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Lions Plate Five Runs in First, Complete Season Sweep of Bucknell

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11883917.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (23-14) defeated Bucknell (16-24) by a score of 9-5 Tuesday night for its sixth straight victory and second over the Bison in a week.

The Nittany Lions handed Bucknell a loss just six days earlier, 8-1.

Penn State wasted no time getting ahead on the offensive end. In the first inning, the Nittany Lions scored five runs on three hits and three walks and ousted Bison starter P.J. Strahm before he could record even two outs.

"Even though we scored five, you still got to play the rest of the game," said head coach Rob Cooper. "I do think it helped kind of take a little bit of energy and kind of put them down a little bit emotionally, but you got to keep playing and you got to respect the game. Otherwise this game is going to jump up and bite you."

Starter Eli Nabholz held Bucknell hitless for the first three innings and ended up with the win to improve his 2016 record to 2-0. Nabholz lasted five innings, giving up just two hits and one run while striking out five.

"I felt good," Nabholz said. "I was just working with [coach Brian Anderson] during the week trying to get a little more confidence in hitting spots. That was the game plan today. Just to go out and see results kind of reflect on some of the work you've been doing is good."

Nick Distasio relieved Nabholz in the sixth inning and gave up four runs in two innings, three of which came on an inside-the-park homerun by Joe Ogren in the seventh inning.

Jack Anderson came in to close out the game and notched his ninth save of the season. He's tied for ninth in the country for most saves in 2016 and he leads the Big Ten in saves and ERA (0.72).

Greg Guers continued his onslaught of opposing pitchers by smacking two hits and adding an RBI on the night. Guers is 15-21 in his last five games with nine RBIs, and his batting average has risen from .189 in early April to .320 currently.

"It seems like every time I swing the bat it's finding a hole somewhere so that's always good," said Guers. "You just stick to the same approach you've been having, and it's been working so I'm not adjusting it too much right now."

For his spectacular efforts in the past week, Guers earned Big Ten Player of the Week and NCBWA National Hitter of the Week honors.

"It's awesome to see," Cooper said. "Even when he was struggling, we still trusted him in the middle of that lineup. His success right now started back a month and a half ago when he kept with that process and he kept with that approach. If he had just kind of scrapped everything then I don't know if he's where he is so I'm extremely happy for him."

Also logging a strong night at the plate was freshman catcher Ryan Sloniger. Sloniger went 2-4 and tied a season high with four RBIs to lead the Blue and White in that category.

"I've been working with [coach Ross Oeder] a lot in the last few weeks, and I've felt a lot better in every game," Sloniger said. "Leading up to the night, I just wanted to barrel the ball and stay in the middle of the field."

Seniors James Coates and Tyler Kendall recorded multi-hit games in the win as well. The top four batters in the lineup (Coates, Jim Haley, Guers, and Kendall) reached base a combined 13 times and accounted for six of Penn State's nine runs.

The Nittany Lions have now won 11 straight games against Pennsylvania foes dating back to 2014. Penn State still has games scheduled against Pitt and Villanova later this season.

Penn State will travel south to face Kent State in another non-conference matchup Wednesday night. This weekend, the Nittany Lions will visit Piscataway, N.J. for a three game series against conference foe Rutgers. The Lions currently sit at fourth in the B1G with an 8-4 conference record, while Rutgers occupies the 11th spot with a 3-6 conference mark. 

Hagenman Bursting Onto the Scene Earlier than Expected

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By Jack Dougherty, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The jump from high school ball to collegiate level competition can be daunting to most young pitchers.

The hitters in college are bigger, stronger, smarter, and flat out better than anyone a rising freshman pitcher has had to face in their lives. Most, if not all, freshman pitchers take a year to work on their game in practice and, if they're lucky, occupy a bullpen slot to warm up to the college game.  

But Justin Hagenman is not most freshman pitchers.

Hagenman has come to Happy Valley and immediately asserted himself as the ace of the Nittany Lion staff in year one. The quick leap and a sharp increase in talent hasn't fazed the 19-year-old from Voorhees, N.J., one bit.

"I don't think you should ever expect a true freshman to come in and be an ace because I don't think that's fair to that kid, but you don't ever put a limit on a guy," said head coach Rob Cooper. "If you come in with the mindset 'hey I just want to be [a part of] the roster or just want to get a few innings' well then you're slowing down your growth as a player, and it's something he hasn't done. He's a guy that wants to win and wants to compete and is doing a heck of a job of it."

Cooper and his coaching staff weren't exactly going after Hagenman hard when he was in high school at Bishop Eustace. They were looking more seriously at other players on his summer team and in the area when both his high school coach and summer coach approached Cooper and urged him to take a closer look at Hagenman.

Cooper did, and it sure has paid off.

In his first year in Blue and White Hagenman has started in eight games and boasts a 4-1 record, which is tops among Penn State's starting core. Hagenman has thrown a team high 52 innings to the tune of a 2.25 ERA, and he is third on the team with 27 strikeouts in 2016.

His 52 innings pitched is the fifth highest total in the Big Ten and his 2.25 ERA ranks ninth in the conference.

"He's just a silent assassin," Cooper said. "He's a competitor that just kind of goes about his business, and you look up at the end of the game and you've got a chance to win it. He's a lot of fun to coach because he takes a lot of responsibility to make himself better, he doesn't make excuses and he wants to help Penn State win."

"My goal was to come in here and be able to start games for Penn State," said Hagenman. "Not a numbers goal but being able to keep my team in games and give them a chance to win all the games that I started."

Hagenman has done just that and more for the Nittany Lions this season. Penn State has won six of his eight starts, and his only loss was to South Carolina, which ranks third in the country at 28-6. In that game, Hagenman held the Gamecocks to just two earned runs in 5.2 innings of work.

Hagenman was heavily influenced by his father, Dan, growing up. He learned everything about the game from his dad and gives all the credit to him.

"From the youngest age he was the one that got me into baseball," said Hagenman. "He coached me throughout and he's probably my best coach to this day. He's done everything on the baseball side of it."

No matter the situation, Hagenman has competed and put his team in a position to win every game he's started. There are no nerves. This kid is simply outperforming the expectations at his age.

"I think that's one of the best things that I can do. It's the controllables," said Hagenman. "Stuff like your emotions on the mound and attacking hitters, that stuff is all something that I can control. I can't really control whether they hit it, but I can trust my stuff and being able to go right at them is something that I can do."

Go right at them he has, and hit him they haven't.

Hagenman imprinted his name as a force to be reckoned with even before the season started. During Penn State's trip to Cuba in the fall, Hagenman became the first U.S. pitcher to earn a win over a Cuban National Series team in a matchup against Mayabeque. Hagenman allowed just one run and struck out three in his historical debut for the Nittany Lions.

He hasn't taken any steps back since that day. In fact, he's only improved. Of the 198 batters he's faced so far this season, Hagenman has walked only nine. There are seven pitchers on Penn State's roster who have surrendered more walks than Hagenman, and none of them have pitched more than 44 innings.

"It's an unbelievable stat," Cooper said. "It just shows that he goes after guys and he competes. He led off an inning with a walk and you could tell he wasn't happy with it, and that's because you're not used to it. The biggest thing is he just goes out and competes, and he believes in his team behind him and he believes in his ability."

"I just try to throw strikes and get ahead in the count," said Hagenman. "I'm inviting contact, so if they want to swing that's what we're going for."

That confidence is what has brought so much success to Hagenman so early on in his career. In turn, it has brought Penn State the success it hasn't produced in a while.

Penn State (19-14) is off to its best start since 2011. The Lions' 3.31 team ERA is approximately 1.82 runs lower than last season's and ranks 32nd nationally and third in the Big Ten.

Hagenman is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons for this resurgence, and he'll be around for quite a while longer.

"Just being myself, that's the first thing [my coaches] told me when they were recruiting me and then when I got here. They don't want me to be anything that I'm not, and that's what I've done."

Bowersox's Walk-Off Seals Comeback Win in Second Frame of Doubleheader

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11860965.jpeg By Jack Dougherty, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (18-14, 5-4) split a doubleheader with Big Ten-leading Michigan State (21-6, 5-1) on Sunday to get back to a winning record in conference play.

After dropping the first game of the day the Nittany Lions rallied from one run down in the ninth to win the series finale in walk-off fashion, 7-6. Jordan Bowersox was the hero of the day, knocking in Jim Haley for the game-winning run thanks to an error by the MSU second baseman.

With two outs and runners on first and second, Tyler Kendall laced a single to right field on the first pitch he saw that drove in Nick Riotto to tie the game at six.

"I was sitting on off-speed. They had been starting me off low and outside, but I took good at-bats all day with nothing to show for it," said Kendall. "I was just happy to get the next guy up. That's all I was trying to do."

That next guy up happened to be Bowersox, who ended the game with one swing.

"He threw me a fastball up and I just chopped in on the ground," Bowersox said. "I actually tripped coming out of the box. Luckily he threw it a little high and I was safe."

Riotto extended his hitting streak to nine games with a three-hit performance in game two. He also scored three runs and recorded two RBIs to lead the Blue and White.

Haley also smacked three hits in the game and scored the winning run. Riotto (.330) and Haley (.349) lead the team in batting average in 2016 and continue to produce at the plate.

Jack Anderson picked up the win in game two to improve his record to 3-1 on the year. He threw three innings in relief of Justin Hagenman, who struck out four and allowed three earned runs in six innings on the hill.

"He always battles," Anderson said of Hagenman. "He's learning more and more every start he takes. He's always battling out there. He's always shooting knees and mixing velocities. He's a stud and we all have a ton of confidence in him."

The Nittany Lions committed a season high five errors in the contest, including two in each of the sixth and eighth innings.

"We got to take care of the ball better," said head coach Rob Cooper. "We didn't value the baseball at all. We got to move our feet. We got to know when to not throw a baseball. No excuses, we got to play better defensively."

Penn State out-hit the Spartans 9-6 in the first game, but MSU capitalized on its few opportunities to pull out a 5-2 win.

Sal Biasi started on the mound for Penn State and lasted five innings, surrendering only one hit but allowing three runs. Biasi struck out six but suffered the loss to drop his record on the season to 3-4.

Nick Distasio and Marko Boricich each added two innings of relief and gave up a combined five hits and two runs.

James Coates and Ryan Sloniger each tallied two hits in game one. Seven different Nittany Lions recorded a hit in a balanced effort.

Freshman Connor Klemann, in just his third start of the season, singled in the second inning to score Jordan Bowersox for his third RBI on the year. MSU bounced back with an unearned run in the fourth inning to tie the game at one.

In the fifth, Haley knocked in Ryan Sloniger with a sacrifice fly for his team leading 21st RBI on the season. Michigan State scored two runs in both the seventh and eighth innings and held on to win the second game in the three game series.

The Nittany Lions return to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park Wednesday to face Bucknell at 6:30 p.m. Penn State will then head to Evanston, Ill. for a three game series over the weekend against conference foe Northwestern.    

Lion Winning Streak Comes to a Close

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By Michele Jaroszewski, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State baseball's winning streak came to a halt Friday night as Michigan State defeated the home team, 7-0, in the opener of the third conference series of the season.

The Spartans got on the board early in the top of the first with a RBI single from designated hitter Brandon Hughes. Teammate Jordan Zimmerman advanced to home from second base off the hit, getting the first tally.

The runs continued for the opposing team with a two-run RBI single in the top of the third by Taylor Grace and another RBI single in the top of the fourth by second baseman Dan Durkin, giving Michigan a four run lead.

The next three runs were driven in by two sacrifice flies into the outfield in the top of the seventh and eighth by Zimmerman and Justin Hovis. Hovis had the final run in the ninth inning after hitting a triple on the right field line, scoring off of a wild pitch.

Winning pitcher Cam Vieaux held the Nittany Lions from getting on the board, allowing only five hits and one walk. Nick Riotto led the home team with two hits into left center field, raising his batting average to .321.

"I don't really think about the batting average at all. I don't look at the board; I don't look at the stats. I would trade two hits for a win tonight," Riotto said.

Speaking for the team, Riotto said when facing Michigan he noticed a lot of aggressive hitters that like to hit and run, getting defense out of their positions. As for going into Sunday's doubleheader the team is staying optimistic, looking to comeback and get the series win.

"They're a good offensive team, but I think we can comeback, control that and be better," Riotto said. "We lost tonight, but that doesn't mean that we can't win a series. That's the ultimate goal right now."

Vieux pitched for seven innings and had six strikeouts. Relief pitchers Dakota Mekkes and Joe Mockbee came in for an inning each. Mockbee allowed the Nittany Lions last hit of the night with Jordan Bowersox's double into left field in the bottom of the ninth.

"The guy really commands both sides of the plate," said head coach Rob Cooper on Vieux. "He can throw a fast ball in or out. He has a real good breaking ball that is tough on righty's but really hard on lefty's."

A few adjustments that the team is looking to make before Sunday's games are figuring out how to manufacture runs. Coach Cooper said that pitching is also a focus, working hard to keep lead off hitters of every inning off the bag.

"I like the way that our kids have been playing and competing, but tonight [Michigan] out played us, in all facets," Cooper said. "We made two errors, we had a chance to turn some double plays and we didn't, that's big. Because that adds more pitches to a pitching count...we got to get our guys off the field when we have the opportunity to."

First game is set to start at 11 a.m. Sunday at Medlar Field with the second to begin 30 minutes after the last out.  

Riotto Stays Hot as Penn State Wins Seventh Straight

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By Jack Dougherty, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (16-12) defeated in-state rival Pittsburgh (13-12), 7-0, on Tuesday night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to stretch its current winning streak to seven games. The Nittany Lions have won 10 straight in State College.

Nick Riotto continued his hot play at the dish with a three hit night to extend his hitting streak to five games. During that streak Riotto has tallied 10 hits, five RBIs, and four runs scored.

The junior's batting average has elevated to .299, giving him the second highest mark on the team behind Jim Haley. Riotto now has 29 hits on the year, which is also second on the team to only Haley's 37.

"Every at-bat he competes," said head coach Rob Cooper. "He's always working and always trying to get better. It's a guy that you can count on that you know you're going to get his best effort every time up at the plate and that's important."

The danger Pittsburgh presents is its high scoring offense, but a trio of Penn State hurlers shut down the Panthers' bats convincingly.

Pitt is ranked fourth in the country in homeruns per game (1.33) and has smashed 32 total this season. The Panthers had scored 37 runs in their last four games combined and averaged 7.5 runs per game in 2016.

Starter Nick Hedge silenced a powerful lineup to just two hits in six innings of work. During one stretch he retired 10 straight batters before an error allowed Frank Maldonado to reach base in the fifth inning.

"He just went right after guys," said Cooper. "He was able to work both sides of the plate, and he was throwing his changeup and his breaking ball in there for strikes. His mound presence really dictated the whole thing."

"I kept to my same game, just keeping the ball low and trying to get a lot of ground balls and let the defense work behind me," Hedge said. "All three pitches were working, and I had a lot of trust in them."

Hedge picked up his third win of the season Tuesday night, lowering his ERA to 2.42 in the process, good for the second lowest among PSU starters. Dakota Forsyth added two innings in relief and Jared Fagnano closed out the game in the ninth. All three pitchers combined to allow just three hits and totaled nine strikeouts on the night.

Hedge got some early help from the offense courtesy of three first inning runs. Penn State's first three batters loaded the bases with three singles before Greg Guers drove in two runs with a double to right field.

A few pitches later Tyler Kendall skied a sacrifice fly to centerfield to add another tally. Kendall ended the night with a game-high three RBIs, pushing his total to 14 on the year.

"The thing that I love is that he's super aggressive," said Cooper. "Really the thing we've had to do with him is almost scale him back a little bit because he wants to win so bad. He wants to make something happen and he's got to know when to do it. Today was a good time to do it."

The Nittany Lions added four runs in the fifth inning on a Riotto RBI double for his third hit of the night and a Kendall single that scored two more. Kendall came in to score later in the inning on an error.

Penn State seeks to extend its win streak Wednesday against Lafayette at 3:30 p.m. The Nittany Lions will be back at Medlar Field on Friday to begin a three game series against conference foe Michigan State (19-5).

Unlikely Hero Completes the Series Sweep in Walk-Off Fashion

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By Jack Dougherty, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All seemed finalized when Purdue's Brett Carlson poked a two-run single up the middle to give the Boilers a 6-4 lead in the top of the 12th inning Saturday night.

Penn State (15-12) had been at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park since 8 a.m. that morning for a doubleheader, and the fatigue was setting in. Settling for two out of three in a tight weekend series didn't seem too bad after 21 innings in one day, but Alex Malinsky had other plans.

The junior didn't record an at-bat the entire weekend, but he made the most of his only opportunity.

With one out and two runners on base in the bottom of the 12th and Penn State down one run, Malinsky stepped up to pinch hit. In just his 15th plate appearance of the season, Malinsky roped a line drive to the left-centerfield gap that easily scored the tying and winning runs. Malinsky was promptly mobbed at second base by his teammates.

"I just saw something I could drive," said Malinsky. "I just saw a ball up, I'm not even sure what it was to be honest. I saw a ball and went hacking at it."

"Alex Malinsky, it couldn't happen to a better guy," head coach Rob Cooper said. "A guy who cares, loves Penn State, works his tail off. Part of the reason our guys went bonkers out on the field is because it was him that did it. That's how much they love and care about him."

This game may very well be the defining moment for this scrappy team with a never say die attitude.

"It's unbelievable," Greg Guers said. "Especially after a long day, we're in the bottom of the 12th inning after giving up two runs, and we could've easily just shut it down. I can't even describe how much resiliency that we have after today."

"It's something that we talk about and work on it. We talk about being resilient," said Cooper. "Even when we were down two-nothing early in the game our guys just put their heads down and went back to work. Our guys didn't flinch. I'm just proud of them, I really am."

Jack Anderson recorded the win in the extra innings thriller in 4.2 innings of relief. Anderson logged his 85th career appearance in the game, which is tied for the most ever in Penn State history.

Earlier in the series, Tyler Kendall played hero with an RBI triple in the eighth inning to lead PSU to a 3-1 victory on Friday. Kendall went 3-4 in the game and had six total hits in the series to increase his 2016 batting average to .297.

"I've been working on little stuff in my swing with coach Oeder and Coop," said Kendall. "I felt really good before the game today. I was happy that I could step up."

Jordan Bowersox also had three hits on the night, marking his first career three-hit game. Taylor Lehman produced one of his best starts of the year with 6.1 innings of work, only allowing one run and striking out four.

The second game of the weekend was much more comfortable for the Nittany Lions. PSU plated four runs in the third inning and never looked back, completing the win by a score of 7-2.

The middle of the lineup was dominant in the win, as batters two through five smacked eight of the Blue and White's 12 hits. Kendall, Guers, and Nick Riotto recorded multi-hit games and Christian Helsel also added two from the nine hole.

Sal Biasi was brilliant on the mound for PSU, notching his third win of the season in 7.2 innings while striking out seven. Dakota Forsyth relieved Biasi in the eighth inning and shut the door on the Boilermakers in his second straight appearance.

The sweep increased Penn State's winning streak to six games and improved its home record to 9-1 on the season.

"It's our home," Cooper said. "When you got a student group like Cooperstown, those guys are unbelievable. We talk about wanting to make Medlar a tough place to play, and so far we're upholding our end of it."

Penn State will return home on Tuesday for a non-conference matchup with in-state rival Pittsburgh. The Panthers sit at 13-10 and boast five regular starters with batting averages above .320.

Patience the Key for Guers to Get Back to His Old Self

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By Jack Dougherty, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Expectations were sky high for rising senior Greg Guers entering the 2016 season.

With the departure of leading hitter and childhood friend Aaron Novak, there was a role to be filled on the roster. Guers fit that mold seemingly well.

Guers started in every single game of the 2015 season. He was the only player to do so.

He led the team in at-bats (204), doubles (13), homeruns (8), RBIs (38), slugging percentage (.495), and even stolen bases (14). Guers was the epitome of an all-around player.

Coming off a career season, the door was open for Guers to take the reins of a promising, young squad. He had improved his numbers every year at Penn State, so all signs were pointing towards a dazzling senior campaign.

Guers knew it, his coaches knew it, Penn State fans knew it. The only problem was all of Guers' opponents knew it too.

So far in 2016 Guers' numbers have been slightly down, but that may be more of a credit to teams scouting the dangerous cleanup hitter than a knock on Gears himself.

"The word is out on Greg Guers. He's a good player," said head coach Rob Cooper. "I guarantee you if you were to see an opposing team's scouting report on Greg Guers it would say do not let him beat you. That's tough. That's tough when you're getting pitched to so fine."

After watching the damage Guers supplied to opponents last year, teams are pitching around him with soft curveballs, changeups, and sliders on the outside corner this season.

The careful approach to Guers has limited him to a .197 batting average, which ranks ninth highest on the roster. He's tied for sixth in hits (14) and his slugging percentage has dropped from last year to .286.

To flip the switch, Guers may have to adapt to the way teams are pitching him and stay more patient in the box. Instead of looking for fastballs to drive, he could change his approach to focus on staying back and going with the pitch.

"You just have to simplify your approach," Guers said. "Little by little every day you try to figure out something new and go from there. You see how your swings are during the day and reflect after with the coaching staff and see what you got to do differently."

"He's going to be fine. I'm not worried about it," Cooper said. "It was about this time last year when he really started to lock it in and put up unbelievable numbers."

Guers' late season surge last year might have been spurred by a flurry of home games. The friendly confines of Medlar Field aren't playable until nearly 20 games into the season, but Guers plays his best baseball in Happy Valley.

There are already some preliminary signs of that trend a few games into the home slate. In the four games in which Guers logged an at-bat during the home stretch, he recorded four hits, three RBIs, three runs, including a game-winning RBI against West Virginia.

It's no secret Penn State goes as Guers goes, which is mostly evident in home contests. Last year, Guers got hot during the home schedule and led the Nittany Lions to a 13-7 home record. This year, the Blue and White is 6-1 at Medlar Field and Guers is showing signs of life.

Penn State continues its home stretch this weekend with a three game series against conference foe Purdue. The Boilermakers sit in last place in the B1G with a 4-17 (0-3) mark.

Haley Extends Hitting Streak as Lions Sweep Mid-Week Games

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11830347.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Jim Haley stole the show in the mid-week games by extending his hitting streak to nine games while lifting Penn State baseball to wins on back-to-back nights. Haley drove in two tallies in both games with an RBI double against Youngstown State and an RBI triple against Binghamton.

Penn State vs. Youngstown State (6-1):
Haley had the first big play of the night hitting a double into left field in the bottom of the third. Runners Nick Riotto and Conlin Hughes touched home plate receiving the first two tallies of the game.

The Diamond Lions continued putting numbers on the board as Greg Guers got on base with a bunt single, later stealing second. Tyler Kendall's RBI single allowed Haley to get the third tally, and Jordan Bowersox's ground double gave Guers in the fourth.

Guers continued the scoring streak with a homerun to right center in the bottom of the fifth, extending the Nittany Lions' lead to 5-0.

Starting pitcher Eli Nabholz kept the Penguins scoreless until the top of the fifth. Youngstown State gained a tally after a bloop single by Billy Salem, with teammate Lorenzo Arcuri touching the plate.

Nabholz allowed only two hits and had three strikeouts, receiving his first win of the year.

"I felt good. Once you get going even if it's a little chilly, little windy, break a little sweat, and your body heats up; you're fine," said Nabholz about pitching in cooler conditions.

When asked if there has been any pitching adjustments over the past couple of games, Nabholz said that there has.

"Early on in the season I felt that I was struggling a bit," Nabholz said. "Working with our coaching staff and trying to attack hitters. It seems to be working a bit and try to keep going with that." 

Dakota Forsyth came in as the relief pitcher at the top of the sixth, and remained until the end. This also became his first save of the year.

The Nittany Lions gained their final tallies with Guers hitting an RBI triple, after Haley got on base with a walk, making the final score 6-1 Penn State.

Penn State vs. Binghamton (5-2):
In the second game of the mid-week, Nick Riotto kicked things off with an RBI walk after being hit by a pitch. He continued to add two more tallies to the scoreboard with an RBI reached on fielder's choice in the bottom of the fourth (2-1), and an RBI single into right field in the sixth (5-1). Both runs were scored by Bowersox.

Haley was again a power hitter with two RBIs off of a triple into right center, driving in the third and fourth tally by Christian Helsel and Riotto.

"Just an approach to the plate, putting my foot down early, hands back, and just see the pitch. I think that's working for me right now and I feel really good at the plate," said Haley about his nine game hitting streak.

So far that approach is to aim for right-center or middle to right-center field. Haley said that if a ball runs in, he'll pull to the left. When it comes to his comfortable hitting spot in the field, he has no preference.

"This is my third year here, I've batted in every spot," Haley said.

"I'm proud of our kids for coming to the park and putting forth a good effort for another," said head Coach Rob Cooper about the night's win. "I'm also proud of our kids cause if you look at where we were three week ago, for us to be an even table and be 12-12 right now, it says something about the progress these guys are making."

When asked about Haley's winning streak, Cooper said to 'knock on wood' in the hopes for it to continue.

"Jimmy has always been a guy that has number-one unbelievable confidence at the plate. He loves to compete and then he also a really, really smart effect of an approach," Cooper said. "He goes up there with a plan, doesn't deviate from that plan. Unless the pitcher makes him do it."

Cooper continued saying that Haley trusts his approaches and abilities to help get those power hits.

The Nittany Lions finished the game beating the Bearcats, 5-2. The winning pitcher was Nick Hedge after tossing five and a third innings with allowing just one earned run.

The next series will take place this weekend at Medlar Field at Lubarno Park against Purdue, making this the second conference series of the season. The first game will be Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Balanced Effort from top to Bottom Leads Lions to Midweek Wins

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11812488.jpegBy Jack Dougherty, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State (9-10) recorded two wins Tuesday and Wednesday to stretch its current win streak to four games.

The Nittany Lions improved their 2016 home record to 4-1 after dropping their first contest at Medlar Field to Niagara on March 18.

In a superbly balanced effort, every single player who stepped to the plate got on base at least once over the course of both games, and nine different players recorded a hit. Five different pitchers held PSU's opponents to just six earned runs in the victories.

"When everybody's getting on base it makes the game a lot easier, and you don't have to rely on one or two guys," said senior shortstop Jim Haley. "The game goes a lot more smoothly and there's not much pressure on one person to do the job."

PSU vs. West Virginia
The Mountaineers started their 2016 campaign 10-5 before suffering a sweep to No. 6 Texas Christian immediately before visiting Happy Valley. Any thoughts of a bounce-back win were thwarted by the Nittany Lions in a 5-4 nail biter.

The Blue and White struck first in the bottom of the second inning courtesy of a Conlin Hughes RBI single. On the same play, Christian Helsel added another run thanks to an error by the first baseman.

West Virginia immediately fought back and tacked on three runs in the third inning to open up a narrow 3-2 lead.

The next inning, Nick Graham knotted up the score with an RBI double that scored Jordan Bowersox. After Graham advanced to third on a ground out, he scored on a wild pitch with two outs to regain the lead for Penn State.

The Mountaineers answered with a tying run in the fifth off a Darius Hill RBI triple, but Dakota Forsyth was able to quell the damage and prevent WVU from retaking the lead. In 2.1 innings pitched Forsyth recorded a strikeout and logged his first win of the season.

"Dakota was struggling a little bit to really stay in control of himself, and in the past that would've I think been a recipe for disaster," said head coach Rob Cooper. "He really slowed himself down and competed."

After a scoreless sixth inning, Penn State wasted no time getting aggressive in the seventh. Jim Haley led off the inning with a scorching triple to right center and Willie Burger reached base on an intentional walk.

Greg Guers, who has been struggling at the dish to start the season, got the call as a pinch hitter with one out in the frame. Guers answered that call, almost putting one over the right field fence, but the sacrifice fly was all Penn State needed to take a lead it wouldn't surrender.

Jack Anderson entered the game in the eighth and shut the door on West Virginia for a two-inning save, allowing only one hit in the process.

"That's probably as good a win as we've had since I've been here at Penn State," Cooper said. "I say that because it was an unbelievable team win against a good team. I'm really proud of our team."

PSU vs. Rhode Island
The second game of the midweek slate featured a slightly altered lineup, but the Nittany Lions didn't miss a step early on. The Blue and White jumped on URI in the second inning and tagged the Rams for four quick runs, all with two outs.

After a ground out and a fly out to start the frame, Penn State racked up four hits in the inning, including an RBI triple courtesy of Nick Riotto and a Willie Burger single that plated two more.  

Marko Boricich tossed three scoreless innings to start the game but ran into some trouble in the fourth. URI pushed two runs across in the fourth frame, and Nick Distasio entered the game for the Nittany Lions.

Distasio worked out of a jam immediately and continued to pitch 4.2 stellar innings in relief. He recorded the win to the tune of three strikeouts and no earned runs allowed.

"I thought I did well coming out of the pen," said Distasio. "The guys behind me really helped me out making some tough plays in big spots. It was a great team win overall."

"Distasio was great. He really was," Cooper said. "That's a kid that last year was in our rotation, and now he's in the bullpen and to give us a midweek lift like he did today out of the bullpen is unbelievable."

Things got a little hairy in the seventh when the Rams scored an unearned run to cut the lead to 4-3, but PSU tacked on an assuring tally in the bottom of the inning to stretch the lead back to two.

Jack Anderson was called upon for the second night in a row to shut the door and did so forcefully. The senior recorded his career high sixth save on the year and inched closer to the all-time record for most appearances in Penn State history. He's made a total of 81 appearances throughout his career, just four shy of the record of 85 held by David Lutz.

The Nittany Lions will travel to Champaign, Ill. for a three game weekend series against Illinois to begin the conference slate. The Fighting Illini sit at 8-10 on the season and have lost three of their last four contests.

Burger Moving Forward with Confidence

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11810811.jpegBy Michele Jaroszewski, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State baseball started the week on a high note as freshman Willie Burger was named Big Ten Player and Freshman of the Week following the home opener series.

The breakout star helped the Nittany Lions earn a series over Niagara by bringing in six runs and going 7-for-11 with a .636 batting average.

This is the first award that Burger has received in his collegiate career, and the second freshman of the week title in a year for Penn State.

"It justifies a lot of hard work. I could've gone one of two ways after the first two weekends, could've felt sorry for myself, but I didn't, I kept working," Burger said.  "To have it pay off and to have it recognized feels good. I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't."

When it came to stepping up to the plate, Burger said that he made a conscious change after the first two weekends of the season didn't go as well as he'd hope. That conscious change was to take things slower.

Burger said that he thought he was doing too much. Trying to drive balls over the fence that were out of the strike zone and not giving himself a chance at the plate.

"I just stayed after it, kept working with the coaches and kept trusting in our approach and our process," Burger said. "Really felt that change after the two weekends I started playing well. Felt good this weekend to have a turn around.

With the team full of underclassmen this year, Burger said that there are many factors that contribute to the Nittany Lions' improvements early in the season.

"We got a lot of young guys that are starting to get comfortable and starting to play a lot better. We got a good older group too that's helped us come a long way," Burger said. "We've had a couple of rough games but we've just stuck with it and trust in the coach, trust in each other and starting to make some strides here."

The Nittany Lions will look for their fourth-straight victory on Wednesday when they host Rhode Island. The Lions topped West Virginia by a count of 5-4 on Tuesday. 


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