Penn State Baseball Embracing Challenge Ahead Of Season Opener Against Miami

Penn State baseball head coach Rob Cooper is getting his team prepared to take on his alma mater, No. 22 Miami, in the team’s first series of the season this weekend.

Cooper, who played two seasons at Miami from 1992 to 1993 and served as a graduate assistant from 1994 to 1995, spoke to the media Tuesday about the matchup. While he’s excited to return home, he has his priorities set for the weekend series.

“It’s a special place to me. My experiences there have allowed me to do some really great things in this game,” he said. “Having said all that, we want to win and when we scheduled it, I definitely didn’t schedule this as a chance to take a trip down memory lane.”

Penn State went 26-29 last season, recording its most wins under Cooper since 2016 en route to its first Big Ten Tournament appearance since 2012. The young Nittany Lions showed improvement against Iowa, as they showcased their skills on a national stage for the first time.

Cooper is trying to establish a winning culture at Penn State, something every program strives to build and maintain. According to Cooper, playing a tough team like Miami is the kind of challenge that the team needs to face in order to improve.

“It’s the kind of program we strive to be, and so we want to go down there and get challenged by the best,” he said. “You got to want to be in those games. You gotta want to face those types of guys — guys that are probably gonna play in the big leagues.”

Penn State suffered a huge loss in the offseason when the Milwaukee Brewers drafted two-time All-Big Ten catcher Matt Wood in the fourth round of the 2022 MLB Draft. While Wood’s absence looms large, Cooper thinks this year’s squad is probably the most versatile team he’s ever coached.

“When you have depth, that produces some competition, which I think keeps guys sharp. I liked the fact that we have guys who can play more than one position and fill in well,” Cooper said. “It’s a good thing, and it’s a really tough thing because you can only play nine guys at a time, so I’d rather have this problem than not enough.”

Another important quality of a well-run program is leadership. One such team leader is junior outfielder Billy Gerlott, who also spoke with the media about the bonds he formed with players during the offseason.

“I broke my thumb on the first day of practice, so I wasn’t able to practice for four weeks. But, I was able to build relationships with guys that I typically wouldn’t be able to, like the younger guys,” Gerlott said. “I was very fortunate enough to be able to build those relationships. Going into the season, it’s going to be 10 times easier to have a conversation with guys.”

While the season is long, the team knows that this weekend is an important one. Gerlott didn’t hold back his excitement about traveling to Florida to play a great Miami team.

“To play in a regional atmosphere, you know, sold-out crowd weekend one down in Miami, there’s nothing better than that,” he said.

The Nittany Lions’ 2023 season officially kicks off at 7 p.m. on Friday, February 17, against the Miami Hurricanes. The game will air on the ACC Network and ESPN.

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About the Author

Matt Brown

Matt is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in sports studies from Bensalem, Pa. Matt is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and an overall sports fan in general. When not watching sports, you'll find him taking down any Dollar Dog challenge or rewatching the Big Ten Maps Commercial. To reach him, follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @matt_brown63, or email him at [email protected].

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