UNIVERSITY PARK - When Elliot Searer looks back on his college baseball career, he will be able to smile with satisfaction.
Searer is now nearing the end of his last year at Penn State (NCAA, Division 1).
It has been a career that got off to a great start and has been full of surprises ever since.
Penn State photo
Lewistown graduate and Penn State senior Elliot Searer, right, at bat in a Nittany Lions’ college baseball game. Searer, a legacy player at Penn State, has seen highs and lows in his career, with his freshman year, when he recorded a 17-game hitting streak, among the best.
No one knew for sure where Searer was going to play college baseball as his senior year (2008) faded into summer.
But there was one man who was hoping that he would play at Penn State. And that man was passing him the mashed potatoes at the supper table.
Tim Searer, Elliot's father, played for Penn State from 1974-1977.
"He didn't care where I went, but he just said don't sacrifice your education," Elliot Searer said.
As a youth baseball player, Searer had an outstanding career. He was a three time All-Star in the Mifflin County Babe Ruth League. He was on a state championship team in 2003 (13-year-olds) and was on a state runner-up as a 15-year-old in 2005.
When he was a junior at Lewistown Area High School, he helped lead the Panthers to the District 6 Class AAA title, beating crosstown rival Indian Valley in the title game. Then as a senior, he helped the Panthers win the Central Penn League championship.
He also played three years for the Mifflin County American Legion program.
When, he got to Penn State, he was a preferred walk on and he redshirted his first year on campus.
"That was a very big year (2009) for me," Searer explained. "I was in the weight room and I got stronger physically and mentally. The year off helped me learn the speed of the college game, especially at this level. Some of the older players on the team helped me with the mental aspect of the game."
Coming out of high school, Elliot didn't have a reputation as a bigtime hitter.
"Obviously, I struggled in high school with my hitting," Searer noted. "So, my dad and I looked elsewhere. We contacted Carmen Fusco, a hitting instructor in Harrisburg. He had professional ties and experience. In fact, he was the assistant general manager for the New York Mets when they won the World Series in 1986.
"He brought to me, a new approach to hitting," Searer said. "He gave me a better look at the mental aspect of the game. He showed me how hard the game of baseball can be. One thing, he taught me was how to handle slumps. You know, they can come anytime and at any level.
"What he taught me was how to prepare for every at bat," Searer finished, "He taught me that it was better to go 0-for-4 with four line drives than going 4-for-4 with four bloops."
What he learned in Harrisburg, he was soon applying in his freshman year at Penn State.
He worked his way into the lineup in 2010 and has been there ever since. In fact, the former Panther has been so versatile that he has played five different positions - third base, second base, shortstop, right field and left field. He also has been the team's designated hitter.
"When I first came here, I didn't think I was going to get a lot of playing time, more less play all these positions," Searer explained.
But, that was no surprise as he was an all around player in his youth and could run and field with best players from this area.
It was in that first year that Searer entrenched himself into the Nittany Lion lineup and the record books.
Although, he got his first college hit on hit on March 9, 2010, against Texas A&M, the real part of the his freshman story began on March 27 against Hofstra in a home game.
He got a base hit that day and the hits didn't stop until April 21, a 17-game hitting streak, the eighth longest in school history.
"It was a pretty cool thing," Searer noted. "I was in a zone. I had a clear conscious. I was very comfotable at the plate and very confident. It wasn't if I was going to get a hit, but how many hits would I get that night."
Searer finished his freshman year with a .341 average, fourth best on the team and at the end of the year was named to the Big Ten's All-Freshman team as an outfielder.
As a sophomore, he didn't hit as high, but he singled in both games for Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament.
In his junior year his highlight came against Indiana when he delivered a game-winning, walk-off single for Penn State in a 4-3 victory in extra-innings.
Going into his senior year, Searer had played 147 games and had 523 official at bats. He had scored 66 runs and collected 137 hits. He had 29 extra-base hits including 24 doubles and five triples. He had knocked in 41 runs.
With all those position changes, he has managed to keep his fielding percentage at .951 with 259 putouts, 322 assists and 30 errors.
Searer already has his name in the Penn State record book in the single season marks. In 2011, he had 145 assists, tied for 10th and his name appears twice in the sacrifice hits with nine in 2011 and eight in 2012. Going into his senior year, Searer had 20 sacrifices, which put him eighth on the lifetime list.
Division I baseball plays a lot of games and Searer noted that was good because it doesn't give you time to think about much else.
"It's a lot of games, especially when you have mid-week games," Searer said. "But, what is good about it is when you have a bad game, you don't have time to think about it and when you have a good game, you can't wait to get back to the ball park."
Searer is currently hitting .253 as he heads into his final home stand of the season starting today against Villanova and this weekend against Michigan State. The Nittnay Lions have a 12-34 record.