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Penn State Baseball’s Emphasis On ‘Little Things’ Helping Fulfill Bigger Picture

After losing two out of three games against a beatable Michigan team last weekend, Penn State baseball bounced back with a resounding 10-1 win over Pitt on Dollar Dog Night at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

Such a win over its in-state foe might’ve been exactly what the Nittany Lions need to get back on track, but the team’s mentality has a noticeably powerful effect in the locker room.

Penn State takes a “treat every game like it’s the biggest of the year” approach to each matchup. That mantra has been steadfast under new head coach Mike Gambino.

“You have to learn that every game is game seven. It’s the most important game of the year,” Gambino said Tuesday. “It’s all you can control at that point.”

However, the saying applies not only to games but to every moment. It doesn’t matter what the count is or who occupies the opposing dugout. Preaching the importance of every moment, regardless of what it is, has helped Penn State be prepared for anything.

“It was instilled in us in the fall,” pitcher Ben DeMell said. “It was ‘start with the little things,’ but there is no such thing as little things because little things can turn into bigger things. So it was just with everything we did and drills and just throughout our squad and it was instilled in us then.”

Now, players feel better equipped for whatever may happen. They treat every game like an elimination game or the last they’ll play.

Therefore, nothing is too significant mentally because every moment is scrutinized just the same as it would be in an NCAA Tournament game.

It’s been this way from the beginning. During the team’s preseason media day, pitcher Travis Luensmann was adamant that the new staff emphasized his focus only on the things he can control. This has been a recurring theme among the pitching staff, and the team as a whole, as the culture changes.

“There’s no moment too big,” DeMell said. “Just treat it like game seven, full count, bases loaded… You’re just giving your best stuff day in and day out. Treat it like it’s the last game you could ever play.”

This mindset was instilled to prepare the Nittany Lions for the rollercoaster of a season that’s well underway. Now, they’re experiencing the weekly grind and the ups and downs that baseball has to offer.

Penn State started the season 12-6 after defeating Michigan 4-3 with Grant Norris walking it off on an error in the bottom of the ninth inning but proceeded to lose 9-6 and 11-6 on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

The play was often sloppy with errors, lackluster defense, and squandered offensive opportunities a regular occurrence. The pitching, meanwhile, was disastrous at times.

Such play was on display last Tuesday when Penn State fell 9-7 to St. Bonaventure. Gambino wasn’t happy about the quality of baseball played, adding that the week as a whole didn’t go as he would’ve preferred.

“It felt like it a little bit just last weekend. We didn’t play well on Tuesday. And to be frank, we didn’t play well for four games. So the way to sort of break this ship is to go back to simple,” he said.

Penn State went back to “simple” and won big.

Moments like Tuesday’s win alongside the ugly losses against sub-.500 teams such as the Bonnies and Wolverines aren’t uncommon in the early part of a baseball season, especially for the Nittany Lions as Gambino’s rebuild progresses.

“There’s going to be ups and downs. There’s going to be points in the season where it seems like it’s going sideways. We’ve talked about it, we understand that, we know it,” Gambino said.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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