By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - All season long Sal Biasi has earned the important task of starting the first game of three and four-game sets for Penn State.
Often, it's performances in these games set the tone not just for the opening game, but for the entire series. In all three of Biasi's wins this year, Penn State went on to win or split the series. The Lions split four-game sets with Xavier and Columbia and won two-of-three against Sacramento State when Biasi claimed the win in each of the first games of the respective series.
"Coming out and being able to be in a good rhythm and keep our hitters up at the plate instead of standing out there for a long time I think is just huge with the rhythm of the team and confidence going into the next two [games]," Biasi said.
Head coach Rob Cooper noted that Biasi is one of the leaders of the team and he knows how crucial his role on the pitching staff is.
"He really wants to see us do well and win, so when he goes out and has a good day and kind of sets the tone, I think it gives everybody else a lot of confidence," Cooper said.
Biasi's strong performance in Saturday's series opener against Ohio State bodes well for the Lions this weekend, who will finish off the three-game set in a Sunday doubleheader.
Saturday's 6-2 victory against the Buckeyes gave Biasi his fourth win of the season to push his 2017 record to 4-3. He recorded a season-high 6.2 innings in the game, striking out nine and allowing just one unearned run on three hits.
"I felt like I got ahead and really commanded my pitches," Biasi said. "I knew if I got ahead I would be able to put them away."
Cooper also noted that Biasi has matured a ton from last year, pitching more to contact instead of trying to do too much.
"When you've got his kind of stuff and you can get ahead of guys and they can't get anything comfortable to hit, it makes his job a lot easier," Cooper said. "I thought he did a heck of a job."
Biasi lowered his ERA to 4.15 in the win, which is the lowest mark among regular starters for Penn State. He leads the team in strikeouts (56) and opponent batting average (.169) this season.
Biasi has produced eye-popping strikeout numbers this year. He leads the Big Ten in punch outs and before Saturday's game his 13.08 strikeouts per nine innings pitched ranked 12th in the country.
Offensively, Braxton Giavedoni, Christian Helsel and Joe Weisenseel recorded multi-hit games to pace the Nittany Lions. Jordan Bowersox had an RBI single in the sixth inning to stretch his hitting streak to eight games.
Penn State scored two runs in both the second and third innings. A Ryan Sloniger sacrifice bunt in the second inning turned into the first run of the game after an Ohio State throwing error allowed Helsel to score from second base.
Sloniger then cracked a two-RBI triple in the next inning to open up a 4-0 lead, and Penn State cruised to the win from there.
"He worked me away the whole at-bat, and I fouled some pitches off," Sloniger said. "He didn't really give me anything I can handle. I just wanted to obviously cash in at least one, get a good knock there and get us going offensively."
The win gave Penn State its first Big Ten victory of the season. The Lions currently sit at 12-17 and 1-3 in the conference.
"I thought our guys battled," Cooper said. "That's the second game in a
row where I think the way we competed was at the level that we expect