UNIVERSITY PARK — Dustin Pedroia and Taylor Skerpon.
One name stands out. The other, not so much.
One plays second base for the Boston Red Sox. The other, shortstop for the Penn State Nittany Lions.
One was the 2008 American League MVP. The other, league MVP his senior year in high school.
But just as Pedroia is the table-setter and spark plug for Boston, Skerpon is the same for Penn State.
In fact, Skerpon, a sophomore, tries to model his game after the Red Sox diminutive second basemen.
“My favorite MLB player is Dustin Pedroia,” Skerpon said. “He’s scrappy, plays the game the right way and plays hard. I mean, any type of guy like that who is above me in the game, I like to look at that and model myself after them.”
In 21 games this season, the Sayre native is hitting .310, with 11 RBIs and an on-base percentage of .398.
Despite getting hurt when he fouled a ball off his foot against Purdue last weekend, his batting average and on-base percentage are tops on a team that has struggled. Penn State has a 5-20 record and is 0-6 in Big Ten play.
Double-play partner Luis Montesinos, the senior second baseman, said the biggest difference between Skerpon this year compared to last is the pace of the game for him.
“The game is coming a little slower to him,” Montesinos said. “Coming out of high school, college baseball speeds up on you a little bit. It’s the same game, but you have more responsibility for more things.
“It’s amazing from last year to this year how the game has slowed down so much for him; you can see in the batter’s box he’s so comfortable.”
Assistant coach Eric Folmar sees Skerpon’s steady play as a reason for his success thus far.
“The biggest thing is he’s been very consistent in all phases of the game,” Folmar said. “He’s done a really good job offensively, and defensively as well. He’s been by far the most consistent guy all-around. He’s a very talented kid, great worker and a guy that has some leadership.”
As a freshman Skerpon appeared in only 14 games and hit a dismal .077 with two RBIs.
The biggest reason for his turnaround is his belief that he can play at the college level, Skerpon said.
“I increased the amount of repetitions I took offensively in the cage,” Skerpon said. “I feel like coming into the second year I had a lot more mental confidence.”
Skerpon and Folmar noted that having upperclassmen at third (redshirt senior Elliot Searer) and second (Montesinos) has helped Skerpon grow as a player.
“Playing the game, there is no substitute to experience,” Skerpon said. “It’s very helpful when you have a couple of guys ahead of you who can shed some light for you, and it’s also nice to have that right next to you in the game.”
Skerpon, who is majoring in accounting and minoring in economics, has family ties to Penn State. His father, Donnie, was a pole vaulter on the track and field team in the 1980s, and his brother, Luke, graduated from Penn State in 2012 and was the piccolo section leader of the Blue Band.
Penn State will look to get on track as it hosts the Wright State Raiders for a three-game series this weekend.
Tom Zulewski is a Penn State journalism student.