Feb. 25, 2011
By Kyle G. Arslanian, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Baseball Hall of Famer Rogers Hornsby was once asked what he did in the winter when there was no baseball. He replied; "I stare out the window and wait for spring."
While spring has yet to arrive in University Park, baseball has. The Penn State baseball team opened their season going 2-1 in the Big East challenge as head coach Robbie Wine enters his sixth season leading the Nittany Lions. This season, Coach Wine is leading something of a youth movement with only seven seniors and eight juniors on the roster. More than half of the team is either sophomores or freshman, making Penn State a very young team.
The Nittany Lions have a solid lineup that will be bolstered by a young group of players that give the team good depth.
"We're deep, we have guys to go out there and fill the positions," said Coach Wine. "Id probably say 11 or 12 guys that could be in there everyday and then the freshman, the way they played, I anticipate them getting out there a little more no too."
Coach Wine sees that depth as an advantage in several ways; protecting the team against injuries and keeping up a healthy competition among the players to keep sharp during the season.
"You want to say you can motivate yourself, but when you have a guy behind you who is going to take innings and at bats from you, it motivates you," said Coach Wine. "This is the first year that we've had depth where there wasn't a drop off. We'll go to all them, whoever wins the job."
Over the course of the season, the Penn State lineup will look something like this:
At first base, The Nittany Lions will field junior Joey DeBernardis. DeBernardis is a right-handed hitter who will anchor the middle of Penn State's lineup. Last season, the Lake Zurich, Ill., native started every game for Penn State and led the team with 75 hits and multi hit games with 24. His offensive prowess, while important to the team, is not the only thing DeBernardis brings to the table. His solid defensive play at first base will make an impact on every game he plays.
Across the diamond, junior Jordan Steranka
will man the other corner infield spot. Steranka had the most RBIs of all Big Ten third basemen and can be counted on for similar numbers again this season. With another year under his belt, Jordan will be a force in the middle of the lineup this season.
Up the middle, Penn State will field senior Michael Glantz at shortstop and sophomore Elliot Searer at second base. As the shortstop and only senior, Glantz is the leader of the infield. The sure handed fielding he displayed last season, combined with improved hitting has Glantz primed for a big senior season at Penn State. Sophomore Elliot Searer, who played last season in the outfield, moved back to second base after an injury to junior Sean Parvin. Both players are capable of manning the right side of the infield and should provide Coach Wine options once Parvin is healthy.
Junior Sean Deegan is entering his second season as a starter, this year he will move over from left into centerfield. Hitting from the left side, Deegan gives the Nittany Lions a power bat and above average speed that will translate well to the base paths and rigors of playing center field. Deegan is the team's leadoff hitter and will set the table for the rest of the lineup. Flanking Deegan will be senior Blake Lynd and sophomore Ryan Clark. Lynd missed all of 2010 with an injury and will look to get back to his 2009 form when he hit .356 and stole 22 bases. When Lynd hits ninth, he is essentially a second leadoff hitter, his speed will make the Penn State batting order dynamic from top to bottom. In the other corner outfield spot, sophomore Ryan Clark moves from behind the plate to the outfield. Clark missed almost the entire 2010 season with an injury. Playing leftfield, Clark has the tools to contribute on an everyday basis and have an impact making plays in the field and with the bat.
The starting rotation will be led by senior Heath Johnson, sophomore John Walter and sophomore Steven Hill. Walter and Hill both made major contributions on the mound as freshmen in 2010, seeing time as starters and working out of the bullpen. Hill recorded 43 strikeouts last season and pitched in 21 games. Walter will look to build his control this season to improve his strikeout total and cut down on his walks. Johnson made the transition to pitcher last season with promising results toward the end of the season, striking out 12 in 14.2 innings. The bullpen will be anchored by senior Jesse Alfreno who pitched in 18 games out of the bullpen last season. Mike Franklin could be the team's swingman who can make a spot start, or get an out of the bullpen. The biggest thing that Coach Wine thinks his young pitching staff needs is experience; they will get plenty of it this season and will undoubtedly improve as the season progresses.
Senior Bobby Jacobs will be the man behind the plat for Penn State this season. His main job will be to lead this young pitching staff through opposing lineups and help them in their development as pitchers, but his contributions as a fielder and at the plate will be just as important. Last season, he split time with senior Ben Heath and batted just under .300 at .298. He should be able to build on his hitting last season to find success in 2011. The rigors of catching dictate that Jacobs will need a day off every once in awhile, which shouldn't be a problem. Penn State has several catchers on the roster that can step in and give Jacobs a break. That depth will ensure Penn State's leader behind the plate will stay healthy and fresh throughout the season.