Penn State baseball (6-8) will return to Happy Valley with some confidence this week after a successful trip to California — finishing with a record of 4-3.
The Nittany Lions took two of three from the University of the Pacific Tigers before dropping their only game against UC Davis. Penn State bounced back with a series victory at Sacramento State.
How It Happened
The Penn State offense erupted in the first two games against University of the Pacific, coming away with two wins by the scores of 11-4 and 11-2.
Game one of the series was highlighted by Mason Nadeau, Willie Burger, (who each collected three hits for the Nittany Lions) and Christian Helsel, whose grand slam was just the icing on the cake for Penn State.
Game two saw Jordan Bowersox collect four hits and two RBIs while right-handed pitcher Justin Hagenman was lights out on the bump. The sophomore lasted seven strong innings, allowing only two runs.
Penn State failed to capture the series sweep when it fell in the finale 6-1. The bats went silent with Pacific starting pitcher Ricky Reynoso nearly unhittable as he held the Nittany Lions to just two hits over five and 2/3 innings.
Coach Cooper and company enjoyed a day off before traveling to UC Davis for one game. The Aggies offense proved to be too much for a worn-out Penn State pitching staff that saw each pitcher fail to surpass two innings on the day. The mere bright spot came from Braxton Giavedoni as the freshman outfield was able to collect two hits for himself.
The Nittany Lions then entered their final series of the trip with a three-game set against Sacramento State.
In game one of the series right hander Sal Biasi proved to be the stopper for a team looking to break its two-game skid. The Hazleton native toed the rubber for Penn State in a game where several scouts were on hand to get a look at the rising junior. Biasi impressed as he went five and 2/3 innings — allowing just two runs on two hits to go along with an impressive nine strikeouts.
Jordan Bowersox and Nick Riotto both had solo home runs, which proved to be the difference maker in a 4-2 win.
The Nittany Lions were back in action the following day with a surging Justin Hagenman on the mound. Any hopes of the lengthy right hander extending his hot streak were quickly washed away when he lasted just four and 2/3 innings. The Hornets pounded Hagenman for 11 hits and six earned runs in the losing effort. The Nittany Lions had no time to dwell on the loss as they had to prepare for the rubber match that took place the next day.
Penn State responded by snatching a 6-1 win, riding a community effort from the pitching staff. Cole Bartels got the nod in the finale as he was able to give Coach Cooper three and 2/3 innings and only surrendered a lone unearned run.
Dakota Forsyth was given the win when he came out of the bullpen for two and 1/3 innings without allowing a hit. Willie Burger carried the Nittany Lions’ offense by going 3-5 at the dish with a homer and four RBIs, which proved to be more than enough for a pitching staff that was lights out all day.
Player Of The Series
The Team’s Youth
After Penn State’s series-clinching victory over Sacramento State, Cooper reflected on the team’s trip to California with some encouraging things to say about the youth on his team.
“What I’m judging this on is the development of guys, young guys who have stepped up,” Cooper said, mentioning younger players such as Mason Nadeau, Cole Bartels, and Braxton Giavedoni who helped the Nittany Lions pave the way to a winning stretch.
Penn State will have its home opener this week as it goes against the University of Delaware in a two-game set. Game one of the series will take place Thursday at 5 p.m. before taking the field again Friday at 5 p.m. The Nittany Lions will then head down to Dover to face the Blue Hens on their home field for two more games Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.