Nittany Lions Head to Pittsburgh on Wednesday
March 23, 2011
PITTSBURGH, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team will conclude its early season road trips on Wednesday afternoon when the Nittany Lions battle intrastate rival Pittsburgh at the Panthers' newly-constructed Charles L. Cost Field at 3 p.m.
Riding a wave of momentum after taking two-of-three from No. 26 Wichita State last weekend, Penn State (12-6) looks to continue its roll against a familiar foe. Since their first meeting over a century ago, the Nittany Lions hold a 60-23 advantage in the all-time series against Pittsburgh (12-6). Last year, the two teams met twice and split a pair of games with Penn State capturing the final bout, 14-8, on April 13.
On GoPSUSports.com, fans can keep track of the afternoon action by following along with GameTracker. Live stats will begin following the first pitch.
Yielding little to the opposition in the early part of the season, the Penn State pitching staff has been a focal point of the squad's successes thus far. As a unit, the Nittany Lions have posted a 3.06 ERA, which ranks in the top-50 nationally. The squad has also held its opponents to a .240 batting average while tallying 115 strikeouts.
PSU is led by junior right-hander Dave Walkling, who is currently tied for the national lead with five victories. Overall, he stands at 5-0 with a team-best 1.71 ERA. A dominating presence on the hill, he is averaging 12.0 strikeouts-per-nine-innings, which ranks as the 15th highest rate in the nation.
Offensively, Penn State is led by junior centerfielder Sean Deegan, who sports a team-best .373 batting average with three home runs, 16 RBI, and 15 runs scored. His four triples also lead the conference. Fellow third-year standouts Jordan Steranka and Joey DeBernardis have also played key roles for the team as both men are hitting above .300 and have combined to score 26 runs and knock in 24.
Luis Montesinos and Bobby Jacobs have also been staples in the lineup and provided sturdy defensive performances as well. As a whole, the Nittany Lions have been excellent in the field, posting a .965 fielding percentage while flipping 22 double plays. Entering Wednesday's action, Penn State currently ranks 16th in the nation in twin killings.
Armed with a deep and talented pitching staff, Pittsburgh will look to quiet the mighty Penn State offense. As a team, the Panthers have a 3.70 ERA after allowing 65 earned runs over 158 innings of work. The group has also combined to strike out 125 batters and limit the opposition to a .280 batting average.
Matt Iannazzo has led the Pittsburgh pitching staff in the early part of the season, notching a 2-1 record with an outstanding 0.99 ERA. Alex Caravella and Casey Roche also carry sub-3.00 ERAs, while senior Kevin Dooley, who will earn the starting nod against Penn State, sports a 3.38 ERA in limited action this year.
Along with a strong pitching staff, Pittsburgh also has an accomplished lineup. Although he saw his 10-game hitting streak come to an end on Tuesday against Akron, senior first baseman David Chester has been at the forefront of the Panther attack all year long. He leads the team with five home runs and 24 RBI while hitting at a .368 clip. Catcher Kevin Smith has also gotten off to a good start in 2011, posting a .483 batting average with 18 RBI.
Led by the efforts of those two men, Pittsburgh enters Wednesday's contest with a .318 team batting average and 11 home runs. The squad has also legged out 11 triples, swiped 29 bases, and recorded an impressive .456 slugging percentage through 18 games.
Under some early-season pressure with 19 straight contests on the road, Penn State will finally break that streak on Friday when the squad kicks off a three-game series with Le Moyne. The home opener is slated for 3:30 p.m.