FEATURE: Senior Sean Deegan Ignites the Offense
April 12, 2012
By Scott Traweek, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
The players are being more patient at the plate, getting on base, manufacturing runs, hitting the long-ball and coming through in clutch situations. One contributing factor to this offensive surge has been the play of the seniors, particularly senior outfielder Sean Deegan.
Head coach Robbie Wine moved Deegan to the top of the lineup prior to game three against Purdue, a position he is all too familiar with having been the leadoff hitter last season. Penn State went on to score a season high 16 runs, blowing out the Boilermakers 16-6 in the series finale. Deegan crossed home plate three times and went two for six with an RBI during the game.
"I definitely like leading off," said Deegan. "I think I just feel comfortable there. I like being able to set the tone."
After struggling early on in the season, Deegan has settled into his role at the top of the order, batting .333 with three homeruns, eight RBIs and 13 runs scored during the last seven games where the Nittany Lions have gone 6-1. Their only loss came at Pitt on Wednesday. Deegan attributes his offensive turnaround to learning patience at the plate.
"[I'm] just trying not to do too much, as opposed to earlier in the year where I was trying to beat a guy, to get the big hit every time," said Deegan. "Instead I'm just relaxing and just trying to take it one pitch at a time."
In the series against Canisius last weekend, Deegan came away with seven RBIs, two homeruns and a walk-off single in the 11th inning during game two. Penn State finished the series with a sweep of the Golden Griffins on Sunday.
"As a team we've been trying to see more pitches and I think that helps us early on just by getting a read for all the pitches that the pitcher has," said Deegan. "You just got to see how the game dictates itself."
Deegan grew up watching baseball. He has lived and breathed the sport for as long as he can remember, drawing his inspiration from family. His father has been by his side every step of the way, taking him to the battings cages, throwing the ball in the yard and attending virtually all of his games.
"My dad's been a big factor in my life," said Deegan. "He's probably made it to about 99 percent of my games my whole life, little league, everything. He's always been there and he's always encouraged me."
Senior leadership is a crucial part of any team and Deegan is at the heart of the Penn State squad. He is a vocal leader in the dugout who also tries to set an example for the younger players, while immersing himself into the team's relaxed, comedic culture.
"I just try to be a vocal leader as well as lead by example," said Deegan. "And obviously I'm part of the comedians too."
The Nittany Lions have developed a loose, light-hearted personality that keeps the game enjoyable and acts as the glue that keeps them together. They know what it takes to win and they are determined to have fun doing it.
"I think that helps us play better," said Deegan of the team's personality. "We're just all loose, joking around and that keeps everybody into the game."
If a player is in a slump, his teammates are there to pick him up. Deegan notes that the key to getting out of a negative streak is to keep a positive mentality.
"You got to just take the positives," said Deegan. "You have a full count at bat and you strike out, well that was a good at bat. Just think of the positives and know that you got the talent."
Such leadership and wisdom from seniors who have been in these situations before is important for a team because it gives the newer players confidence in tight situations. When the seniors are performing well offensively it takes a lot of pressure off the younger guys, allowing them to settle down and play their style of baseball.
"When [the seniors] can go out there and set the tone for everybody and get the ball rolling, then that takes the stress off the other guys and I think they hit better that way," said Deegan. "They can be loose and in baseball when you're loose, that's when you play the best."
Penn State has a critical test this weekend at home against Michigan. The Wolverines are riding the momentum of a 2-1 series win versus Michigan State last weekend. Michigan has a solid starting rotation backed by an even stronger bullpen. It's an even matchup on paper, but playing at home will be a big advantage for the Nittany Lions and winning this series is paramount. The players are excited to perform in front of the crowd at Medlar field.
"It just makes it exciting as a player when you got your peers out there," said Deegan. "When you got a full ballpark it just gives you that adrenaline."
Game one kicks off at 5 p.m. on Friday with junior John Walter on the mound for Penn State.