Coming off an impressive home win over 2009 NCAA Tournament squad Kent State, the Nittany Lion baseball team travels to Champaign, Illinois to face the Illini beginning Friday. The series marks the Big Ten opener for both squads, who enter with similar nonconference records. Gametimes are set for 7:05 p.m. (Friday), 4:05 p.m. (Saturday) and 1:05 p.m. (Sunday), all times eastern. The games on Friday and Sunday will both be streamed live through BigTenNetwork.com. In addition, they will be aired on the Big Ten Network via tape delay. Friday's tilt will air on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET and Sunday's game can be seen at 6 p.m. ET on Monday. The Nittany Lions look to snap a three-game losing streak in Big Ten openers. Their last opening win came against Minnesota on Mar. 31, 2006. It marks the second time in program history that the squad faces Illinois in the Big Ten opener. Ironically, the first time came on Mar. 27, 1992, marking Penn State's first-ever Big Ten game. The Lions also look to snap a four-game losing streak against Illinois. The all-time series is currently tied at 22 wins apiece. Along with the Big Ten Network's coverage, fans can follow action all weekend through Penn State All-Acccess with Loren Crispell on the call. All three games will also air on ESPN Radio 1450 AM in State College. GameTracker will be available as well and as always, be sure to follow the Penn State Baseball Twitter page.
Upcoming Schedule 4/2-4: at Illinois 4/6: BUCKNELL 4/9-11: NORTHWESTERN
Baseball Games To Air Online And On State College ESPN Radio
The Penn State baseball team released its radio broadcast schedule last Thursday which includes all remaining games set for Penn State All-Access, all but eight of them to air on WQWK, ESPN Radio 1450 AM starting with last Saturday's home doubleheader vs. Hofstra.
Milestone Hit For Steranka Sophomore Jordan Steranka's fourth home run of the season on Wednesday (against Kent State) had extra special meaning. The hit already marked the 100th of his career. Incredibly, Steranka leads all current Nittany Lions in career hits with his 100. Senior Louie Picconi is second with 90. With two years still to go, Steranka has a chance to finish his Lion career among the program leaders in hits. Only seven players in program history have reached 200 career hits, led by Michael Campo's school-record 295.
Penn State Catchers - Double The Success The Nittany Lions present one of the best catcher duos in the nation, with juniors Ben Heath and Bobby Jacobs leading the way. They've both come into their own in 2010, with Heath hitting .348 and Jacobs batting .354. In addition, Heath and Jacobs have already hit a career-high in doubles with nine and six, respectively. In total, they own 42 percent of the team's two-baggers (15-of-36).
DeBernardis Continues Hot Streak Sophomore Joey DeBernardis has been one of the many bright spots on the offensive side. Despite snapping a career-high eight-game hitting streak Friday, he did walk and has now reached base in 21 of 23 games this season, recording a hit in 20 of them. DeBernardis has had multiple hits in nine of his last 14 games, recording 23 hits in that span. He is hitting .397 (23-for-58) with seven of those hits going for extra bases (five doubles, two triples).
Deegan Speeding Around Bases Sophomore outfielder Sean Deegan has used his speed to his advantage, entering the weekend with a six-game stolen base streak. He has swiped seven bases in that span and is now a perfect 16-for-16 on the season. The native of Readington, N.J. is on pace to shatter the school stolen base record of 27 held by Michael Campo. Last season's stolen base leader was Blake Lynd, who swiped 22 bags, fourth in program history.
Ben Heath - Johnny Bench Award Candidate
Penn State junior Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.) was one of 53 Division I catchers named to the Watch List for the Coleman Company Johnny Bench Award delivered by Papa John's Pizza, as announced by the Greater Wichita Area Sports Commission. Named in honor of the former Cincinnati Reds' great, the award is presented to the top catcher in Division I. Heath is one of five Big Ten catchers named to the list.
Tracking Heath: Season Updates Heath enters the weekend series with a career-high 10-game hitting streak, which also marks Penn State's longest of the season. Last week, the native of Huntersville, N.C. finished 9-for-18 in five games to improve his season average from .317 to (at the time) .358. He finished with one home run, seven RBI and three runs scored. He also posted a hit in all five games to improve his hitting streak to a career-high eight games. The highlight of his weekend against Hofstra included a 3-for-4 effort in Game Two of Saturday's doubleheader with a double, run scored and three RBI. He then went 2-for-4 with a walk and run scored in the series finale. At Pittsburgh (3/24), Heath hit his third home run in as many games, a long three-run shot for his seventh long ball of the season. That propelled Penn State to a 3-0 first-inning advantage. Heath had a monster performance at the Coca-Cola Classic, playing in three of four games with a .455 average (5-for-11) along with a double, two home runs, 10 RBI and six runs scored. He also had four walks, improving his on-base percentage to .600 for the week. In total, Heath leads the Lions with a career-high seven home runs, nine doubles, 27 RBI, .685 slugging percentage and 1.091 OPS (on-base plus slugging). Penn State's cleanup hitter is also hitting .348, starting 22 games - 16 at catcher and the other six at DH. His hits have come at huge moments of games, starting in the season-opener vs. Cincinnati when his solo home run in the sixth inning broke a 1-1 deadlock. Then against Notre Dame, his seventh-inning long ball pulled the Lions within one while his ninth-inning home run tied the score at eight to force extra innings. They came in consecutive at-bats to tie a career-high for home runs in a game. Against McNeese State, his home run doubled Penn State's lead from three (4-1) to six (7-1), serving as the key knockout blow on the way to a 12-6 win. He then hit home runs in consecutive games against Winthrop and Kent State at the Coca-Cola Classic. His first came against Winthrop and marked his first-career grand slam. Heath has also been strong defensively, posting a .989 fielding percentage while throwing out 32 percent of potential base stealers (9-of-28). In total, 16 of his 31 hits (52 percent) this season have gone for extra bases.
All-Time In Big Ten Openers The Nittany Lions look to get over the .500 mark in Big Ten openers as they enter with a 9-9 all-time record in their first conference games. This weekend actually marks the first time that Penn State has faced the Illini in a Big Ten opener since the Lions' first ever Big Ten game in 1992. It's also the first Big Ten opener in April since Apr. 1, 2005, a 6-3 win at Purdue. Prior to this year, only three of Penn State's 18 Big Ten openers have come in April. The Lions have only played six different teams all-time in Big Ten openers (record against in parenthesis) - Indiana (5-1), Purdue (3-2), Ohio State (0-3), Minnesota (1-1), Michigan (0-1) and Illinois (0-1).
The Series With Illinois Much like in Big Ten openers, the Nittany Lions look to break a deadlock with wins this weekend. Despite losing the last four to the Illini, Penn State is still tied up at 22-22 all-time. The Lions are also both 10-10 at home and on the road in the all-time series. They're .500 (2-2) in neutral site games as well. The last time Penn State traveled to Champaign, the squad did win two of the last three, including a doubleheader sweep on Apr. 26, 2008. The first all-time meeting came on Apr. 27, 1992 in Penn State's first-ever Big Ten game, a 5-0 defeat.
Scouting Illinois Illinois enters the weekend with a 9-9 overall record, including an impressive win over #12 Coastal Carolina. It comes in winners of six of its last seven games. Leading the way offensively is Matt Dittman, who owns a .500 batting average in 14 starts. He also has a home run and 15 RBI. Two others - Casey McMurray and Willie Argo - have .400 batting averages. McMurray has been the most productive with a team-leading three home runs and 19 RBI to go along with his .407 average. The Illini own a solid team ERA in the lower 5's and are led by a balanced group of hurlers. Will Strack, Friday's starter, has a 4.28 ERA, tops among starters, while Kevin Johnson isn't far behind at 5.00. Both own 1-0 records. Mike Sterk has impressed out of the bullpen with a 2.38 ERA and 3-0 record in eight appearances, all out of the bullpen. He also has one of the team's four saves.
Searer Shows Versatility Redshirt freshman Elliot Searer has taken advantage of increased playing time by hitting .341 on the season, led by two straight multiple hit efforts last weekend and his first-career extra-base hit on Tuesday at Kent State. In total, he already has four multi-hit games on the season and has at least one hit in eight of 11 starts. Searer showed his versatility when he saw his first-career action in the outfield on Saturday after working solely as an infielder. He has also been an opportune base runner, swiping five bags on the season, including a career-high two stolen bases on Sunday against Hofstra.
Lutz Turning It Up Redshirt senior pitcher David Lutz has impressed of late, with his 7.2 consecutive scoreless inning streak snapped on Wednesday vs. Kent State. He began on Wednesday at Pittsburgh with a season-high 4.1 innings without allowing a run. It marked his longest outing of the season and the second-longest of his career. His only longer appearance was five innings on Mar. 28, 2008 against Ohio State. Lutz then went on to throw three scoreless innings across two outings in the weekend series vs. Hofstra. The 7.1 straight scoreless innings broke his previous career-best streak of seven straight scoreless frames in 2008 (Mar. 28 to Apr. 2). Even after giving up three runs last outing, Lutz has still allowed only four runs in his last 15.1 innings (2.97 ERA). In the process he lowered his season ERA from 8.10 to 4.62. Lutz has Penn State's only save of the season when he tossed three one-hit frames against Kent State on Mar. 19.
All-Time Against BIG EAST The Mar. 24 opponent, Pittsburgh, is out of the BIG EAST, a familiar conference to the Lions. With the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge destined to stay for the foreseeable future, the Nittany Lions will have their annual opportunity to face one of the top conferences in the nation. Winning two-of-four BIG EAST games so far this season, Penn State is now 262-138-2 against current members of that conference. The squad has faced Pittsburgh the most (121 times) while also playing West Virginia (105), Villanova (59) and Rutgers (54) numerous times. Penn State has never faced one squad - Louisville. In total, Penn State plays five BIG EAST teams this season, the most of any conference (other than the Big Ten) - Cincinnati, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Seton Hall and Villanova. A home game against Pittsburgh (4/13) and road tilt at Villanova (5/18) still remain.
Walking Off? With last Saturday's walk-off win over Hofstra, Penn State has now seen an incredible seven of its first 23 games (30 percent) this season end via a walk-off of some kind, four in the Nittany Lions' favor. It marked the second consecutive Saturday walk-off and third time that sophomore Joey DeBernardis has been at the plate. "DeBo" has two walk-off single while his bouncer to third on Saturday was thrown away to give the Lions the 2-1 victory. After the Nittany Lions came back for a 6-5 win over Columbia at the Coca-Cola Classic, Winthrop pulled out a 14-13 extra-inning win in the nightcap. The season's first three games ended in walk-off fashion, the first two Penn State victories. Then, Texas State hit a sacrifice fly with one out in the bottom of the ninth to (at the time) even the Lions' "walk-off record."
Going Extra In addition to the walk-offs, four games have gone to extra innings, with Penn State winning two. After a 12 game "drought," the Nittany Lions saw Saturday's game against Winthrop go to extras. It marked the first extra-inning game since the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge. Penn State played three extra inning games in as many days, against Cincinnati, Seton Hall and Notre Dame. The Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge has seen four extra-inning games in its two-year history, three coming from Penn State this year. Penn State had four extra-inning games ALL last season, three in 2008 and four in 2007. The Lions are 0-2 in games ending in 10 innings, but 2-0 in games lasting longer than 10 frames.
3-4-5 Packs Powerful Tournament Punch
The heart of Penn State's order all impressed at the Coca-Cola Classic from Mar. 19-21 to lead the Lions. Sophomore Jordan Steranka hit .368 (7-for-19) in the three-hole with four doubles and two three-hit games. He reached base five times against Winthrop Saturday night. Junior Ben Heath in the cleanup hole hit .455 (5-for-11) with two home runs, 10 RBI and six runs scored. Sophomore Joey DeBernardis made his impact with a walk-off single on Saturday against Columbia, already his second walk-off this season. He hit .412 (7-for-17) for the week with three multi-hit games.
Comeback Kids Only 23 games into the season, the Nittany Lions have already staged some impressive late-inning comebacks. Down 5-0 against Columbia, Penn State fought back to tie the score with a run in the seventh before winning in the bottom of the ninth. That marked the third time this season the Lions have come back in the seventh inning or later to win a game. They were also trailing heading to the sixth inning Friday vs. Kent State before scoring two and holding on for the victory. It marked Penn State's first comeback win since the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge in the opening weekend of the season. It had to come back in the eighth inning or later in all three of those games to force extra innings while coming away with two victories. Down by two in the opener vs. Cincinnati, the squad was down to its last out (and strike) when junior Michael Glantz and senior Louie Picconi recorded back-to-back singles. Freshman Steve Snyder followed with a triple down the right field line to clear the bases and tie the score at four. Then against Seton Hall, Snyder led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, advanced to second on a groundout and to third on a wild pitch. He crossed the plate on a Heath Johnson sacrifice fly to even the score at two. The Lions came back twice against Notre Dame, scoring two runs in the seventh to knot the score at seven. Then after the Irish retook the lead, a Ben Heath home run to lead off the ninth tied the score for a second time, forcing extra innings once again.
Redshirt Freshman Infielder Elliot Searer
"Perfect" At The Plate Redshirt freshman Elliot Searer impressed in his first career at-bats at Texas A&M. He entered as a late defensive replacement in both Tuesday and Wednesday night's games, picking up a base hit in his only at-bat of each game. Searer is currently hitting .341, but for a few days, was actually one of two Penn State players to own a perfect 1.000 career batting average up to that point. It took him until his third career game before he did not get a hit. Redshirt sophomore Drew Yukelson is currently 2-for-2, both coming in his freshman season in 2008.
Returning To The Lone Star State The 10-day Texas road swing was extra special for four players on the Penn State roster who are from the lone star state: Mario Eramo (Houston), Steven Hill (Colleyville), Blake Lynd (Deer Park) and Erik Rumberger (Allen). Junior Heath Johnson played junior college ball at Frank Phillips College in Texas and played for the Texas Collegiate League's Coppell Copperheads last summer. Head coach Robbie Wine also returned to the state where he played Major League Baseball. Wine played parts of two seasons with the Houston Astros from 1986-87.
Experiencing The "States" The Nittany Lions are enjoying a mini tour of the United States this season, with early games in Florida, Texas and South Carolina while later traveling to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Minnesota. Fittingly, Penn State is playing a number of "States." In total, they face five teams that end in State, including this past week's opponent, Kent State. They've already played two - McNeese and Texas State - while also facing Ohio and Michigan State come conference season. Coppin State was also on the schedule, but the game scheduled for Feb. 20 was canceled due to snow.
Wanamaker Returns Redshirt senior pitcher Mike Wanamaker returned to the mound against Texas A&M after missing last season due to injury. He was a Second Team All-Big Ten honoree as a junior in 2008. On a pitch count, he tossed the first four innings last Wednesday, allowing three hits and three runs (two earned) while striking out four. After allowing two runs in the first inning, he bounced back by striking out the side in the second. He retired nine of 10 hitters in a span bridging the first through fourth innings. Wanamaker returned to the mound against Kent State, tossing six strong innings for his first win since 2008. Pitching in the home opener Friday, Wanamaker bounced back from a tough first inning to go six innings while eclipsing the 100 pitch plateau for the first time this season.
From The Pocket To The "Hill" Freshman pitcher Steven Hill, also a quarterback on the football team, has dazzled in his first collegiate appearances. He currently leads the team among regulars with a 2.49 ERA in 25.1 innings, which is fourth on the team. He followed up his first-career start against Lamar (3/6), with another strong performance on Sunday against Texas State (3/14). For the second time in as many starts, he tossed six innings, this time allowing only two runs to keep Penn State in the game. Against Cincinnati (2/26), he was summoned with runners on the corners and only one out in the top of the 10th. He struck out the first batter on three pitches before inducing a groundout to end the threat (all strikes). He then went on to retire six in a row in the 11th and 12th innings for the win. Then against Notre Dame (2/28), he pitched three innings in relief, only allowing one run to go along with six strikeouts. He got out of a bases loaded one out jam in the bottom of the ninth with two consecutive strikeouts. Hill entered into a similar situation against Columbia. With runners on first and third with only one out in the eighth, he induced two straight pop ups to work out of the jam once again. He then pitched a scoreless ninth and got his second victory.
Sophomore Pitcher Ryan Ignas
Starting Quality Four Penn State pitchers - Ryan Ignas, Neal Herring, Steven Hill and Mike Wanamaker - have combined to toss nine quality starts this season. Ignas allowed two runs (both earned) in seven innings against Cincinnati (2/26) and McNeese State (3/5), both Nittany Lion victories. Herring one-upped his strong performance against Seton Hall (2/27) when he allowed two earned runs in six innings, by allowing only one earned run in six frames against Dallas Baptist (3/6). That led to his first-career victory. In his first-career start, Hill dazzled in his home state of Texas, allowing only one earned run in six against Lamar (3/6). He then allowed only two runs in the series finale at Texas State (3/14). Wanamaker then enjoyed a quality start against Kent State when he only allowed three runs in six innings for the victory. Ignas and Herring posted quality starts last weekend against Hofstra, each throwing seven innings while allowing one and two earned runs, respectively.
The Nittany Lions had an inning to remember in the second against Dallas Baptist (3/6), batting around while crossing the plate seven times to take early control against the Patriots. It marked the first time they'd batted around since last April 11, an 11-9 win over Purdue. The seven runs were the most in an inning since scoring seven in the fourth against Kent State on March 24, 2009. The last time Penn State scored more than seven was on May 11, 2008 when it crossed the plate eight times in the fifth inning vs. Iowa. Sophomore Joey DeBernardis had two hits in the inning, the first Penn State player to accomplish that feat since Mike Deese on March 9, 2008. He finished with two hits in the fourth inning against Air Force.
Penn State Impresses At Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge
Penn State went 2-1 from Feb. 26-28 to tie for the top record of any Big Ten teams at the challenge.
No Big Ten squad finished undefeated while a total of five finished 2-1. Louisville and St. John's out of the BIG EAST both went 3-0.
It marks the second consecutive season that the Lions went 2-1 at the challenge. Last year, they were one of six Big Ten squads to do so.
A Team Effort
The Big Ten/BIGEAST Challenge success came from a variety of sources.
Here is what the following players contributed in the win over Cincinnati:
Sophomore Joey DeBernardis - Walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th
Junior Ben Heath - Double and home run
Freshman Steven Hill - Retired all eight batters he faced (in innings 10-12) for the win
Sophomore Ryan Ignas - Strong start, allowing only two runs in seven innings
Freshman Steve Snyder - Game-tying triple with two outs in the ninth
Then in the following day's 3-2 walk-off win in 13 against Seton Hall:
Junior Heath Johnson - Tripled and scored in the first, later drove in game-tying run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly
Sophomore Jordan Steranka - Two hits, including leadoff double and game-winning run in the bottom of the 13th
Junior Mario Eramo - Walk-off single in the bottom of the 13th
Freshman Neal Herring - Started and allowed only two runs in six innings of first collegiate game.
Entire Bullpen: Redshirt senior David Lutz, freshman John Walter and junior Jesse Alfreno tossed seven scoreless innings, only allowing four hits. In total, Penn State pitchers kept Seton Hall off the board for the final eight innings.
Impressive, Fresh Arms
Four freshman pitchers saw time at the Big Ten/BIGEASTChallenge- Neal Herring, Steven Hill, Erik Rumberger, John Walter - and combined to throw 15.1 innings, only allowing five earned runs for a 2.98 "group" ERA.
Herring received the only start, against Seton Hall, and only allowed two runs in six innings.
JuCo Transfers Making An Impact
Penn State has a number of new junior college transfers on this year's squad, led by Mario Eramo and Heath Johnson. Each made their mark to start the season, especially against Seton Hall.
Eramo had the walk-off single against Seton Hall while Johnson tied the score with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Johnson also hit a first-inning triple and scored to get the Lions on the board.
C.J. Smith is also a new junior college transfer, who is expected to redshirt this season.
All-Time In Season Openers
Penn State's win against Cincinnati improved its all-time record in season openers to 74-46.
It was only the Lions' third win in their last nine season-openers. Their six losses have come against some of the nation's best teams: 2009 (St. John's), 2007 (Kansas State), 2006 (Tulane), 2005 (Charlotte), 2004 (Virginia) and 2003 (Arizona State). They did defeat High Point in 2008 and Norfolk State in 2002.
Penn State posted an impressive 19 straight season-opening wins, spanning from 1948-1966.
Baseball's Season-Opening Weekend Canceled Due To Snow
The Penn State baseball team's season-opening weekend at Longwood University was canceled due to snow pack. The Nittany Lions were scheduled to play a neutral site game against Coppin State on Saturday before facing host Longwood on Sunday.
Southern Virginia received a significant amount of snow in the past weeks, which made the field unplayable.
Nittany Lions Take Part In THON
With its season-opening weekend canceled, the Penn State baseball team made the most of it by getting involved in THON at the Bryce Jordan Center. The 38th annual Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon began on Friday (Feb. 19) at 6 p.m. and lasted until Sunday at 4 p.m., raising more than $7.8 million for pediatric cancer research.
Penn State student-athletes have always been heavily involved in THON. Baseball is normally on the road THON weekend, but with the games at Longwood canceled, the Nittany Lions were on campus, giving them the opportunity to participate. Despite being too late to enter the pep rally, the squad found time between a busy weekend of practice for Athlete Hour on Saturday.
Baseball's Big Ten Network Schedule Released
The Penn State baseball team will be featured at least six times on the Big Ten Network in 2010.
The Nittany Lions open the Big Ten Network's coverage on Apr. 2 at Illinois. All three games from the weekend series can be viewed on BigTenNetwork.com.
Penn State's complete home series vs. Iowa from May 7-9 will be shown live on the Big Ten Network as well.
Should they make the conference tournament, the Nittany Lions would see additional games aired on the Big Ten Network. Each and every game will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
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Big Ten Baseball Tournament To Be Held In Columbus Through 2010
The Big Ten Conference, Huntington Park and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission announced that Columbus, Ohio, will be home to the Big Ten Baseball Tournament for the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons.
The Big Ten played its first neutral-site tournament since 1994 at Columbus' Huntington Park in 2009 and will return to the ballpark in 2011 and 2012.
Due to a facility conflict, the 2010 tournament will be held at Ohio State's Bill Davis Stadium.
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Nittany Lions Release Complete Ticket & Promotional Information
Penn State baseball single-game and group tickets went on sale on Monday (Feb. 1) at 9 a.m. An action-packed promotional schedule is now available as well. The Nittany Lions play 21 home dates (and 22 games) at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, beginning with their home-opening weekend from Mar. 26-28 against Hofstra.
Ticket prices remain the same as last season with "In The Box" reserved seats for only $6 while Adult General Admission is $4 and Youth and Student General Admission are $2. In addition, groups of 20 or more can purchase General Admission tickets for only $3.
Tickets can be purchased online or over the phone. Please call 1-877-997-7453 or (814) 272-1711, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Fans can also direct any additional questions or comments via phone, or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Baseball Signs Seven Top Recruits To National Letters Of Intent
Penn State head baseball coach Robbie Wine announced in November the signing of seven top recruits to National Letters of Intent.
Among the class are five of the top prospects from Pennsylvania and two from Massachusetts. The group, that will join the program in the fall of 2010, consists of two pitchers, three position players and two others who can both pitch and play in the field.
Among the incoming freshmen are five from the Keystone State: right-handed pitcher Scott Dixon (Blairsville), outfielder Zach Ell (Plains), third baseman Kyle Redinger (Lebanon), pitcher/infielder Austin Urban (Windber) and left-handed pitcher Greg Welsh (Holland). They are set to join 15 Nittany Lion underclassmen from Pennsylvania who are scheduled to return in the fall of 2010.
Along with the Pennsylvania talent, the Nittany Lions will welcome two from Massachusetts: catcher Alex Farkes (Boston) and right-handed pitcher/infielder TJ Jann (Westford).
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Nittany Lions Ride Roller Coaster In 2009
The Penn State baseball team entered the `09 season with high hopes. After starting the year on fire, the Lions fell short of reaching their third-consecutive Big Ten Tournament. Despite the disappointment, the squad did finish with a 25-26 record, one of only four Big Ten teams (along with Illinois, Michigan and Ohio State) to post 25 or more victories in each of the last three seasons.
The Nittany Lions won 13 of their first 21 games and 21 of their first 35. Included in that stretch was taking two of three at the inaugural Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge. They were one of six Big Ten squads to finish the weekend with a winning record.
They then went on to battle at #4 Texas, but were swept by the powerhouse Longhorns. Included was a nail-biting 1-0 defeat in which senior T.J. Macy sparkled on the mound.
Penn State subsequently won six of its next nine, but the best was yet to come as the Lions followed with six straight wins in the latter stages of March. After the streak was snapped, they rebounded with a thrilling 15-11 victory over #16 Ohio State on Mar. 29.
Success continued into the beginning of April, with notable wins coming against perennial conference power Michigan, eventual NCAA qualifier Indiana and Big Ten Tournament participant Purdue. The Nittany Lions would finish the year having beaten four of the six tournament participants at least once.
Following their huge win over Indiana on Apr. 17, the Nittany Lions would struggle down the stretch.
Penn State was still alive for a postseason berth heading into the final weekend of the regular season at home. Despite dropping the first two games against #21 Minnesota to eliminate any postseason aspirations, the Lions would ultimately have a say in the Big Ten race. They then went on to a thrilling 10-8 win on May 16 amidst two rain delays to prevent the Golden Gophers from winning the Big Ten Regular Season Championship, while also concluding the season on a positive note.
Freshmen Ignas & Steranka Highlight Big Ten Postseason Honors
Penn State freshmen Ryan Ignas and Jordan Steranka were both named to the All-Big Ten Third Team, marking the first time since 1995 that the Nittany Lions netted multiple freshmen on the All-Conference squad.
Ignas enjoyed an impressive rookie season, leading the team in both wins and saves. He was one of just 10 players in all of Division I to accomplish that feat. He appeared in 22 games (two starts) with a 5-1 record, 5.31 ERA and 1.25 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched). He posted five saves while holding opponents to a .270 average.
Steranka made his mark on Penn State baseball history, becoming the program's all-time single-season hits leader for a freshman. The third baseman tallied 70 and also earned the team's "triple crown," leading in average (.365), home runs (6) and RBI (42). He was atop triples (3) and runs scored (39) as well.
In addition to All-Conference accolades, Steranka was a unanimous choice as the All-Freshman Team third baseman.
Ryan Boonie was awarded the Sportsmanship Award, which is presented to one player from each of the Big Ten baseball programs.
Hitting Streaks Aplenty
The 2009 season saw a number of lengthy hitting streaks from Penn State players.
The top came from freshman Jordan Steranka (18 games), which was tied for fourth in program history.
In addition, senior Blake Lynd and sophomore Grant Youngblood saw streaks reach 14 games, tied for 15th all-time.
In fact, Youngblood's streak was actually 15 games dating back to the final game of 2008. That mark is the fourth-longest to bridge two seasons.
Louie Picconi also posted a career-best 11-game hitting streak.
All the impressive marks are still far from the Penn State all-time leader, Michael Campo, whose streak reached 41 games in 2000.
Milestone Game For Penn State Baseball
Penn State played in its 3,000th all-time game on Mar. 1 of last season. Fittingly, it came against the winningest program in NCAA history, Texas.
The Nittany Lions stand in the top 50 in all-time winning percentage among schools with a minimum of 25 years in Division I. Their all-time record is 1,835-1,188-21 (.606).
Baseball is the oldest intercollegiate sport at Penn State, dating back to its debut in 1875. This season marks the Nittany Lions' 122nd in program history due to not fielding a team for several years in the late 1880s. Penn State is one of only a select few schools in the nation to boast a team for at least 120 years.
Lutz, Alfreno Emerge In Pen
Lefty David Lutz and righty Jesse Alfreno impressed in the bullpen last season, finishing atop the team in ERA (3.38 and 4.44, respectively). Both took very different paths to where they are today as arguably the top pitchers in the Lions' pen.
Lutz, a former walk-on was Penn State's most consistent pitcher in 2009, finishing with a 4-2 record and three saves to go with his stout ERA. Batters only hit .247 again him.
Alfreno, also a member of the Penn State football team, impressed in his first collegiate baseball season. He made his mark from the beginning, going nine innings spanning his first five appearances before allowing a run. Opponents only hit .226 against him for the year.
The duo allowed fewer hits than innings pitched. The only other Nittany Lion with at least 10 innings of work to accomplish that was T.J. Macy, who gave up 76 base knocks in a team-leading 76.1 innings.
Baseball Camp Information Now Available
Baseball camp information is now available.
Just call the Sports Camp Office at (814) 865-0561 or email them at SportCampInfo@outreach.psu.edu for more information.
Also, visit them on their website by clicking here.
Baseball Alumni Event Set For May 7-8
Penn State baseball's alumni event is set for May 7-8. The event coincides with Nittany Lion home games against Iowa at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park. All baseball alumni are invited to attend.
Please contact the Varsity `S' Club Coordinator, Mike Milliron at email@example.com or (814) 867-2202 with any questions or to RSVP.
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2010 Media Guide Now Available
The 2010 media guide is now available! In it, you can find everything you need to know about Penn State baseball including stats, player bios, a complete history section and MUCH more!
The guide is available for PDF download, for view through the interactive website Issuu or for purchase.
Hard copies are available for only $7. They can be purchased through the publications store on GoPSUsports.com.
Just click here for all the information!
Sign Up For Penn State Baseball News
Fans, want to stay up to date on the Penn State baseball team? Sign up today by contacting Justin Lafleur (firstname.lastname@example.org) in the Penn State Athletic Communications Department. You will receive game previews, game recaps, news releases and more, straight to your inbox!
Follow Penn State Baseball On Twitter!
Penn State baseball is on Twitter! You can find exclusive notes and features to help stay one step ahead when following the Nittany Lions.
Included will be live in-game scoring updates, so if you can't make it to Happy Valley, you'll still be able to follow all the action. Go to www.twitter.com and search for the username psubaseball. Or click here!
Check Back To GoPSUsports.com For Exclusive Video!
New this season is exclusive postgame highlights and interviews on GoPSUsports.com. Check back often to the Penn State baseball YouTube page for more highlight and interview packages as the season progresses.