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April 14, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Looking to continue its winning ways at home, the Penn State baseball team will host Big Ten rival Purdue for a three-game series beginning on Friday at 6:35 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
In the midst of an 11-game homestand, the Nittany Lions (20-10, 4-2 Big Ten) opened the stretch with a 5-4 victory over intrastate rival Pittsburgh on Wednesday evening. Conversely, Purdue (22-11, 3-3) is in the middle of a 10-game road swing through three states. The Boilermakers have already picked up a pair of wins during the trip after topping Ball State, 8-5, and IPFW, 8-3, during midweek battles.
Night games on Friday and Saturday will get the series rolling before concluding with an afternoon matinee on Sunday. Following the 6:35 start to open the weekend, Saturday's action will begin at 5 p.m. before the series wraps up on Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Exciting promotions will highlight the weekend action. As part of the Blue-White festivities, fans can watch a fireworks display following the games on Friday and Saturday. Hot dogs will also be available for just $1 on Friday, while a twirling performance will be featured on Saturday.
Benefiting families and other small groups, Penn State will also offer the popular 4-for-$24 package on Sunday. With that, fans can receive four tickets, four hot dogs, and four sodas for just $24.
Additionally, for fans that cannot make it out to Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, folks can follow along with the action in a variety of ways. GameTracker will be available for all three games on GoPSUSports.com, and a live radio broadcast will air on PSU All-Access and ESPN Radio 1450.
Coming to town on Saturday for the first of two visits in 2011, the Big Ten Network will also televise the second game of the series. Former Arizona head coach Jerry Kindall and award-winning play-by-play man Steve Jones will call Saturday's action for BTN. The broadcast begins at 5:00 p.m.
Keeping up their strong play in the Big Ten will be the top goal for the Nittany Lions entering the weekend. The squad has captured each of its first two conference series after taking two-of-three from both Illinois and Northwestern. Since joining the Big Ten in 1992, Penn State has never won its first three conference series.
Entering 2011, the Nittany Lions had not won three Big Ten series at any point during a season since taking seven on the way to a second-place finish in 2007. PSU won two series in each of its last three campaigns but is looking to eclipse that already this year with a strong effort this weekend.
Recapturing its recent success against Illinois and Northwestern will prove to be a challenging task against Purdue. The Boilermakers hold a 33-25 advantage in the all-time series against Penn State and have won nine of the last 11 bouts, including the previous four meetings. However, the Lions do hold a 14-12 edge at home in the series.
Setting up to be an entertaining weekend, the action will kick off with an exciting match-up on Friday. Both teams will send out their ace as Steven Hill will square off with Purdue's Matt Morgan in the opener. Hill enters the weekend ranked third in the Big Ten with a 2.20 ERA, while Morgan would stand seventh with a 2.59 mark if he had enough innings to qualify for the league leaders.
Vying for his fifth win in six starts, Hill is coming off of a career day last weekend. In the first game of a doubleheader against Northwestern, he fired his first complete game shutout after scattering seven hits while striking out two over nine stellar innings on the mound.
Similarly as strong in his last outing, Morgan pieced together his own scoreless outing over the weekend. Against Michigan, he held the Wolverines to just four hits and no runs over six innings of work. He also struck out eight on the way to his third victory of the season.
Along with the top-of-the-rotation hurlers, both teams also have outstanding depth on the mound. John Walter has been dominant lately for Penn State and currently boasts a 2.38 ERA, which ranks sixth in the Big Ten. His counterpart on Saturday, Brad Schreiber, has held his opposition to a .219 batting average, which is the lowest in the Big Ten.
Surprisingly, of the five pitchers that have tossed a shutout in the Big Ten this year, three will take the field in Happy Valley this weekend. In addition to Hill's gem against Northwestern last week, Morgan blanked Lipscomb on March 4. Similarly as dominant, Purdue's starter on Sunday, Joe Haase, kept Minnesota off the board for nine innings on April 2.
Though both teams sport strong rotations, the pitchers will have their work cut out for them this weekend. Entering the series, Penn State and Purdue both rank in the top-three in the Big Ten in nearly every major offensive category.
Rolling off incredible numbers at the plate, the two teams rank among the top-three in runs scored, total bases, doubles, triples, on-base percentage, and walks. Both squads also share the Big Ten lead with 18 home runs this season.
On the base paths, the two squads also share a common bound with their ability to swipe bags. Purdue ranks second in the Big Ten with 52 stolen bases in 2011, while Penn State has successfully converted 78 percent of its attempts, which is the second highest rate in the conference.
Naturally gifted offensively, Jordan Steranka has been at the forefront of the Penn State attack this season. Currently, he leads the Big Ten with six home runs, 38 RBI, and a .627 slugging percentage. Fellow junior Joey DeBernardis has also dominated recently, hitting .410 in his last 11 games while also leading the Big Ten with 16 doubles.
Armed with a collection of outstanding hitters as well, Purdue is led by Cameron Perkins, who ranks fourth in the Big Ten with a .382 batting average, third with 52 hits, and second with 31 RBI. Stephen Talbott also leads the conference with 34 runs scored, while David Miller is third with a .463 on-base percentage.
Ultimately, the series should be an evenly matched affair with strong frontline pitching squaring off against deep and talented lineups. Not surprisingly, the two teams have identical 1-1 records against common opponents in 2011. During the year, each squad defeated Pittsburgh but fell to Notre Dame.
The Boilermakers have also been outstanding on the road this year, going 14-8 during their travels. Fittingly, Penn State has been adept at defending its home turf, posting a 6-3 record at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Staying at home for the foreseeable future, Penn State will return to the diamond on Wednesday, April 20 when the Lions host the Maryland Terrapins at 6:05 p.m.