By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State was leading Columbia 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning Friday evening. Starting pitcher Sal Biasi was throwing a one-hitter with eight strikeouts when Columbia's hottest hitter, Randell Kanemaru, stepped up to the plate.
Biasi's pitch count was nearing 100 pitches, so Penn State head coach Rob Cooper knew that his ace would be pitching his final inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, Kanemaru sent a ball over the wall in deep left field to take the lead 3-2. Although the Nittany Lion lead was gone, Biasi came right at the next hitter to record the final out of the inning.
"Overall I thought our body language was pretty good," Cooper said. "I give Sal Biasi a lot of credit. He's such a competitive guy. In the past, I think that's something that would've set him off a little bit and gotten him out of control a little bit pitching wise, and he came back and got the next guy out. I think Sal gave up two hits and that's one. He pitched well, but that's baseball."
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Joe Weisenseel was due to lead off the inning followed by the top of the lineup. Weisenseel worked a walk on four straight pitches to get a runner on first base.
"I have been used to leading off in high school," Weisenseel said. "So, I knew just trying to be myself and get on was going to be big, and that was going to boost the inning for us."
The true freshman started the trend of finding a way to get on base for each of the batters in the Nittany Lion offense. Conlin Hughes then doubled, Nick Riotto walked, Willie Burger doubled, Jordan Bowersox singled, Braxton Giavedoni doubled, Keith Leavitt walked, Christian Helsel reached on a throwing error, Ryan Sloniger singled and Weisenseel topped it off with another single.
As the Penn State offense batted around through the entire lineup, each of the hitters crossed the plate in just the fifth inning except for Weisenseel, who was thrown out at home. The power inning accumulated nine runs giving Penn State a comfortable 11-4 lead.
Weisenseel finished the night going 3-3 with a walk in his first career multi-hit game.
"It felt really good to get that one under my belt," Weisenseel said. "At one point I knew it was going to come. I just have to stay confident in myself and a couple days off in the middle of the week was kind of good for me to regroup mentally and then get back at it today."
"What you saw today from Joey is what we saw in the fall," Cooper said. "He was one of our best hitters in the fall even as a freshman. You're asking a guy as a true freshman to play a premium position like shortstop. That's hard. When you're not competing at the level that you feel like you can, guys need to learn how to handle that pressure they are putting on themselves."
Although Weisenseel kicked off the rally inning, Burger was the man who sparked the offense to knock in runs. In the third inning with two runners on base, Burger drove in both runs on a single to right field. In the fifth, his offense relied on the sophomore again to bring in another run.
With runners on first and second, Burger drove the ball to deep left-centerfield to bring in his third RBI of the game and tie the game at three. From there, the rest of the Nittany Lions followed in his footsteps knocking in eight more runs.
"I want to be in those situations," Burger said. "The last couple games I have been trying to do way too much, so I just tried to simplify things today. I'm proud of my at bats and I hope to be able to keep it going moving forward. Just have to slow the game down and let my ability show itself."
After relying heavily on Hughes' and Bowersox's offensive consistency so far this season, Cooper said it was nice to have more bats come alive in the starting lineup.
"I know this team can hit," Cooper said. "We've got good players. We just have had the majority of them struggle at the exact same time. Then you have guys that mentally it starts bothering them because they all want to do well. Hopefully that's the kind of game that can get those guys out of it. One of the things we said in the locker room afterward was that all of us need to stop trying to do way more than what we can do. We all have to do a better job of it, coaches as well. It comes from the right spot because they all want to do well, but you have to be able to slow it down."
Although this win was a big one for a previously struggling Nittany Lion offense, Penn Sate knows that tomorrow brings a brand new game.
"You got to feel good heading into the other games after hitting like we did tonight," Burger said. "But you have to stay competitive. It's baseball. What you do tonight means nothing tomorrow, so we have to wake up and show up here ready to win game one."Penn State will host a doubleheader against Columbia starting at 1 p.m. Saturday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.