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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Penn State baseball’s preparations for the 2018 season will pick up in intensity Friday, as the Nittany Lions will hold their first team practice of the year in the warm confines of Holuba Hall.
The Lions are getting set for their opening series at Elon, Feb. 16-18. Penn State is playing its first 12 games of the season on the road before opening in Medlar Field at Lubrano Park against Mount St. Mary’s on Wednesday, Mar. 14. Penn State’s 54-game schedule features 26 home games and a return to PNC Park to take on West Virginia on Apr. 10.
Lineup Change for First Pitch Dinner
The sixth annual First Pitch Dinner, will be held Saturday, Feb. 3 at the Penn Stater Conference Center and Hotel, but unfortunately former Pirates pitcher and broadcaster Kent Tekulve will be unable to make the keynote address as originally announced due to a scheduling conflict. Additional speakers will be announced at a later date.
Tickets can be purchased by filling out and returning this form, and questions can be addressed by contacting the Varsity S Club at varsityS@athletics.psu.edu or (814) 867-2202.
Penn State is carrying the NCAA maximum 35 student-athletes on its roster, which includes 21 returners and 14 newcomers. Returning starters include six position players (outfielders Jordan Bowersox, Braxton Giavedoni and Mason Nadeau, infielders Conlin Hughes and Logan Goodnight, and catcher Ryan Sloniger) and two starting pitchers (Justin Hagenman and Eric Mock).
At the Plate
Penn State returns the majority of its leading offensive contributors. Bowersox (Winter Springs, Fla.), a junior, was batting a team-best .333 through the first 33 games of the 2017 season before an injury ended his season. Giavedoni (Punxsutawney, Pa.) and Nadeau (Lansdale, Pa.) both made impacts as freshmen, as Giavedoni led the team in batting officially with a .287 average, while Nadeau batted .308 in an injury-limited 35 games. As juniors, Bowersox, Hughes (Holly Springs, N.C.) and Sloniger (Punxsutawney, Pa.) are the team’s veteran position players, as there are no returning senior batters on the roster.
On the Mound
Penn State will be without All-Big Ten starter Sal Biasi, who elected to forego his final year of eligibility and was drafted in the 11th round by the Kansas City Royals in June. However, his younger, left-handed brother, Dante (Hazle Township, Pa.), is set to make his debut on the mound after medically-redshirting last season as a true freshman. Hagenman (Voorhees, N.J.), a junior, is the team’s most experienced starter, while senior Nick Distasio (Oley, Pa.), last year’s team-saves leader, also returns. Additionally, redshirt junior reliever Marko Boricich (Chicago, Ill.) is returning from injury, and seniors Taylor Lehman (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Jake Pilewicz (Sewickley, Pa.) bring experience to the group.
The Lions will remain a young team in 2018 with 14 newcomers, of which none have played in an NCAA Division I baseball game yet. The group features 11 true freshmen who have been with the team since the fall, two dual sport student-athletes and one transfer.
The freshmen were ranked as the 42nd–best recruiting class in 2017 by leading recruiting service Perfect Game. Seven of the freshmen are in-state products.
Bringing veteran experience to the newcomers will be junior transfer Shea Sbranti (Oakley, Calif.) and senior Penn State wrestler Matt McCutcheon (Apollo, Pa.). Originally an Arizona commit, Sbranti played two seasons at San Joaquin Delta Community College, earning all-conference honors last season. McCutcheon, a three-time NCAA Wrestling Championships qualifier, played baseball through his sophomore season at high school before devoting his full attention to wrestling.
Additionally, freshman football wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer (Fort Wayne, Ind.) joined the baseball team at the start of the spring semester. Hippenhammer earned three letters playing shortstop at Snider High School, helping the team to a sectional championship in 2017 by batting .431 with 19 runs scored and 15 stolen bases for the year.
Head coach Rob Cooper, entering his fifth season at Penn State, has two new coaches on his staff, while Andre Butler, entering his third season with the team, was promoted from his volunteer role to a full-time position as the team’s hitting coach. Now working with the pitchers is former Major Leaguer Josh Newman, who spent the previous four seasons as the pitching coach at Marshall. Newman is no stranger to the Big Ten, as he was a three-time All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten selection as a pitcher at Ohio State, and he also spent three seasons on his alma mater’s coaching staff following the conclusion of his playing career.
Get Your Tickets
Season, flex and single-game tickets are available online by clicking here. Fans can also purchase those tickets by calling the Medlar Field at Lubrano Park ticket office at 814-272-1711. Penn State student season tickets are available to students online using their Account Manager by clicking here. In-person sales dates will be announced at a later date.
Tickets for the Penn State vs. West Virginia game are available through the Pittsburgh Pirates by clicking here.
Stay in the Loop
Follow Penn State baseball on Twitter and Instagram at @PennStateBASE and Facebook at /pennstatebaseball for all of the latest news and updates and behind the scenes action.