‘Silent Assassin’ Justin Hagenman Plays Years Beyond His Age
It’s difficult for a freshman to burst onto the scene and make an immediate impact for their squad; but don’t tell that to Penn State baseball’s pitching ace Justin Hagenman.
Hagenman has been the go-to guy on the mound for the Nittany Lions this season. He’s sporting a 5-1 record with a tremendous 2.48 ERA, and is turning heads with every start. The 6-foot-3 right hander has also shown his ability to go deep in games with a team-high 58.0 innings pitched in nine starts.
“You never see him waver,” head coach Rob Cooper said. “Whether he’s given up a couple of runs, struggled, or done really well, he looks exactly the same. From a coaching standpoint it’s really nice, you know what you’re going to get. You’re going to get an ultra-competitive young man out there who’s super coachable and loves to have the ball.”
The Voorhees, New Jersey native sure is making Rob Cooper a happy manager this season. No starter in the rotation has a better record than Hagenman, and only Nick Hedge has a lower ERA with 1.91. Hagenman showcases mastery with the command of his pitches. The freshman has only walked nine batters all season, and seems to have the same comfort level in every pitch he throws.
“I basically go out there and trust everything that I have and go at it the same way,” Hagenman said. “I trust every pitch that I have the same and that was our philosophy going in [against Michigan State].”
In the home series against Michigan State, Hagenman started the only game that Penn State won. While Hagenman didn’t record a win, he still ended with a nice line of six innings pitched, seven hits, three runs, and four strikeouts.
Hagenman has shown composure against the top-notch teams like South Carolina and Michigan State, and also in Cuba where he was the first United States pitcher to earn a win against a Cuban National Series team.
“The whole experience [in Cuba] was fun and I think the baseball was a plus,” Hagenman said. “Going out there, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just took it as another game and it was pretty cool that we were able to get the win.”
Before Hagenman signed his letter of intent to come to Penn State, his high school coaches constantly urged Cooper and his staff to take a look at him in person. When they saw him, they realized that he was something special. While his high school coaches were an influence on him before coming to Penn State, Hagenman attributed his love of baseball and the success he’s had in his career all to his father.
“From the youngest age, he was the one who got me into baseball,” Hagenman said. “He coached me throughout, and he’s probably my best coach to this day. He went with me to all the schools and was okay with the decision I made. We weighed the pros and cons, but ultimately we knew this [Penn State] was the right choice.”
Cooper used the term “Silent Assassin” to describe Hagenman because he goes about his business and puts the team in a position to win games. In just his first season of action, Hagenman’s lived up to the billing and earned the title Cooper awarded him.
In serving the team in such a capacity, composure is a necessity — and Hagenman’s got it. Everything he does for Penn State baseball is done with a calm demeanor. His transition from high school to college in the summer was beneficial to his game, but he didn’t find anything to be too overwhelming or stressful. This same mentality has proved to be imperative for the rookie ace as he’s turned it into tangible success.
“He’s a very mature, advanced freshman,” Cooper said. “He’s very competitive, he loves to have the ball. He has a very high standard for what he can do. That’s why I say he’s very mature because a lot of young guys want to have the baseball, but then when they have it they don’t make more of it. I’m glad he’s on our team.”