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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."

Three-Run Seventh Not Enough For Lions

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK - "That's my friend! That's my friend," the Penn State student section chanted as Logan Goodnight was hit by a pitch to bring home Ryan Sloniger in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Penn State cut its deficit to 5-2 and the Cooperstown student section really started to get into the game after not seeing much action early on.  

For the first four and a third innings, the Nittany Lions could not figure out how to hit Binghamton's starting pitcher Jake Miller. Entering the night, Miller had three appearances on the year with a 1.59 ERA. 

"From a pitcher's point of view, I think [Miller] did a good job of mixing speeds," Penn State pitcher Eric Mock said. "He was a little bit effectively wild in a sense. He didn't command the strike zone great, but he did a good enough job of mixing speeds. His two-seam was a little bit slower and just kept hitters off balance."

The Nittany Lions picked up their first hit of the night in the fifth inning off of the bat of Brett Davis. Despite Davis' single to centerfield, Penn State failed to get a run on the board.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Nittany Lions' most dependable hitter this season stepped up to the plate. Jordan Bowersox drove the first pitch he saw down the left field line to get the inning started.

"He's doing a great job and he's a guy you can count on, but I don't think he realizes how good he can really be still," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "I think there's a whole other dimension to his game and we just have to get him out of that little comfort zone that he's in. But, it's definitely nice knowing he's going to give you quality at bats every time he goes up."

Sloniger followed Bowersox's lead by singling down the right field line to put runners on first and second. With a single to left field, Christian Helsel picked up his 15th RBI of the season as Bowersox crossed the plate. 

With bases loaded, freshman Logan Goodnight came up to bat. On the fifth pitch of his at bat, Goodnight took a pitch off of his left arm to bring home the second run of the game and cut Penn State's deficit to 5-2. As Goodnight trotted down the first baseline, his faithful student section had his back by yelling at the pitcher for hurting "their friend."

Austin Riggins then worked a five-pitch walk to pick up his first RBI of the 2017 season as Helsel stepped on the plate. With the score at 5-3 after going hitless for more than four innings, the Nittany Lions needed to hold the Binghamton offense. 

After Penn State starting pitcher Schuyler Bates' six-inning outing, Cooper called on Mock to take the mound. Mock had pitched two-thirds of an inning in the first game of Sunday's doubleheader against Ohio State giving up four runs. After briefly working in Penn State's starting rotation, Mock went back to the reliving role on Sunday and in the seventh inning on Monday.

"It is tough coming in as a reliever, but the key is trying to find a routine, which yesterday I wasn't really able to do," Mock said. "Today, I had a little bit more time to warm up and kind of get my routine right. I also thought about my game plan more and kind of slow the game down before I went in." 

Bouncing back from his Sunday outing, the redshirt freshman pitched two innings of scoreless baseball. In the top of the ninth, Paul Rufo fisted an inside pitch into shallow right field for an RBI single to take the lead 6-3.

"I was glad that Coop[er] let me go out there today because luckily I have been blessed with a sound mind," Mock said. "I may be listed as a freshman, but I have been here for two years now and I think that I'm wise enough to understand that I am going to go through some growing pains and there will be some bumps in the road. So, I learned a lot from my last two outings that weren't the best, but I think, in the end, it's going to make me a better pitcher and I am glad I was able to get out there tonight and bounce back a little bit."

Despite a late seventh-inning charge by Penn State, the Nittany Lions ultimately fell to the Bearcats 6-3.

"We are not doing enough offensively to put us in a position to finish that off," Cooper said. "I am proud of the guys for fighting and competing, but the thing is that is what we should be doing. We represent an unbelievable university and we get to play the game of baseball. Like I told the guys in the locker room, when we all decided we wanted to be at Penn State, me included, it was because we want to do great things and be successful. Well, if it's not going great you can't all of the sudden change your mind. You have to keep fighting and keep pushing and that's what we are going to do."

Penn State will host its fifth game in four days on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. against Bucknell at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Breakout Day for Hagenman

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Justin Hagenman turned in a breakout performance on the mound despite dropping both games in a Sunday doubleheader to complete the home series with Ohio State.

 

Game one was dominated by the sophomore right hander. Hagenman tossed a season-high eight innings and allowed a season-best one run while striking out eight Buckeyes.

 

Hagenman managed to get out of multiple jams and keep Ohio State off the scoreboard after allowing a run in the second inning. The Buckeyes stranded nine runners on base and six in scoring position against Hagenman.

 

"My arm felt good today," Hagenman said. "My goal today, and everyday really, was just to go out as long as I could and keep us in the game as long as I could."

 

Head coach Rob Cooper said he loved the way Hagenman battled through his longest outing of the year.

 

"That was an unbelievable effort," Cooper said. "He got every bit out of his 115 pitches today, and I'm just really, really proud of him. He competed and gave us a chance to win."

 

Hagenman was in line for his second win of the year heading into the ninth with a one-run lead, but Ohio State scored four in the frame off Eric Mock to spoil Hagenman's strong outing. The Buckeyes held on to take game one, 5-2.

 

Hagenman owns a 1-5 record this season in eight starts, but in the last five games he has toed the rubber, Penn State has averaged just 1.8 runs per game.

 

The Lions haven't scored more than three runs in any of Hagenman's five losses this year.

 

"We've got to be better offensively," Cooper said. "We're trying to work through some things, but on the flip side of that, the thing that the pitchers always have to keep in mind is they can't control what the hitters do. They can control their outing and their effort and their competitive spirit."

 

Hagenman lowered his ERA Sunday by more than a run to 4.04. He leads the team this season with 47.2 innings pitched and is second on the squad in strikeouts with 47.

 

Nick Riotto and Ryan Sloniger paced the offense with two hits apiece in game one.

 

Penn State scored both runs in the third inning on a passed ball and a Braxton Giavedoni sacrifice fly. The Lions then managed to load the bases in the inning with two outs but were unable to cash in another run.

 

Feeding off its ninth inning comeback in game one, Ohio State rode its momentum into game two and ran away with an 11-2 victory to win the three-game series.

 

Conlin Hughes hit a first inning homerun for his third of the season and Penn State's 16th in 2017, matching its total from last year.

 

"We just got to put the weekend behind us, move forward and set our sights on Binghamton and Bucknell and move forward from there."

Biasi Helps Nittany Lions to First B1G Win

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All season long Sal Biasi has earned the important task of starting the first game of three and four-game sets for Penn State.

 

Often, it's performances in these games set the tone not just for the opening game, but for the entire series. In all three of Biasi's wins this year, Penn State went on to win or split the series. The Lions split four-game sets with Xavier and Columbia and won two-of-three against Sacramento State when Biasi claimed the win in each of the first games of the respective series.

 

"Coming out and being able to be in a good rhythm and keep our hitters up at the plate instead of standing out there for a long time I think is just huge with the rhythm of the team and confidence going into the next two [games]," Biasi said.

 

Head coach Rob Cooper noted that Biasi is one of the leaders of the team and he knows how crucial his role on the pitching staff is.

 

"He really wants to see us do well and win, so when he goes out and has a good day and kind of sets the tone, I think it gives everybody else a lot of confidence," Cooper said.

 

Biasi's strong performance in Saturday's series opener against Ohio State bodes well for the Lions this weekend, who will finish off the three-game set in a Sunday doubleheader.

 

Saturday's 6-2 victory against the Buckeyes gave Biasi his fourth win of the season to push his 2017 record to 4-3. He recorded a season-high 6.2 innings in the game, striking out nine and allowing just one unearned run on three hits.

 

"I felt like I got ahead and really commanded my pitches," Biasi said. "I knew if I got ahead I would be able to put them away."

 

Cooper also noted that Biasi has matured a ton from last year, pitching more to contact instead of trying to do too much.

 

"When you've got his kind of stuff and you can get ahead of guys and they can't get anything comfortable to hit, it makes his job a lot easier," Cooper said. "I thought he did a heck of a job."

 

Biasi lowered his ERA to 4.15 in the win, which is the lowest mark among regular starters for Penn State. He leads the team in strikeouts (56) and opponent batting average (.169) this season.

 

Biasi has produced eye-popping strikeout numbers this year. He leads the Big Ten in punch outs and before Saturday's game his 13.08 strikeouts per nine innings pitched ranked 12th in the country.

 

Offensively, Braxton Giavedoni, Christian Helsel and Joe Weisenseel recorded multi-hit games to pace the Nittany Lions. Jordan Bowersox had an RBI single in the sixth inning to stretch his hitting streak to eight games.

 

Penn State scored two runs in both the second and third innings. A Ryan Sloniger sacrifice bunt in the second inning turned into the first run of the game after an Ohio State throwing error allowed Helsel to score from second base.

 

Sloniger then cracked a two-RBI triple in the next inning to open up a 4-0 lead, and Penn State cruised to the win from there.

 

"He worked me away the whole at-bat, and I fouled some pitches off," Sloniger said. "He didn't really give me anything I can handle. I just wanted to obviously cash in at least one, get a good knock there and get us going offensively."

 

The win gave Penn State its first Big Ten victory of the season. The Lions currently sit at 12-17 and 1-3 in the conference.

 

"I thought our guys battled," Cooper said. "That's the second game in a row where I think the way we competed was at the level that we expect 

Bowersox Set on Happy Valley

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For most high school players, the biggest transition to college baseball is the level of competition, being away from home or adjusting to new teammates and coaches. For Florida-native Jordan Bowersox, it was playing with long sleeves on occasion.

So why would Bowersox come 1,050 miles north to pursue his collegiate career?

The sophomore outfielder grew up visiting his family in Lewistown who took him to countless Penn State football games since he was five years old. Since then, Bowersox knew he wanted to be a Penn Stater.

"I've been a fan my entire life. It's been a dream to come here," Bowersox said. "It was just the campus. I fell in love with it. I kind of wanted to get out of the heat, as sad as that sounds. Just everything around here got me and when I first saw the baseball stadium, how can't you want to play here? It's beautiful." 

Bowersox grew up in Winter Springs, Florida where the average temperature throughout the winter months is in the 60's. Prior to attending Penn State, he never had to worry about wearing a long sleeve undershirt to assure he would stay warm during a game. Playing baseball in the north can be difficult for any athlete when the season first begins as winter is ending, but it's even more difficult for someone who has never experienced a cold winter. 

"It's difficult I'm not going to lie," Bowersox said. "The hardest part is hitting, especially when you get jammed, your hands feel like they are broken. You have to get a lot more stretched out before the games and looser." 

As a freshman, Bowersox played in 42 of 55 games during the 2016 season. Bowersox had a solid freshman campaign, batting .244 with 12 RBIs and 19 runs scored. But Bowersox said that as a freshman, he felt like he was under some pressure instead of playing completely relaxed. 

Throughout the summer, Bowersox used the confidence he gained after completing his first collegiate season and attempted to perfect his swing. After closing his batting stance a little more and adding a slight leg kick, the now-sophomore was finding more success at the plate. 

Although he was ready to come back to Penn State with his new batting stance and play in the team's fall season, Bowersox's health had other plans. The outfielder was diagnosed with Mononucleosis at the beginning of the semester and missed almost the entire fall season.

"It was difficult," Bowersox said. "I lost like 25 pounds. It just motivated me to work a little harder. I knew I wanted to play in the spring, so I had to put in extra work because the guys that were still playing were a step ahead of me. I just had to put in a little extra work to get to where I am."

After weeks of hard work and preparation recovering from the illness, Bowersox picked up right where he left off from his successful summer season. Through 27 games of the 2017 season, Bowersox is batting .359 with 17 RBIs, one triple, seven doubles and 14 runs scored.

"His success has really been huge," head coach Rob Cooper said. "Especially when we've had a lot of guys struggling collectively at the same time. This is a guy who really ended on a great note for us last year, had a great summer and unfortunately had Mono and missed the whole fall basically. So, for him to come back out and kind of pick up where he left off, it's been huge." 

For Bowersox, the most surprising statistic of his 2017 season is his three home runs. The sophomore picked up his second and third home runs in the past week against Michigan Friday and Pittsburgh Tuesday.

"I am seeing the ball well," Bowersox said. "A lot of credit to our strength coach Jason Bradford. Throughout my career I've never hit homeruns, so it's something new to me. I hope it continues. Not just me, but the whole team."

Cooper believes that with the success his outfielder is having it will create a lot more confidence in Bowersox. Cooper thinks that the next step for the sophomore is to realize his talent in the sport and then use that confidence to help lead his teammates in the future.

"The great thing is, I only think he's going to get better," Cooper said. "He's started to realize how good he can be as a baseball player."   

Malinsky Returns in First 2017 Start

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By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK - Catcher Alex Malinsky has missed the majority of the 2017 season following a preseason injury. During one of the team's practices, the senior took a ball off of the face and was immediately rushed to the hospital.

When practice finished, head coach Rob Cooper and his team went straight to the hospital to see how he was doing. Knowing he would have to have multiple surgeries on his face and dental work, the catcher asked Cooper what he thought was the only thing that mattered at the time.

"We went to the hospital and a bunch of guys came in asking him how he was doing and his response was, 'Hey how did practice end up? How did we finish up?' Cooper said. "That's just who he is."

Now healed from his injury, Malinsky has been able to play a few innings off the bench so far this season. On Wednesday evening, Cooper decided to start Malinsky behind the plate against Cornell.

"I wanted to get him back in there," Cooper said. "He's been working to get back in there. He looks good. We wanted to keep [Ryan] Sloniger in the lineup, so we DH-ed him and this was a good way to keep him off his feet and keep [Willie] Burger at first and Alex [Malinsky] did a great job." 

After sustaining the injury in January, Malinsky had to go through surgeries to repair all the damage the ball had done to his face and mouth. Once recovered, Malinsky knew he had to start conditioning and get back into baseball shape since he fell behind his teammates. As Malinsky noted, it was a few weeks ago that he knew he was ready to go full speed again.

"It felt great. It felt great," Malinsky said. "I can't wait to get back out there."

Although the Nittany Lions took an early 1-0 lead in the first off of an RBI single by Jordan Bowersox, the team looked to add some insurance runs.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, Braxton Giaveodoni singled through the left side to lead off the inning. After a single by Ryan Sloniger and an error on Christian Helsel's bunt loaded the bases, Malinsky stepped up to the plate.

"It's a team at bat," Malinsky said. "I was just trying to drive the ball. Worst comes to worst, if I drive the ball it could become a sac fly, so we will take the runs. I was just trying to get runs across."

Malinsky took the third pitch of his at bat down the left field line bringing home both Sloniger and Giavedoni to take a 3-0 lead. Logan Goodnight followed with a sac fly to left field to knock in Helsel who was tagging at third.

In the bottom of the sixth, Malinsky tacked on another double on the night with a shot down the right field line. 

Even though the catcher was 2-3 with two RBIs and two doubles entering the seventh, he did not stop there. This time, Malinsky had runners on second and third with one out. After going ahead 2-0 in the count, Cornell pitcher John Natoli fought back to make the count full. Malinsky sent the payoff pitch into shallow centerfield for an RBI single to extend the Penn State lead 6-2. 

After his single, Malinsky then stole second for the second time in his career, finishing with a career-high three hits, two doubles and three RBIs. 

"I'm just so happy," Cooper said. "When I saw him get hit, you know he's a fifth-year senior this is it, I'm thinking the guy who deserves to finish out his senior year playing baseball more than anybody is him." 

Helping Malinsky to the 8-2 victory over Cornell were Bowersox and Helsel at the plate and Schuyler Bates' strong outing on the mound. Bowersox went 2-3 with an RBI and two runs scored, while Helsel went 3-4 with three RBIs and one run scored.

Bates pitched a career-high five innings of two-hit baseball. The junior gave up two walks and struck out three of the 19 batters he faced in his first career start.

"The defense was unbelievable," Bates said. "It's amazing to be able to pitch behind that. I give most of the credit to them because they made so many unbelievable plays behind me."

After splitting the series against Columbia and a rainout on Tuesday, the Nittany Lions will enter Big Ten play with an 8-2 victory over Cornell.

"This win is huge before Big Ten play," Malinsky said. "Get everybody out there, get some confidence going in and we are just going to keep being us. We are going to attack every day and attack Michigan this weekend." 

Penn State will travel to Ann Arbor on Friday at 4 p.m. to start a three-game series against Michigan to open the conference slate.

Lions Focused on Positives

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With Big Ten play looming, Penn State is coming off a somewhat disappointing four-game weekend series split with Columbia, but that hasn't changed the confidence in the Nittany Lions locker room.

 

"We stay positive," pitcher Taylor Lehman said. "We would've liked to take all four games this weekend, but you just got to learn from what we could've done better and take it to next week."

 

Lehman had an encouraging weekend himself coming out of the bullpen, appearing in two games and not allowing a run in three innings. He notched five strikeouts as well.

 

Head coach Rob Cooper said overall he was happy with the team's pitching performance over the weekend but mentioned the offense needs to put more competitive at-bats together heading into Penn State's first Big Ten series at Michigan starting this Friday.

 

"I know that this team can do it, but I think what we have right now are a lot of guys that are pressing from a mental standpoint and a confidence standpoint," Cooper said.

 

One player Cooper sees getting hot soon is senior Nick Riotto. Riotto was fourth on the team last season with a .307 batting average, but so far this year he's hitting just .157.

 

"This is a guy that I think has a chance to play professional baseball," Cooper said. "He just cares so much and wants to win so much that he's trying like crazy to almost make up for lost time, but he's starting to relax."

 

Riotto has been at the forefront of helping newcomers like freshman Braxton Giavedoni adjust to the college level. He's been pegged as the offensive leader of the team, and Cooper believes he'll find his groove soon and the offense will follow behind him.

 

As for Giavedoni, he's impressed coaches with his work ethic and steady improvement since day one. He's started 18 of Penn State's 22 games and has produced a .275 batting average in 2017, good for fourth highest on the team.

 

"I just kept my confidence up and kept working and found my way," Giavedoni said. "In TCU I got one hit, got my confidence up, and from there I've just been rolling. Once I got that first hit off a really good arm at TCU, then I just thought I could do it off anyone."

 

Giavedoni feeds off confidence. If he continues to believe he can thrive at this level, he'll be a force in the middle of the Nittany Lions lineup during the Big Ten stretch.

 

"Braxton's been a pleasant surprise, Cooper said. "It's not that we didn't think he could play at this level, but you're excited that a true freshman can come in and want to be in the moment and want to play and make the most of those opportunities."

 

Amidst the start to the season, Cooper said he sees no reason to panic.

 

The Nittany Lions haven't even started the Big Ten season yet, which is by far the most crucial stretch of the year. Penn State has almost a week to improve and flush the last two weeks out, putting them in the past. Two home midweek contests against Binghamton Tuesday night and Bucknell Wednesday night give the Lions an opportunity to right the ship before conference play begins.

 

"Every goal that our team wants to accomplish we can still accomplish," Cooper said. "We can make the NCAA Tournament. We can make the Big Ten Tournament. We can win the Big Ten Championship. All those things are possible for us to do."

Forsyth Gives Lions A Boost

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By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After Columbia's Shane Adams ripped an RBI double in the third inning of game two on Saturday afternoon to stretch the lead to 5-1, it seemed as if the Lions may cruise to sweep the afternoon doubleheader against Penn State.

 

With still no outs in the inning, starting pitcher Cole Bartels was pulled for Dakota Forsyth, who struck out two of the next three hitters and escaped the inning without surrendering a run.

 

Forsyth remained in the game for another three innings and turned in his best relief performance of the season, striking out a career-high eight batters without allowing a hit. The only player to reach base against Forsyth was Joe Engel via a sixth inning walk.

 

"I was just trying to work ahead of the batters," Forsyth said. "Usually I fall behind and I'm always trying to get back into the count, but today I was just free out there going 0-1, 0-1 as much as I could. It was fun."

 

For head coach Rob Cooper, the difference was simply that Forsyth stayed within himself.

 

"That's the way Dakota has pitched his entire career here," Cooper said. "He's a competitor, and I always feel good when he has the baseball."

 

Forsyth recorded the win in game two and improved his 2017 record to a team-best 3-0. He now owns a 4.50 ERA and has struck out 20 batters in 20 innings on the hill this year.

 

While Forsyth quelled the hot Columbia bats, the Penn State offense perked up. The Nittany Lions scored four runs in the third inning to tie the game at five, then added another three in the fourth and two more in the fifth to open up a 10-5 lead.

 

Sophomore Ryan Sloniger opened the gates with a leadoff triple in the third and scored on a Joe Weisenseel RBI fielder's choice.

 

"I made some adjustments," Sloniger said. "I got up taller in my stance to be able to get my momentum It's felt a lot more comfortable the more and more swings I've gotten with it, so I feel really good right now."

 

Penn State pushed runs across in a variety of ways after that.

 

Three came from fielder's choices, one came from a throwing error, two came from RBI singles, and two came from walks with the bases loaded. The Nittany Lions worked five walks against reliever Ben Wereski in the third and fourth innings combined.

 

Conlin Hughes led the surge with three hits in the game. He also walked once, scored a run and recorded an RBI. Sloniger, Willie Burger and Jordan Bowersox also recorded multi-hit games.

 

"[I have] a lot of confidence in Conlin," Cooper said. "I just feel like he gives us competitive at-bats, so right now while you've got a team that overall is struggling, we're trying to get him up as much as possible."

 

Columbia pushed across one more run in the ninth inning, but Penn State held on for the 10-6 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the four-game series.

 

The Nittany Lions dropped the first game of the Saturday doubleheader 4-2. Justin Hagenman ended up with the loss on the mound, but it was one of his most effective outings of the season.

 

Hagenman pitched 7.1 innings and allowed just one earned run on eight hits. He recorded nine strikeouts and threw 71 of his 96 pitches for strikes, but errors and other mistakes costed him and the Nittany Lions the game.

 

"He was great. He gave us a great outing," Cooper said. "We self-inflicted those three runs early. We didn't do anything to help ourselves there and they took advantage of it. When you give teams enough free baseball they're going to take advantage of it."

 

Offensively, Burger smacked a 400-foot double to the deepest part of the ballpark in the fourth inning. Braxton Giavedoni then tripled to score Burger, and Nick Riotto hit a sacrifice fly later in the inning to score Giavedoni and give Penn State a 2-0 lead.

 

Columbia fought back with three runs in the fifth inning and held the lead the rest of the game.

 

The Nittany Lions had the best chance to mount a comeback in the seventh inning, but they failed to plate a run with runners on second and third with one out.

 

Cooper said he was proud of his team for bouncing back in the second game after a winnable first game.

 

"Eighteen innings is a lot of innings of baseball," Cooper said. "Our guys found a way to battle back, especially being down in that second game."

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