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March 31, 2013
By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On a rainy and cloudy Sunday, Penn State was swept for the second straight weekend of Big Ten play. However, maybe for the first time in recent weeks there were numerous positives for head coach Robbie Wine to takeaway as his team put together two encouraging performances on Saturday and Sunday.
It started on Saturday with a two run comeback in the ninth inning to tie the game before falling in the 10th and then erasing a three run deficit on Sunday in the fifth inning.
Wine has reached a point where he is telling himself and his team to focus only on the positives and that's exactly what he did when evaluating this weekend's games. He said it is not his team's effort, but more so erasing the pressure and the negatives that come with such a losing streak.
"The guys are locked in, they're trying, doing their best, it's just overcoming some of these mistakes we are making," said Wine. "[The pressure] is growing on us. [There is] more pressure on routine plays and we have to get rid of that, we have to play this game relaxed."
By telling his team the positives of its recent games, Wine hopes to achieve exactly that. Quite frankly, there are a lot of good things that came out of Purdue's three game sweep of the Lions.
Saturday redshirt freshman Ryky Smith was inserted into the lineup at first base for the first time of the 2013 season. Smith added a single, an RBI and another run scored on Sunday to stand out as one of Penn State's biggest bright spots from the weekend.
While acknowledging the numbers that Smith put up over the weekend, Wine looked at his personality and his demeanor as the biggest thing he took away from Smith's weekend.
Wine even compared Smith's attitude on the field to that of the characters from the movie "The Sandlot".
"(Ryky) is always there," said Wine. "He is one of those ball players that I love having on the field. My whole thought is trying to get him on the field because he does bring energy out there and he's talking all the time.
"We need that to start carrying over from player to player."
There's a good chance that Wine will continue to see that happen over the coming weeks. More and more bright spots are emerging, even if the overall outcome isn't what the Nittany Lions want to be.
Another example is Sunday's starting pitcher Greg Welsh. Welsh struggled in his last outing at Indiana, but put that behind him as he faced Purdue and struck out 11 batters in eight innings and 142 pitches.
Welsh made his improvements by staying positive, a theme Wine wants and needs to carry over to the rest of his team.
"It's the only way," said Wine. "People dwell on being in a slump individually, as a hitter or struggling defensively and when that ground ball is hit to you a million negative things go through your mind instead of the positives. The longer an at bat goes those negative thoughts get in there and we just have to flush them out."
To allow his team to do that, he gave them the day off on Monday to focus on academics and their personal mindset before a practice on Tuesday and a road game at Kent State on Wednesday.
Wine told the media after the game he advised his team to be away from the Medlar Field facilities on Monday and think about all of the good things, rather than bad things they need to be focusing on.
Wine believes that if they can do that, they will realize the most important thing his team may be forgetting at times; they have to have fun, no matter what.
"We have to find the fun in the game again and we are not doing that right now," he said. "We just have to get over the hump with the negative thoughts and have to stay positive."