Baseball Hosts Illinois in Final Home Series this Weekend

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Joe Kurrasch


Joe Kurrasch

May 10, 2012

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State baseball (24-24, 10-8) hosts the Illinois Fighting Illini in its final home series of the 2012 season beginning on Friday. The Nittany Lions currently sit in a three-way tie for third place in the Big Ten standings and are just a game out of second place. The top six in the conference will play in the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio two weeks from now.

Nittany Lion baseball will be honoring a ticket exchange with Penn State softball as both teams are home that weekend. All ticket stubs bought at softball can be used for free entry at baseball and visa versa. PSU softball hosts OSU on Friday at 4 p.m. for a doubleheader while Penn State baseball hosts Illinois on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday softball is at 1 p.m. for Senior Day, while baseball continues its three-game series Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday afternoon (1 p.m.). The ticket stubs can be used any day of either game. Penn State baseball's Senior Day will be on Sunday.

This weekend will be Penn State Faculty & Staff Nights. All Faculty & Staff who present their PSU ID at the Medlar Field box office will receive a special $2 ticket to the baseball game courtesy of Penn State Federal Credit Union, who is serving as the proud sponsor of Faculty and Staff Night.

Friday's 6:05 p.m. contest will be a Dollar Dog Night. Additionally, all students that are still on campus will get free admission into the game. Saturday will be Keystone Little League day. The 2011Keystone Little League team that advanced to the Little League World Series will play an exhibition game after Penn State's 2:05 game against Illinois. Sunday's noon start will be Senior Day and Penn State Baseball's first Pink Zone game. Five Penn State seniors will be honored prior to first pitch. In addition, all players will be wearing pink wristbands for breast cancer awareness. Fans in attendance will receive those Penn State pink wristbands while supplies last.

Sunday's noon game will air live on the Big Ten Network. All of this weekend's contests can be heard on ESPN Radio 1450 State College with Loren Crispell and Brian Tripp calling the action. Live stats will be available via a Gametracker link on GoPSUSports.com. In addition, fans can follow @psubaseball on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

Penn State is coming off a rain-shortened contest, as it dropped a 7-3 game to the Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday evening in five innings. The game was marked official since 4.5 innings were completed. Senior Sean Deegan (Readington, N.J.) cracked his eighth homer of the season and senior Joey DeBernardis (Lake Zurich, Ill.) drove in two runs in the loss. This comes after Penn State took two of three games from the Minnesota Golden Gophers last weekend in Minneapolis.

The Nittany Lions have won 11 of their last 15 contests and jumped to two games over .500 this past Saturday. Penn State, which started the season 7-18 overall, has gone 17-7 in its last 24 games and 21-10 in its last 31. The last time a Penn State baseball team was double-digit games under .500 and made it back to equal or go above .500 was the 2007 squad. That team started the year 2-12, but finished with a 31-26 overall record and a 20-10 mark in Big Ten play.

Penn State will send sophomore Joe Kurrasch (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) to the mound on Friday, followed by junior Steven Hill (Colleyville, Texas) on Saturday and junior John Walter (Haddonfield, N.J.) on Sunday. Kurrasch has allowed just eight earned runs in his last seven starts, posting an ERA of 2.06 on the season. The sophomore earned a no-decision last Friday, as he went seven strong innings while striking out six. On Saturday, Hill was dominant on the mound for the Nittany Lions. The junior picked up his fifth win, and his fourth win in his last five starts. Hill went 7.1 innings, striking out seven batters and allowing just seven hits. The one run he gave up was unearned. Walter is growing back to normal form as of late, earning no decisions in his last two starts while striking out nine hitters in just over 10 innings. The trio through their last 15 starts have combined for an 8-4 record and a 2.47 ERA in 98.1 innings, while giving up just 74 hits and striking out 81.

Illinois enters the weekend with a 26-21 overall record, a 9-9 mark in Big Ten play, and just a game back of the Nittany Lions in the conference standings. The Illini are a very dangerous team at the plate, hitting .284 collectively as a team and feature a lineup that does not have a batter hitting worse than .262. In fact, the Illinois lineup has five players that are hitting .280 or better. Jordan Parr leads the way with a .360 batting average, five homers and 39 RBI. Willie Argo leads the way on the bases, as he has stolen 96 career bags, which is fifth all-time in the Big Ten. The Illini rank 34th in the nation in steals and are first in the country in turning double plays (1.34 per game). Illinois will send RHP Kevin Johnson (7-4, 3.79), RHP John Kravetz (7-3, 4.94) and RHP Drasen Johnson (1-0, 6.37) to the mound this weekend.

Penn State leads the all-time series with a 26-24 record between the two clubs. The Lions are 12-11 in games played in Happy Valley against the Illini. Penn State has won the last two contests, but the last six games between the two teams have been split at three.

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