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|Friday, Feb. 26 - 4:00 p.m. ET|
|Saturday, Feb. 27 - 2:00 p.m. ET|
|Sunday, Feb. 28 - 1:30 p.m. ET|
|Founders Park | Columbia, S.C.|
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|Game Notes: Penn State | South Carolina|
|Statistics: Penn State | South Carolina|
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State baseball returns to action for a tough early season test against No. 15 South Carolina at Founders Park, opening a three-game series Friday at 4 p.m. on SEC Network+. The series continues Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday 1:30 p.m.
PSU LHP Taylor Lehman (0-1, 4.50 ERA)
SC RHP Clarke Schmidt (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
PSU RHP Sal Biasi (1-0, 1.50 ERA)
SC RHP Branden Webb (1-0, 3.60 ERA)
PSU RHP Justin Hagenman (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
SC RHP Taylor Widener (0-0, 0.00 ERA)
Last Time Out
Penn State hosted the Penn State Tournament at the USA Baseball National Training Center in Cary, N.C., going 2-2. The Nittany Lions lost the opener against Monmouth Friday, 3-1, before bouncing back and sweeping Army in a doubleheader Saturday, 5-4 and 11-1. Bryant spoiled the tournament finale though with a 3-1 victory.
The Series with South Carolina
Penn State will be seeking to avenge a two-game series sweep from last season. The Lions fell by scores of 3-0 and 13-3. Before last season, the teams had not met in over a century.
On the Road Again
Penn State is in the midst of 14 games (8 road, 6 neutral) away from Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. The Lions are making three consecutive trips to the Carolinas, opening the season at the USA Baseball National Training Center, playing at South Carolina this weekend, and traveling to UNC-WIlmington and Duke next weekend.
Penn State is projected to use an all underclassman starting pitching rotation with sophomores Taylor Lehman and Sal Biasi and freshman Justin Hagenman. Biasi and Hagenman made their first collegiate starts against Army and earned victories. Offensively, Penn State started three freshmen in the first two games and four in the last two games.
Carolina Nittany Lions
Three Nittany Lions hail from the Carolinas, including one from South Carolina. Freshman Austin Riggins hails for Greer, S.C. and played at Riverside H.S. Freshman Conlin Hughes is from Holly Springs, N.C. (Holly Springs), while catcher Alex Malinsky hails from Apex, N.C. (Panther Creek).
Penn State head coach Rob Cooper coached South Carolina LHP/1B Alex Destino at on the 2013 USA Baseball 18U National Team that won gold at the IBAF `AAA’/18U World Cup in Taichung, Taiwan.
Penn State strength & conditioning coach Jamie Burleson, completed his masters in physical education in May of 2012 at South Carolina while serving as a graduate assistant for the baseball team and the rest of South Carolina’s olympic sport programs.
With 11 true freshmen on the roster, it was expected that they would have to contribute immediately. Many did during Penn State’s opening weekend.
Conlin Hughes started all four games (1 SS, 3 2B) and batted .421 (8-for-19) for the weekend. He doubled twice, drove in two runs and scored four times.
RHP Justin Hagenman started the night cap against Army and threw seven scoreless innings, allowing just four hits, striking out six and walking none. He ultimately led Penn State to its first shutout since 2014.
Austin Riggins started three games and ranks second on the team in walks with four. He posted a .462 on-base percentage, tripled once, scored twice and drove in two runs.
Catcher Ryan Sloniger started the final two games of the Penn State Tournament and went 3-for-4 with four RBIs and a walk in his first game against Army.
Willie Burger made three starts at third base and recorded a pair of hits and drove in a run.
Also making their first collegiate appearances were Jordan Bowersox and Connor Klemann. The freshmen started in the season opener in centerfield and second base, respectively.
Starting Off Strong
Sal Biasi was strong is his first career collegiate start, striking out eight over six innings and yielding just four hits and a walk. The sophomore came out of the bullpen as a freshman, owning the group’s best ERA (2.62) and leading in strikeouts (31) in addition to three saves.
Jim Haley picked up where he left off to start the 2016 season. After batting .436 with seven doubles and a triple over final nine games of the 2015 season, he opened the 2016 campaign batting at a team-best .471 clip (8-for-17) with a double, four RBIs and three stolen bases during the opening weekend.
Blue and White Submarine
Senior RHP Jack Anderson has been a dominant reliever for Penn State.
He earned his first save of the season in dramatic fashion against Army for Penn State’s first victory of the year. Nursing a one-run lead, Anderson entered in the eighth inning with runners on the corners and no outs, and did not allow a run over the final two innings.
The save was the 13th of his career. Drew O’Neil (2007-08) is the Penn State record holder with 22, while Clint Eury (2002-05) is second with 15.
He now has 71 career appearances which ranks fourth all-time in program history. He needs three more appearances to tie Matt Ogrodnik (2005-07) for third at 74. He is on track for the record of 85 set by David Lutz (2007-10).
Anderson was one of 70 relievers named to the initial watch list for the 12th annual National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year Award, given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.
Anderson posted a team-best 2.98 ERA in 2015 to rank ninth amongst all pitchers in the Big Ten. He also led the Nittany Lions with 29 appearances, tallying four wins and five saves, and he finished a third of the Lions’ games. His most impressive stretch in 2015 came late in the season against Pitt, Rutgers and Michigan State when he made appearances in six consecutive games, throwing 14 innings with a 1.93 ERA, 1-1 record and three saves.
Nick Riotto posted a .706 on-base percentage in the season’s first four games. Riotto went just 4-for-9 at the plate after averaging two free passes per game, drawing six walks and getting plunked twice.
Pitching Well Early
As a team, Penn State boasts a 2.00 ERA, with 28 strikeouts in 36 innings with just nine walks.
The Nittany Lions are already ahead of last season’s win-loss pace, as it took the Lions 15 games to earn two victories in 2015.
Sofield Speaks at First Pitch Dinner
Pittsburgh Pirates third base coach Rick Sofield offered many words of wisdom to close the Fourth Annual Penn State Baseball First Pitch Dinner, Jan. 23.
The gathering included nearly 160 people composed of the team, families, alumni, and fans. Penn State broadcaster Steve Jones emceed the event, while Sofield delivered the keynote address. The central theme of his speech was the choice between the “pain of discipline” and the “pain of regret,” telling the student-athletes that on and off the field they, had the choice of which one they would experience.
Sofield brought a unique perspective as, although he has been coaching within the Pirates organization since 2012, he has extensive experience with the collegiate level. He was the head coach at the University of Utah for eight seasons (1987-94) and the head coach of the University of South Carolina Beaufort for four seasons prior to joining the Pirates.
Other topics he touched on included dealing with failure and the importance of academics.
Penn State has a young pitching staff with many underclassmen in key roles, but many pitched as freshmen. Returning freshmen from last season (Schuyler Bates, Sal Biasi, Marko Boricich, Nick Distasio, Taylor Lehman and Jake Pilewicz) accounted for 161 2/3 of last season’s 424 innings pitched, while graduating seniors and non-returners accounted for just 38 1/3 innings pitched.
Penn State lost four starting position players. Most notably was outfielder Aaron Novak, who led the 2015 team in batting average (.326), hits (59) and on-base percentage (.398). Novak was one of only four players to start at least 45 of PSU’s 48 contests. Another was infielder Taylor Skerpon, who started in all but two games during the 2015 season. Skerpon finished third on the roster in runs scored (32) and fourth in hits (45) while providing stellar defense and second base.