Before the regular season began, coach Robbie Wine said that he did not want another slow start to Penn State’s season this year.
While he might not have gotten his wish during the first couple of series the Nittany Lions (5-9) played, it seemed like the ball finally started to roll for his team at the end of its latest road trip.
After opening the 2013 season with a win and five consecutive losses, the Lions have won half of their games since. They nearly swept Houston Baptist in their most recent series, which ended a road stretch that included eight games in nine days.
“I think we’re all pretty excited about everything coming around. I feel like everything’s starting to come around as a team,” shortstop Taylor Skerpon said.
“I think everybody’s excited about the rest of the season.”
The Lions completed a five-run comeback and took the Huskies into extra innings in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader. But after taking a one-run lead in the top of the 10th inning, the Huskies rallied and won in the bottom half.
Besides that hiccup, though, everything seemed to go right for the Lions against the Huskies.
“I felt like our guys battled all weekend, they battled every game,” pitching coach Jason Bell said following Saturday’s final game with the Huskies. “And that’s what the spring trip does — it gives you a chance to learn a lot about your guys.”
Bell and the rest of the coaching staff learned that the Lions can definitely hit well. They reached double-figures in hits during every game with the Huskies, including 19 in Friday’s 9-3 victory.
The first two batters in the Lions’ lineup, Steve Snyder and Skerpon, scored at least one run in each game. Combined, they went 11-for-27 (.407) with 10 runs and six RBIs. Getting on base early helped boost the Lions’ run total in their first series win of the season.
“It’s something to build on, going into next weekend in Philly,” Bell said. “Those guys can continue to keep building on and adding confidence. Everybody seemed to be swinging the bat pretty well.”
Pitching was also improved during the team’s two wins against the Huskies.
Friday’s starter David Walkling allowed only two hits in 4 2/3 innings, and the first starter of Saturday’s doubleheader, Steven Hill, struck out eight in a complete game.
When taking all the improvements into account, it is easy to explain the Lions’ recent success. Snyder said the team is already better than it was at the beginning of the season.
“I think we progressed a lot. I think we really showed that we can do everything and compete with everyone,” the center fielder said.
Fatigue from the long road trip may have hindered the Lions slightly, but Skerpon said after Saturday that he was not going to make any excuses. However, now that the Lions are able to take a few breaths between games, they can get back to practice.
With most things falling into place lately, Snyder is expecting a normal week of practice.
“I would say that this is a normal week. We’re going to have two mid-week games next week. So we might have felt fatigue, but we need to get used to it,” Snyder said.
As far as things to work on, Bell said he thinks the Lions just need to focus on consistency in order to keep winning in the coming weeks.
Bell pointed to several errors, including ones on pick-off throws to first base that happened in the Lions’ loss to the Huskies, that can be fixed.
“I just think we need to execute, plain and simple,” Bell said. “We just have to continue to make the plays, make the routine plays and come up with the big hits.”