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April 21, 2011
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State baseball team will open up a crucial three-game series with Big Ten rival Ohio State on Friday at 6:35 p.m. when the Nittany Lions host the Buckeyes at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
Having won three of the first five games on its current homestand, Penn State (22-12, 5-4 Big Ten) hopes to continue the stretch with a strong showing against Ohio State (15-16, 5-4 Big Ten). Always a closely contested series, this one has added meaning with both teams tied for third in the current Big Ten standings.
Evenly matched in recent years, the Lions hold a slim 8-7 advantage against the Buckeyes since 2007. The squad also took two-of-three from OSU in Columbus last year. Overall, Ohio State holds a 52-30 advantage in the all-time series and a 22-15 edge in games played in Happy Valley.
During the weekend series, several unique events will complement the on-field action. Friday will serve as an Emergency Personnel and Military Appreciation Night with service men and women receiving $2 off their ticket. Additionally, Friday will also be "Tattoo Night" at the ballpark as fans with tattoos will receive $2 off the normal cost of admission.
On Saturday, Penn State will hold its second annual Wounded Warrior Benefit Game. An all-day event, there will be a special silent auction featuring PSU memorabilia to raise funds for the cause, while a portion of all ticket sales will go to the project. The Nittany Lions will also wear special camouflage jerseys, which will be auctioned off as well.
The following day, Penn State will wrap up the weekend with a special activity for children after the game. For young fans that come out to the ballpark, the Nittany Lions will be hosting a special Easter Egg hunt following the contest.
Those fans that cannot make it out to the games can still catch the action live on GoPSUSports.com. GameTracker will be available for all three contests. A live radio broadcast will also air on PSU All-Access as well as ESPN Radio 1450.
In addition to the special promotions this weekend, the series should provide plenty of entertainment on the field as well. Both teams possess deep and talented lineups with Ohio State ranked third in the Big Ten with a .297 batting average, while Penn State stands third with a .413 slugging percentage.
Not to be overlooked, both squads also boast excellent top-of-the-rotation stalwarts. Ohio State's Drew Rucinski and Penn State's Steven Hill sit atop the Big Ten with matching 2.38 ERAs. Fittingly, the two standouts will square off against one another in an exciting duel on Friday night.
Guided by Hill and John Walter, Penn State enters the contest with a league-best .247 opponent batting average. Ohio State sits sixth in the category with a .284 mark, but the Buckeye pitching staff has picked off nine runners this year, which ranks second in the conference.
On the offensive end, the Lions will be led into action by juniors Jordan Steranka and Sean Deegan. The two men rank second and third in the Big Ten in slugging percentage, while Steranka leads the way with six home runs. Meanwhile, Deegan has launched five long balls this year, which is tied with Mario Eramo for second in the league.
Fellow slugger Joey DeBernardis has also been on a tear at the plate, ripping a league-best 17 doubles. Fittingly, Deegan ranks second in that category while Steranka is tied for sixth.
The Buckeye batting order has been anchored all year by Ryan Cypret. He currently ranks sixth in the Big Ten with a .364 batting average and ninth with a .492 slugging percentage. His .429 on-base percentage also stands 10th in the conference.
Helping to balance out the OSU attack, five other Buckeyes have posted batting averages above .300 this season. Josh Dezese leads that group with a .345 average to go along with two home runs and a team-high 26 RBI. Brian DeLucia also sits above .300 while scoring 24 runs.
Entering the series, the Buckeyes have stumbled a bit away from home, posting a 2-7 mark on the road. Meanwhile, the Lions have held their own at home, going 8-5 in Happy Valley.
In the midst of an 11-game homestand, Penn State will wrap up the stretch with a pair of midweek games. The Nittany Lions will host La Salle on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. before battling Bucknell the following evening.
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