Thursday, April 16, 2009
Penn State Series Preview
The Nittany Lions of Penn State will be in town this weekend to take on the Indiana baseball Hoosiers in another pivotal conference showdown. The Nittany Lions sport a 20-14 record overall and are 4-5 in Big Ten play. Thus far in the conference season, Penn State has taken 2 of 3 at Michigan and 1 apiece from Purdue and Ohio State. While Penn State has gotten off to a slow start in conference play, this should be a very tough match-up for the Hoosiers. Read on for a more detailed breakdown of the series.
Game 1: Friday at 3pm EST
Projected Starters: IU - LHP Blake Monar (4-2, 38.1 IP, 4.70 ERA, 33K) v. SR RHP T.J. Macy (2-2, 50.2 IP, 3.20 ERA, 63K)
Game 2: Saturday at 1pm EST
Projected Starters: IU - RHP Eric Arnett (7-1, 54 IP, 2.17 ERA, 51K) v. SO LHP Calvin Grumley (2-1, 39.0 IP, 7.38 ERA, 28K)
Game 3: Sunday at 1pm EST
Projected Starters: IU - LHP Matt Bashore (2-3, 37.1 IP, 6.03 ERA, 42K) v. SR LHP Mike Lorentson (1-4, 40.0 IP, 6.30 ERA, 35K)
As a team, the Nittany Lions do not sport a particularly imposing pitching staff. They rank 6th in the conference with a 5.46 team ERA, they allow an opposing batting average of .287 and are fifth in the Big Ten with 216 strikouts on the year. The most telling stat for the Penn State staff is without a doubt the number of walks they have allowed on the season. With 158 to date, the Nittany Lions lead the Big Ten in walks allowed. It will therefore be important for the Hoosiers to be patient at the plate and force PSU's pitchers to throw strikes this weekend.
While Penn State's staff as a whole might not strike much fear in the heart's of the opposition, the team's Friday starter (senior right-hander T.J. Macy) is a force to be reckoned with. Macy currently ranks 20th nationally with 63 strikeouts in 50.2 innings pitched. He is also ranked 31st nationally in strikouts per 9 innings and (11.18) 66th in hits allowed per nine innings (6.92). On the season, Macy is 2-2 with a 3.20 ERA. In his last outing against Purdue, the big right-hander struck out 12 in only 6 innings of work. Macy will be a very tough match-up for the Hoosiers.
At the plate, the Nittany Lions rank 2nd in the Big Ten in runs scored (249), runs batted in (218) and walks (147) and 3rd in hits (374). As a team, PSU is currently hitting at a .309 clip, but they are not much of a long-ball threat as they are last in the Big Ten in homeruns with only 13. The Nittany Lions are also very prone to striking out. For the season they have struck out 250 times, 2nd most in the conference. Given that Monar (42), Arnett (62) and Bashore (52) are among the top 10 strikeout leaders in the Big Ten, that last statistic should definitely play in IU's favor.
Individually, Penn State is led by freshman infielder Jordan Steranka. Hitting from the left side, Steranka leads the Nittany Lions in batting average (.406, good for 2nd in the Big Ten), hits (52), triples (3), slugging percentage (.578) and RBIs (35), and he is ranked among the Big Ten's top 10 leaders in several of those categories. Unfortunately for Steranka and the Nittany Lions, though, he also leads the team with 27 strikeouts and has only walked 6 times for the year. It may be wishful thinking, but I've got to think that the freshman will have his hands full with IU's slate of weekend starters that includes 2 left-handers.
Outside of Steranka, leadoff hitter Blake Lynd is someone IU's pitchers should be well aware of. The junior is 3rd in the conference with a .395 batting average, is 4th with a .475 on-base percentage and leads the entire Big Ten with 18 steals. Lynd, who mans center field for the Nittany Lions, stole 4 bases in PSU's last game on Wednesday, so it is clear he will be looking to run if/when he gets on base.
Although Penn State will undoubtedly be a formidable foe, if IU can get the type of performances out of its starters that it did last weekend at Iowa, I am confident the Hoosiers can walk away with another series win. Macy will be a tough match-up on Friday, but if IU can put forth a solid defensive effort, be patient at the plate and continue to get hitters to come through in timely situations, the Hoosiers will take at least 2 of 3 from the Nittany Lions this weekend.
It looks like the temperature in Bloomington is finally going to creep back into the 70s this weekend, so it should be a great weekend for baseball! Come on out and cheer on the Hoosiers! If you can't make it to Sembower Field for a game this weekend, you can still catch all three games on the radio via Live Audio on IUHoosiers.com (Friday's game will also be broadcast on 105.1 FM in Bloomington). Here's to another IU sweep! Go Hoosiers!