help you win games. That's why when we make our lineups we don't make them based on scholarship money." 

Although Giavedoni has worked to be a member of this team, the freshman did not always know he wanted to play baseball in college. Growing up, he never even thought of playing sports after high school until he realized how much he loved football.

"It's definitely harder to prove yourself as a walk-on," Giavedoni said. "But the guys and coaches still treat me the same. I just have to go out there and do what everyone else does and I am fine as long as I play my game." 

Giavedoni played two years of high school football and set the school's single-season records for touchdown receptions and total receiving yards. Just when his passion for football escalated, Giavedoni suffered a hip injury and a few concussions that pushed him to focus more on baseball than football.

While he may not have known he wanted to play a sport in college until later in life, he knew from the time he was five years old that he was going to be a Nittany Lion. With his mother, two uncles and aunt all Penn State graduates, he visited campus all throughout his childhood. Giavedoni knew he wanted to carry on the Nittany Lion legacy. 

No matter how many times one visits a campus, it can be a struggle adjusting to a new home and meeting new people as a freshman. Giavedoni already had a familiar face on his baseball team though, as he and catcher Ryan Sloniger grew up playing youth baseball together all the way through high school.

Now, the two are both back together at Penn State.

"It was nice having Sloniger here because he could show me around places," Giavedoni said. "[Sloniger] always offered to give me rides and go get food and he introduced me to the guys, so that was definitely really nice."

Now, the walk-on freshman who was projected to be the fifth-best outfielder for Penn State heading into the season is now a starting right-fielder batting in the top half of the lineup. 

"I mean I did know deep down inside of me that I could be a cleanup hitter on a division one baseball team," Giavedoni said. "I knew how good of a player I was. I didn't know that as a freshman I would have made this much of an impact, but as I went on I thought I would make a big impact on the program. "

"He's done a great job," Cooper said. "He has zero fear. He's not worried about what other people are thinking about, he just loves to play baseball. I think when you have that underlying theme of 'I love to play baseball,' then good things could happen."

Scholly Proves To Be Ultimate Team Player

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student feature writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.  - Children often look up to the larger-than-life athletes playing in front of the big crowds under the bright lights. Tim Scholly attended all Penn State sporting events and remembers admiring the Nittany Lions on the Penn State football field when he was just four or five years old. 

However, Scholly had a closer relationship to these athletes than the other kids in the crowd who were admiring those athletes in blue and white. As a State College native, these student-athletes would visit Scholly's schools and he would see them at local fairs. Seeing the impact they had on the community only made Scholly want to be a Penn State athlete.

Being from State College, some may think that Penn State would be too close for Scholly to go to school and feel like he is away at college, however that was never a deterrent for the senior pitcher. 

"I never thought it was too close," Scholly said. "I always looked at it as a dream school." 

With University Park in his backyard, the young Scholly began his baseball career at four years old playing with a ball in his driveway with the ultimate goal of playing for the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley. As he grew older, Scholly realized he enjoyed having the ball in his hand and being in control of the game on the mound. At the age group where coaches no longer pitch and the players finally take the mound, Scholly started his pitching career. 

Not only does a potential Penn Stater from State College have to worry about the proximity to home, but Penn State head coach Rob Cooper says there is much more to think about when recruiting local athletes.

"The thing you have to remember when you recruit a State College kid is they have to be able to fit in here athletically and it just has to be a good fit for them with the community," Cooper said. "If a local kid comes here everybody wants to see him do well. If it's not a good fit for them, then it could be a tough situation. Now if you have a guy like Tim Scholly, who is as good of a person and young man as I have ever been around and probably the ultimate team person, he's the perfect fit. He gets what the University is about. It's something he takes a lot of pride in. I am just really fortunate that I have had the opportunity to coach him."

Many students at Penn State have blue and white in their blood coming from a long line of Penn Staters. Even though Scholly lived right down the road from campus, he was the first person in his family to attend Penn State.

Scholly's dream came true when he earned his spot on the Penn State baseball roster, but his journey did not go as planned. After completing his freshman season, the then-sophomore started to have pain in his throwing arm.

"I remember when he came and told me he needed his arm looked at, he was emotional about it," Cooper said. "I mean I was emotional too because this is a kid who bleeds blue and white."

After getting his arm checked, Scholly learned he would have to miss the complete 2015 season.

"It was one of the hardest years of my life," Scholly said. "You always want to be out on the field and be throwing. You just have to stay patient and know if you work hard enough that you can eventually come back. Nothing is guaranteed. I sort of had to learn to take a step in the background, but I still tried to make an impact in any way possible while trying to get back for the next season."

Being forced to take a step back taught Scholly not only how to be patient, but how to be the ultimate team player. As just a sophomore, Scholly became one of the biggest leaders of his team and to Cooper, "another coach in the dugout." 

Cooper says Scholly's baseball IQ sets him apart from everyone else and allows him to help his teammates whenever they need any help on or off the field.

This role that Scholly fell into during his sophomore season became a part of his character. As a senior, Scholly still fills the role of assisting others both on and off the field and is the prime example of being a hardworking player.

"Whether it's trying to help someone who is a senior as well or whether it's a first-year player, he's a huge asset," Cooper said. "It's one thing for guys to help other guys, but when they respect them because they look at a guy like Tim Scholly who does everything you ask him to do and is so sincere when he does it, it's so hard not to want to follow what he says. It's not just that he's a senior and he's helping with that stuff, it's the respect he demands from his teammates that allows people to really want him to be a leader."

Because of the long road back from his injury two years ago, the senior has not seen much time on the mound. This season, Scholly has made four game appearances, which is the most he has had in a single collegiate season. What Scholly has learned during his time at Penn State though, is that he is capable of bringing so much to a team even if he is not able to be on the mound.

"Obviously, I love being on the mound," Scholly said. "We've definitely have had some bumps and bruises along the way, but you have to keep a positive mindset. I'd much rather have team success than individual success. So, if I have to go out there to help the team on the mound, I'm willing to do that. But, if I have to help the team in the dugout and try to get us motivated and help the team off the field, I definitely willing to do that as well."

When Scholly graduates at the end of the season, Cooper said the thing the team will miss the most is his sacrifice.

"The selflessness that he brings everyday will be missed," Cooper said. "I know he wants to pitch more, but his attitude is always upbeat. It's hard to do that. Some kids will just focus on wanting to pitch more, but Tim Scholly has a sincere impact on this team. You don't get someone every day who truly cares about the team more than their own benefit. I think that selflessness and commitment to doing whatever he can to help the team is something that this team is definitely going to miss."

Giavedoni Highlights Home Series

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With all of the excitement surrounding a busy Blue White weekend in Happy Valley, Sunday clearly belonged to Penn State's walk-on right fielder Braxton Giavedoni.

 

The freshman finished off a festive weekend in style with a walk-off single in the series finale against Northwestern to give Penn State the 2-1 win, snapping a six-game losing streak.

 

"It was nice to see all my teammates and all my friends come out and celebrate it with me," Giavedoni said. "It was really fun."

 

Giavedoni ripped the first pitch he saw from lefty Sam Lawrence into left field with one out in the ninth inning to score Logan Goodnight from third base. Giavedoni said he was sitting fastball all the way, and that's exactly what he got.

 

"I didn't think he would throw me a fastball first pitch, but he did and I was ready for it and drove it," Giavedoni said.

 

Head coach Rob Cooper praised Giavedoni afterward for his ability to bounce back from an early blunder in the game.

 

In the first inning Giavedoni stepped to bat with no outs and runners on first and second. He fouled off two sacrifice bunt attempts, then grounded into a double play and Penn State was unable to score a run in the inning.

 

"Here's a young guy that wants to do well for his teammates, and he doesn't get it done," Cooper said. "Now you're at a point where you come in the dugout and he can go one of two ways: he can let it bother him the rest of the game or he can recover and deal with it short term, and that's what he did. It just shows you that he's a little bit further advanced with handling that emotional maturity."

 

Giavedoni has played in all but three games this season and owns the second-best batting average (.274) on the team of players who have played at least 20 games.

 

"Braxton's done a really good job as a freshman for us," Cooper said. "This is a kid that has really had to make his own way here, and you really root for those kids."

 

On the mound, Eric Mock was nearly perfect besides one pitch.

 

Mock left a fastball over the plate to Wildcats' power hitter Joe Hoscheit in a 3-0 count in the sixth inning and Hoscheit pounded it over the left field wall. The homerun was just the second hit allowed by Mock all game and the only run surrendered by the redshirt freshman.

 

Even with the homerun, Mock put together his strongest outing of his young career. He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before allowing the first Northwestern hit with two outs in the inning.

 

Mock tossed a career-high six innings in his fourth start of the season while striking out five batters and walking two. He lowered his season ERA by more than a run to 5.83 with the performance.

 

Mock said he struggled early getting his slider over for a strike but felt the best he has all season.

 

"It was a battle," Mock said. "I just tried to continue to throw strikes. I stuck with it, and when you can throw strikes you're going to get guys out."

 

Nick Distasio relieved Mock to start the seventh and pitched three scoreless innings. The two pitchers combined to allow just three hits in the game.

 

Mock received strong defense behind him all game, as the Lions didn't commit an error while he was on the mound. They committed nine errors over the first two games of the series.

 

In the fourth inning, Willie Burger made a full-stretched, diving play to his right and flipped to Mock at first base to rob Northwestern of a single to start the frame. Conlin Hughes also made two impressive snares and throws from shortstop on short hops in the first four innings.

 

Giavedoni and Nick Riotto made beautiful plays in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, to keep the leadoff hitter in each inning from reaching base.

 

"They were awesome," Mock said. "It's such a difference when you know that you have your defense behind you. It definitely helps you with your confidence."

 

Cooper said after the game that he's incredibly proud of his team for fighting through adversity.

 

"You can't win a game like that after what's been going on if you don't have kids that care and are trying, so I'm really proud of their effort, and we needed a win and found a way to get one," Cooper said.

The Mason Nadeau Effect

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Mason Nadeau effect has been a prevalent force for Penn State in 2017.

 

In limited playing time Nadeau, has been one of the most consistent hitters in the Nittany Lion lineup. He owns a team-best .357 batting average and has scored 11 runs in 18 games played while striking out just seven times in 56 at-bats.

 

Nadeau has recorded at least one hit in every game but two, since going hitless in the team's opening three-game series against TCU. He has six multi-hit games this season.

 

Nadeau suffered an injury in late March that kept him out of the lineup for 21 games, and Penn State struggled without him.

 

The Lions averaged 3.43 runs per game in his absence and went 5-16 in that stretch. Penn State averages 4.71 runs per game when Nadeau starts and owns a 7-10 record in those games.

 

"He gets on, and then when he gets on he can run a little bit," head coach Rob Cooper said. "He works counts, he can hit to all sides [of the field], which makes it really tough for the defense to shift him one way or the other. It's nice to be able to get him on."

 

Nadeau recently returned from his injury Tuesday in a home game against Pittsburgh, picking up right where he left off. The freshman outfielder notched a hit in two at-bats and added an RBI in his first game back on the diamond in almost a month.

 

"It was the best feeling in the world," Nadeau said. "Baseball can bring me to a different place, so when I'm out there everything's gone. Being able to come back is awesome."

 

Nadeau also recorded a hit in Friday's series opener against Northwestern and cracked three more in Saturday's contest. Penn State lost the three games, but Nadeau's return is encouraging, especially with all the injuries plaguing the team this season.

 

"That's kind of what he was doing right before he got hurt," Cooper said. "It's good to see him jump back in. I'm excited about his career and what he's got future-wise here."

 

Nadeau said he's seeing the ball extremely well since coming back from injury.

 

"I feel like my approach is just right where I want it to be," Nadeau said. "I feel like I'm doing well. I came back strong and took [batting practice] seriously, so I didn't really skip any beats."

 

Nadeau's return came at a near perfect time, as starting centerfielder Jordan Bowersox was recently bitten by the injury bug and has missed the last five games.

 

"I wish I was out there with him because I thought the two of us early in the season worked really well together in center and right, but I guess it's kind of opportune that he goes down and I come back," Nadeau said.

 

Nadeau scored the first run of the game Saturday night after a leadoff single in the first inning and an error by third baseman Charlie Maxwell that allowed Nadeau to score from first. He hit two more singles in the third and the ninth innings.

 

Conlin Hughes and Ryan Sloniger joined Nadeau with multi-hit games as well.

 

Justin Hagenman threw seven innings on the hill, surrendering just five hits and no earned runs. None of Northwestern's runs were earned in the game.

 

Penn State ended up outhitting Northwestern 9-6 but dropped the second game of the series, 7-4.

Riotto Breaks Out for Career Night

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK - Entering the 2017 season, Nick Riotto was the only Nittany Lion returning with multiple home runs hit in the season prior. If you ask him though, he's the farthest thing from a home run hitter.

"Growing up I was not a home run hitter," Riotto said. "Not at all. I don't think I hit very many and have only hit like four or five here, so I'm not really a home run hitter."

On the night, Riotto had a career-high four hits and two stolen bases along with a season-high three RBIs and two runs scored.

"It feels good to have a night like this. The road has been long, but it's been worth it to work it out and hopefully get some better at bats going," Riotto said. "But, I'd obviously trade a night like this for a win any day of the week. It's nice to see the work pay off, but when it comes down to the stat book or not, I know what my at bats are like so I stay pretty confident throughout the way."

The injury bug has been slightly contagious for Penn State all season starting with Riotto at the beginning of the year. In the first game against TCU, the left fielder was sidelined for nearly a month .

"I mean it's been a long road for sure," Riotto said. "It was tough to deal with for a little while. A lot of long nights staying up thinking about it, but coming back, there are a lot of adjustments that have been made."

Rejoining the team in the middle of March, he has found himself mostly at the top of the lineup, but Penn State head coach Rob Cooper penciled his left fielder in at the fifth spot against Northwestern Friday.

"You know, I hit him two-spot a lot last year just because I liked the way he was swinging the bat," Cooper said. "A lot of it has to do with who is swinging the bat well within the last five to 10 games and getting those guys who are feeling good up there as many times as possible."

In the bottom of the second, Riotto led off the inning with a single to center field. After stealing second, he advanced to third on a single by Ryan Sloniger to right. With Riotto on third, the designated hitter, Brett Davis, laid a bunt down the first baseline. Once Riotto saw that the bunt was down, he charged home and put a run on the board early for the Nittany Lions.

"Getting that first run in is big because we have been struggling early," Riotto said. "We haven't really bunted too much this year and we ask a guy like him, a freshman, to bunt and it's really big for him to get it down and get us going early."

In the bottom of the fourth, Riotto was due up to lead off the inning yet again. The natural lead-off hitter worked the count to 2-0. With the hitter's count, Riotto drove the ball deep to right-center field over the 375-foot mark.

"I mean it's fun to hit home runs," Riotto said. "I don't get to do it too often, so it's definitely fun, but it's just kind of a mistake. Not completely a mistake, but it's just a miss where I was trying to hit it hard up the middle and I pulled it a little bit and got it in the air."

With runners on first and second in the bottom of the fifth, the senior worked a seven-pitch at-bat and drove the final pitch he saw through the right side to bring home the fourth Penn State run of the game.

"I've been making a lot of adjustments with our hitting coach," Riotto said. "We've been working on a lot of balance stuff so that felt good. It was just trusting what I've been doing rather than pressing like I had been for a little while. I was trying to make the defense make a play and I just found holes and I am thankful for that."

After a nine-run sixth inning for the Wildcats, the Nittany Lions relied on the hot bat of Riotto to keep the team in the game. Down 11-4, Riotto walked up to the plate with two outs and a runner on second as the Penn State student section, Cooperstown, chanted "Rio, Rio, Rio, Rio," to the beat of the Spanish "Olé" chant.

"I like the chant," Riotto said. "It surprised me at first last year, but now I'm used to it. It's definitely cool to hear that and to be one of the guys that has a chant. It's cool that they are here all the time no matter what the score is, no matter what the weather is, so we are thankful for them."

With a 2-2 count, the senior turned on the pitch and lined the ball sharply into right field to drive home his third RBI of the game.

"I'm really proud of Nick," Cooper said. "This is a senior who's got a lot of pride and works really, really hard. He wanted to have a great senior season and gets hurt in the first game of the season and it really affected him and then he got off to a slow start. People don't realize how much pain he's been in at times and how hard he works, so I'm just really proud of him." 

Despite Riotto's hot bat, the Nittany Lions fell to the Wildcats 12-5 and look to even out the series on Saturday.

"We got to do a better job," Cooper said. "We just have to get out of here, go to bed quickly and get ready to go tomorrow."

The Nittany Lions will host the Wildcats Saturday at 6 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Lion Duo's Versatility Benefits Lineup

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK - Although Tuesday night did not end in the Nittany Lions' favor, Penn State head coach Rob Cooper saw promising outings at the plate from senior Christian Helsel and sophomore Ryan Sloniger. 

In a game featuring 10 total hits for the Penn State offense, Helsel and Sloniger were responsible for six.

At the beginning of the game, Helsel was penciled in at the leadoff spot in the lineup and starting at second base. Of his 34 games this year, Helsel has played second base just five times entering Tuesday night, as opposed to his 21 starts at third base and eight at first base. 

"The approach changes playing at second base," Helsel said. "You have to approach balls differently, but my whole life I've kind of moved around a lot. Playing up the middle isn't something really new for me. I feel comfortable at all infield positions." 

On top of the little experience in the middle infield, Helsel has batted anywhere in the lineup from the second spot to the eight hole at least once this season, yet never in the leadoff role.

"I feel like he's been swinging the bat very well," Cooper said. "I just felt like with him swinging the bat well, getting him up more often might help, so that's why he went up in the leadoff spot." 

"As far as my approach, nothing was different," Helsel said. "I just wanted to be aggressive at the plate and get on base for my teammates to be able to drive me in. In the leadoff spot, I really feel like I am the guy to get us going, so I just went up there to swing the bat and get on base."

Helsel started off the game driving the fourth pitch of his at bat into centerfield. After popping out to second base in the third inning, Helsel came back in the fifth to tack on a two-out single to right field. In the bottom of the seventh, Helsel stepped up in yet another two-out situation and drove the ball to deep center field for a stand-up double and the only extra-base hit for the Lions of the night. 

"Christian [Helsel], I'm very happy for," Cooper said. "This is a kid out of high school who went to Ole Miss and got hurt and really had to overcome a lot. Then he got here and things didn't go as well as I know he wanted it to go right away. So, to see him really starting to put it together in his senior season, I'm very happy for him." 

Helsel was not the only Penn State player playing out of his typical comfort zone Tuesday evening. 

Sloniger is used to seeing the ball from behind the plate, but against Pittsburgh he made his sixth start at first base.

"I'm definitely starting to get a little more comfortable at first base," Sloniger said. "I really hadn't played over there at all before recently. The more reps I get, the more comfortable I'm going to get."

Just like Helsel, Sloniger found himself up to bat in two-out scenarios in both the fourth and the sixth innings. In the fourth, Sloniger singled to center while in the sixth the sophomore singled to right field. In the eighth, he picked up his third hit of the night with another single to right field.

After getting off to a slower start than he would have liked at the beginning of the season, Sloniger has hit .250 in his last ten games with two doubles, a triple and a home run. 

"Obviously, recently, I've felt a little better at the plate," Sloniger said. "I'm just trying to stay with my same approach. I saw the ball well tonight again and I'm just trying to keep it simple."

Cooper has said many times this season that certain players are getting hot at the plate at different times, but his offense has yet to get hot at the same time. In these situations, players end up taking it upon themselves to make it their responsibility to get the offense going.

"It's hard not to feel that pressure," Helsel said. "But you really have to fight that because if you're pressing at the plate then you're going to make bad decisions at what pitches you're swinging at. I really just try to go up there and focus on one pitch at a time and try not to do too much." 

With conference games coming up this weekend, the Nittany Lions look to put this loss behind them and focus on the defensive part of their game before Northwestern comes to town. 

"We just need to play clean baseball," Helsel said. "The free bases that we are giving other teams is really what is doing us in. So if we can eliminate those free bases that we are giving these other teams, that's going to eliminate a lot of runs that they are scoring and keep us in ball games and give us a shot to win." 

Penn State will host a three-game series against Northwestern starting Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Lions Eager to Suit up at PNC Park

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In general, cancellations and make up games can be a hassle for programs that already have a loaded schedule. For Penn State, a rained out game originally scheduled for March 22 against West Virginia has now turned into an opportunity of a lifetime.

 

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced last Friday that the make up game between the Nittany Lions and Mountaineers will take place at home in their very own PNC Park Wednesday, May 10 instead of at the previously scheduled Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

 

"We're excited about it," said Penn State head coach Rob Cooper. "Hopefully it's something that can become a regular event there, but I think it's going to be really neat. It'll be a great experience for our kids to play in PNC Park, and hopefully we can get a really big Nittany Lion contingent there."

 

Frank Coonelly, the president of the Pirates since 2007, graduated from Penn State in 1983. In the statement released by the Pirates last Friday Coonelly praised both schools as "outstanding institutions" and said the Pirates are honored to host the game.

 

The Lions could also feel right at home in Pittsburgh, as Medlar Field at Lubrano Park is modeled with the same dimensions as PNC Park. Cooper said that it could potentially help calm the nerves of any star-struck players. He said it's the same size and the same game, so his team will be ready.

 

A few players who may have to try harder to calm their nerves are longtime Pirates fans Nick Riotto and Ryan Sloniger.

 

Riotto was born and raised in Washington, Pennsylvania, which is about a half hour southwest of PNC Park. Riotto said he has been attending Pirates games even before they called PNC Park home.

 

As a child, Riotto had the chance to watch the team when they played at Three Rivers Stadium. Both the Pirates and Steelers played at Three Rivers Stadium from 1970 to 2000.

 

He even threw out the first pitch in a game when he was around four years old.

 

"Ever since I could probably play baseball I was a Pirates fan," Riotto said. "I always went to games at PNC Park growing up and in high school, but getting to play on it is going to be pretty cool."

 

Riotto, like most of the team, has never played on a major league field before. Luckily for him, his first time catching fly balls in a major league outfield will be where his favorite players take their positions almost every day.

 

"It's like a dream come true," Riotto said.

 

In regards to the similar dimensions in the outfield, Riotto said it will help in that he won't have to change anything in his preparation or during the game.

 

"Being able to go to a stadium that's identical helps a lot because that way I can just go and focus on what I need to do rather than focus maybe on the wall or where I am on the field," Riotto said.

 

Similar to Riotto, Sloniger grew up a die-hard Pirates fan. Sloniger hails from Punxsutawney, which is about an hour and a half drive to Pittsburgh, but that didn't stop him and his family from going to Pirates games regularly when he was younger.

 

Sloniger said his dad raised him as a Pittsburgh sports nut. He said he still always loves getting back to PNC Park to catch games when he can.

 

"When you get in that big stadium it's going to be a different feel. It's obviously going to be a really cool feel," Sloniger said. "It's a dream come true for me too."

 

Cooper said this great opportunity will not only give the team a fun experience but will also help with recruiting players and energizing the fan base.

 

"If you've been to a game at PNC Park it's such a great place to watch a game, so to be able to play in what I think is one of the best ball parks in all of professional baseball, it's a great thing to be able to do with your team," Cooper said.

Pilewicz Shines in First Career Start

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Former walk-on Jake Pilewicz had never started a game on the hill before Wednesday night's home outing against Bucknell.

 

He has pitched strictly out of the bullpen this season, logging 11 relief appearances and striking out eight in 13.2 innings. In Penn State's fifth game in a five-day stretch with many Nittany Lion arms running on empty, head coach Rob Cooper placed his confidence--and the ball--in Pilewicz's hand to end a recent skid.

 

"I knew we were a little short-staffed, but I was really excited," Pilewicz said. "I started in high school and I was just really excited to get the opportunity."

 

Pilewicz struggled a bit in the early innings, but his resilience and ability to get out of seemingly impossible jams kept the Bison off the scoreboard.

 

In the first inning, Pilewicz gave up two straight hits with one out then walked Keifer Rawlings to load the bases. Without panicking, Pilewicz went after the next two batters and forced two short pop outs to quell the scoring threat.

 

In the third inning, Pilewicz loaded the bases again but this time with no outs--the closest scenario to major trouble for pitchers. Similarly, Pilewicz calmly worked of out the jam, and he only needed two batters to do it.

 

He first forced Bucknell's Luke Johnson to line into a double play as Christian Helsel caught the screamer and quickly tossed to Conlin Hughes to double up Sam Clark at second. Pilewicz then got an easy fielder's choice ground out from Miles Moore to end the inning.

 

Through the first three innings, Pilewicz held Bucknell to seven runners left on base and five left in scoring position without scoring a run.

 

"He went after it instead of trying to nibble around guys," Cooper said. "I'm really proud of him and the way he competed. He just wants to do well and he competes."

 

Pilewicz said his approach was to attack hitters and not walk anyone in those situations.

 

"You got to let the ball be put in play and you got to trust your defense, and they came through for me huge today," Pilewicz said.

 

Pilewicz surrendered two runs in the fifth inning that gave the Bison a 2-0 lead, but his teammates picked him up in the bottom of the inning by scoring four runs. Thanks to Penn State's offensive surge in the fifth inning, Pilewicz recorded his first career win in his first career start.

 

Pilewicz finished his five-inning performance with two earned runs and seven hits allowed, lowering his season ERA.

 

Cooper didn't rule out the possibility that Pilewicz would be able to supply more starts, but he said he loves Pilewicz's versatility right now.

 

"The great thing about him is he's a flexible guy," said Cooper. "He's a guy that's going to work hard and probably be ready and available for Sunday at some point if we need him. It's nice to know that we have that in our back pocket if we need it."

 

Hughes and Helsel, who completed the crucial third inning double play to keep Bucknell off the scoreboard, supplied the four runs in the fifth inning to give Pilewicz his first win.

 

"It's definitely exciting and kind of relieving in the dugout to just get some energy," Hughes said. "It makes guys just want to perform well and keep it going throughout the rest of the game."

 

With two outs, Hughes cleared the bases with a triple to give Penn State a 3-2 lead. Helsel then singled him in a few pitches later to stretch the lead to two. The Lions held the lead for the remainder of the game and held on to win 5-3 to snap their streak of seven losses in eight games.

 

Cooper also commended both Pilewicz and Hughes after the game for their competitiveness in the last few weeks.

 

"Even though we've been struggling a little bit, their competitive spirit is why you can see our guys don't quit," said Cooper.

 

Hughes and Helsel led the charge offensively with two hits apiece. Austin Riggings recorded his second RBI of the season in just his second start with a single in the sixth inning that scored Brett Davis. Riggins reached base three times in the game.

 

"For [Riggins] to do that and battle in tough [at-bats] and stuff like that and see him perform well it's really good for our team since we don't have that much depth right now."

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