Baseball adds six to roster for 2014-15

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State baseball coach Rob Cooper announced his first five signings as the leader of the Nittany Lions Monday (Nov. 18) for the 2014 recruiting class and a transfer. The six players consist of three pitchers, an infielder, a catcher and a pitcher/infielder combination. Pitchers Nick Distasio (Oley, Pa./Oley Valley), Taylor Lehman (Pittsburgh, Pa./Keystone Oaks) and Justin Vardian (Johnstown, Pa./Bishop McCort), infielder Christian Helsel (Altoona, Pa./Ole Miss), catcher Nick Graham (Chambersburg, Pa./Chambersburg Area) and pitcher/infielder Sal Biasi (Hazelton, Pa./Hazelton Area) signed National Letters of Intent and will begin their Penn State careers in 2014-15.

"I am really excited to announce our first group of signees," said Cooper. We are very excited about the foundation this class will represent moving forward. They will be a great addition to our current players and our student body. Coach Anderson and Coach Oeder have done an amazing job identifying quality student-athletes that will represent Penn State in a first class manner. It is an exciting time for Nittany Lion Baseball."

Helsel, a transfer who played his freshman season at the University of Mississippi, was a highly decorated player out of Altoona. For his career, Helsel hit .419 with four homeruns and led Altoona to its first semifinal appearance in the Class 4A State Tournament in program history in 2012. Helsel also was a four time selection to the Altoona Mirror first team. With Ole Miss baseball, the Altoona product earned 23 starts and appeared in 39 games as a freshman, playing primarily at second base.

"Christian is a blue collar, hard-nosed player that can play multiple positions in the infield," said Cooper. "His experience playing division one baseball and nationally recognized Chandler Baseball will really allow him to come in and make a positive impact. He has the ability to be a true leader on and off the field."

Lehman is coming off a great junior season with Keystone Oaks High. During the spring of 2013, the junior posted a 4-1 record with a 1.91 ERA and 38 strikeouts. Lehman led his team to the PIAA state semifinals during the 2013 season. Lehman is ranked the No. 247 player in the country, No. 24 for all pitchers and No. 6 for the state of Pennsylvania by Perfect Game.

"We are ecstatic about the addition of Taylor to our program," said Cooper. "We feel Taylor has the ability to make an immediate impact in our program and that his best baseball is ahead of him. He is a serious student who has played for some of the best coaches in the state of Pennsylvania, such as Mark Saghy, Fred Albert, and Scott Crimone."

Biasi is a player who can excel on the mound and at the plate. The Hazelton native hit .483 with an on base percentage of .571 from the dish. From the rubber he turned in an ERA of 1.71. Biasi was named first team All-Conference and claimed the Conference MVP honor during his junior season. Perfect Game has him pegged as a top-500 player in the nation, the No. 285 pitcher and No. 12 player in the state of Pennsylvania.

"Sal is a two way player that truly loves to compete," said Cooper. "We are excited about the impact he can make in our program as a hitter and pitcher. The biggest thing that stands out about Sal is his burning desire to win."

Graham is one of the state's top catchers of the class of 2014. The high school senior received Perfect Game All-America honorable mention honors in 2011. In 2012 Graham was named an Under Armour All-American. The Chambersburg native threw out 60 percent of all runners in the 2013 season. Graham is rated the No. 18 player from Pennsylvania according to Perfect Game.

"Nick is another blue collar, tough nosed kid who truly cares about academics," said Cooper. "He is a young man who has the make-up necessary to lead a pitching staff as a catcher. He has an advanced feel for the game for his age."

Vardian will come to Happy Valley from Johnstown, Pa. The right handed pitcher has accrued a record of 17-2 over his high school career at Bishop McCort. Over his three seasons, Vardian has compiled 121 strikeouts in 107.2 innings. Vardian was named All-State as a pitcher in 2013 when he led his team to the District VI title. The Johnstown, Pa. native comes to Penn State rated as the No. 32 player in the state.

"Justin is a young man who has done nothing but win games during his high school career," said Cooper. "He is a fierce competitor who has helped lead Bishop McCort to a District VI Championship. We are excited about him making an impact on our pitching staff."

Distasio is a back-to-back All-State second team selection, who posted a 2.45 ERA with Oley Valley High last season. The pitcher has earned numerous accolades throughout his high school career, including 2013 Underclass Honorable Mention by Perfect Game, 2012 and 2013 All-County, Berkshire Baseball 18-U MVP in 2012 and Berkshire Baseball 16-U Outstanding Pitcher in 2011. Distasio has also tossed a perfect game in 2009 and a no-hitter in 2011. Perfect Game has the Oley Valley High product ranked No. 32 in the state of Pennsylvania.

"Nick is a fierce competitor who has the ability to be a front line pitcher for us," said Cooper. "We believe Nick's best baseball is ahead of him and he will be a great addition to our program. He has a great mind for the game as well."

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Last Updated November 21, 2013