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May 5, 2011
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Following a setback against Michigan State last weekend, the Penn State baseball team will look to get back on track and continue its push for the postseason as the Nittany Lions venture west for a three-game series against Iowa beginning on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET.
In the midst of the stretch run, Penn State (25-16, 7-8 Big Ten) enters the series looking to break a three-game skid after dropping its series against the Spartans last weekend. Iowa (16-26, 5-10) is also looking to break out after dropping six of its last seven contests, including two-of-three to Minnesota last week.
Everyone can follow along with the action in a variety of ways. All three games will be available through GameTracker on GoPSUSports.com, and there will be a radio broadcast of each contest on PSU All-Access as well as ESPN 1450. Saturday's action will also be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
Last year, Iowa got the best of Penn State during a three-game series in Happy Valley. During the weekend action, the Hawkeyes took two-of-three from the Lions and have now won three of the previous four match-ups. However, PSU holds the advantage in the all-time series by a 33-24 margin, including a 14-11 edge during battles in Iowa.
Dangerous at the plate, the Nittany Lions have pieced together a potent attack this season. Currently, Penn State ranks second in the Big Ten with 21 home runs and 14 triples while standing third with 83 doubles. The squad's 239 runs scored this year are also the third most in the league.
On the other hand, Iowa has been effective offensively in less flashier ways. The squad leads the Big Ten and ranks third nationally with 65 sacrifice bunts. Patient at the plate, the Hawkeyes have also drawn 177 walks this year, which currently ranks second in the conference.
From an individual standpoint, Jordan Steranka has been a force for the Lions as the third baseman leads the conference with 47 RBI while ranking third with six home runs and fourth with a .569 slugging percentage. Sean Deegan and Mario Eramo have also clubbed six home runs this year, while Joey DeBernardis leads the way with 21 doubles.
Doing the most damage for the Hawkeyes has been junior Mike McQuillan. Currently, he leads the team with a .338 batting average while knocking in a team-high 26 runs. Trevor Willis has also been a threat, leading the conference with seven triples, while Tyson Blaser ranks fourth in the league with 14 doubles.
Relying just as heavily on its pitching staff, Penn State leads the Big Ten with a 3.67 ERA and a .260 opponent batting average. Meanwhile, Iowa's staff has struck out 262 batters, including 95 looking. That total stands second in the conference.
Exceptionally productive during his sophomore season, John Walter has posted a 2.59 ERA while helping anchor the weekend rotation. Fellow second-year standout Steven Hill has also looked strong, ranking fifth in the Big Ten with a 2.76 ERA while leading the conference with 78.1 innings pitched.
Aces Jarred Hippen and Nick Brown have been at the forefront of the Iowa pitching staff with both standouts garnering Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors this year. Hippen is coming off of his finest performance of the season after firing a one-hitter against Minnesota last week. On the other hand, Brown has a team-best 2.85 ERA to go along with a 3-2 record.
Making the series even more intriguing is Penn State's success on the road this season. Despite the squad's setback last weekend, the Lions boast a 12-9 record during road tilts. On the other hand, Iowa has a 5-10 record at home in 2011.
Some midweek action will break up Big Ten play as Penn State hosts Niagara on Tuesday at 3:35 p.m. before the squad travels to Pittsburgh for a make-up game with the Panthers on Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.