The Penn State baseball team looks to bounce back from two straight defeats when it travels to Minnesota this weekend to play the Gophers in historic Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. With two series remaining, all 10 Big Ten teams are separated by a mere two games, meaning every squad is not only in contention for a Big Ten Tournament berth, but also a conference title. Gametimes are set for 7:35 p.m. (Friday), 3:05 (Saturday) and 1:05 (Sunday), all times Eastern.
Despite a pair of losses against Iowa last weekend, the Nittany Lions have still won six of their last eight conference games, putting themselves right back into the Big Ten race with six games remaining.
As part of the run was a six-game winning streak, Penn State's longest conference winning streak since 2007 when it did so on two occasions. The Lions won those six games by a combined score of 87-31.
A significant storyline heading into the weekend is junior Ben Heath and his chase for the program's single-season home run record. Against Michigan State, he hit his 16th and 17th home runs of the season to tie Dave Simononis' 32-year mark. Heath still has seven regular season games to try and break the mark. His four multi-home run games are also tied for first in the nation.
The Lions then travel to Villanova on Tuesday for their final nonconference matchup. They then return home to host Michigan in the final home series of the season from Thursday (5/20) until Saturday (5/22). Jordan Steranka figurines will be given away on Thursday, Friday is Kid's Day, Dollar Hot Dog Night and Scoreboard Picture Frame giveaways while Saturday is Fan Appreciation Day.
Live audio via Penn State All-Access will be available all weekend long. Fans can also listen in to ESPN Radio 1450 AM and follow with Live Stats. And as always, be sure to stay updated with the Penn State Baseball Twitter page.
Sunday, May 16, Penn State at Minnesota, 1:05 PM ET COVERAGE: Listen Live | Live Stats | Twitter Penn State: TBA Minnesota: Phil Isaksson (4-1, 3.08 ERA)
5/14-16: at Minnesota
5/18: at Villanova 5/20-22: MICHIGAN
The Golden Gophers mark the fifth and final 2009 NCAA Tournament team on the Nittany Lions' schedule. Penn State is 3-8 thus far against the first four squads - Ohio State (2-1), Kent State (1-2), Texas A&M (0-2) and Texas State (0-3).
Junior Ben Heath enters the weekend with 17 home runs, which is tied for 11th in the nation (among all positions). He is 28th in slugging percentage and 38th in total bases. With 134 total bases, he is already second in single-season school history with a realistic chance to break Michael Campo's mark of 163 set during his 2000 All-America season.
Ever since being slotted 1-2 in the lineup, Elliot Searer and Steve Snyder have gone a combined 42-for-90 (.467) over nine games. Snyder is 25-45 (.556) while Searer is 17-45 (.378). Snyder has two four-hit games in that span while Searer has a school record tying five-hit contest.
School Records & Milestones Abundant?
Three Penn State players are on pace to break, come close to breaking or have broken significant single-season school records: David Lutz (appearances - record was 29, currently at 31), Sean Deegan (stolen bases - record is 27, currently at 24) and Ben Heath (home runs - record is 17, currently at 17). Deegan and Steve Snyder also have four triples, more than halfway from tying the school record of six.
Heath's huge performances lately have helped put him in position to potentially break the Penn State single-season total bases record. He is now at 134 through 45 games played, whch is already second in school history. The record is 163, held by Michael Campo during his 2000 All-America season.
Lutz has also broken the Penn State all-time record in career appearances this season. It was held by Jeff Emerich (76); Lutz is currently up to 80 (and counting).
A pair of Nittany Lions - Louie Picconi and Jordan Steranka - have recorded their 100th career hits this season while Heath could become the third before the year ends. He's at 96 hits with seven games remaining. Ironically, both Picconi's and Steranka's 100th hits left the yard, against Ohio State (4/24) and Kent State (3/31), respectively.
With two full years still remaining, Steranka has a chance to finish his Lion career amongst the program leaders in hits. He is already at 134. Only seven players in program history have reached 200 career hits, led by Michael Campo's school-record 295.
Rewriting The Record Books
Along with the potential school records (mentioned above), a number of other players have a chance to be among the program's best.
First baseman Joey DeBernardis' 425 putouts this season already put him fourth in school history. His 69 hits are already within four of the top 10 in school history. DeBernardis is on pace for approximately 80 hits, which would put him third. His 14 doubles are within two of sixth place on the single-season list while his 95 total bases are within five of the top 10.
Infielder Louie Picconi already has 151 assists on the season, good for fifth in school history. He has a chance to break the school record of 188 held by Eric Spadt in 2000.
Jordan Steranka's 103 total bases have already tied last season's mark and are good for 10th in Penn State history. He is on pace for 118, which would place him fifth.
Ben Heath's 49 runs are tied for 10th in school history while his 54 RBI are sixth. He is on pace for 57 runs and 63 RBI which would put him fourth and second, respectively. His .757 slugging percentage would be second in school history as well.
Steve Snyder's resurgence has put him within five steals of the top 10 in that category. He is currently at 11 with seven regular season games remaining.
Both Snyder (52 hits) and Elliot Searer (53) have an outside chance of breaking the school's freshman hits record set by Steranka last season (70).
The 2010 season has also seen a number of notable streaks.
Senior David Lutz's scoreless inning streak ended at a career-high 8.1 innings at Ohio State. It was also the first earned run he allowed in his previous 13.2 innings.
Redshirt freshman Elliot Searer saw his career-high 17-game hitting streak come to an end against All-American candidate Alex Wimmers, but he did reach base all three times to up his on-base streak, which eventually ended at 25. His hitting streak was tied for eighth in school history.
The 25-game on-base streak marked Penn State's second-longest streak this season and the Lions' third of 20 or more games - along with DeBernardis and Ben Heath, who has the high of 26 which was snapped against La Salle.
Heath had his 19-game hitting streak snapped at Purdue, which now stands fourth in school history. It is also tied for the 60th longest streak in NCAA Division I baseball this season.
In total, Heath hit an incredible .459 (34-for-74) with eight home runs, 30 RBI, eight doubles and 20 runs scored along with 11 multi-hit games as part of the streak. He improved his average by 71 points in that span.
Sophomore Joey DeBernardis' on-base streak was snapped at 24 games at Purdue, but Heath's on-base streak reached 26 games before ending on Tuesday against La Salle.
Searer's and Heath's hit streaks are similar to two from last year - Jordan Steranka (18), Blake Lynd (14).
Michael Campo owns the school record (41) while Mike DeRenzo has the second-longest (23).
A number of players bring significant hitting streaks into this weekend's action at Minnesota - DeBernardis (10), Steve Snyder (10), Steranka (9) and Sean Deegan (8).
Penn State Catchers - Double The Success
The Nittany Lions present arguably the best catching duo 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 .379 and Jacobs batting .303. The two have put up incredible numbers and are hitting a combined .353 with 19 home runs, 68 RBI, 23 doubles, 94 hits and 61 runs scored. They've recorded 43 extra-base hits.
In addition, Heath and Jacobs have already posted career-highs in doubles with 14 and nine, respectively. In total, they own 31 percent of the team's two-baggers (23-of-75).
Ben Heath - Johnny Bench Award Candidate
Penn State junior Ben Heath (Huntersville, N.C.) is one of 75 Division I catchers on 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.
All-America & Dick Howser Trophy Candidate
Heath's incredible season has put him on the national radar.
The National Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) has added him to the Dick Howser Trophy Watch List and All-America ballot. The Howser trophy is presented annually to the national collegiate baseball player of the year.
Heath has asserted himself as one of the nation's top catchers. When comparing his season to the other Johnny Bench Award candidates, he is near the top of almost every statistical category (complete comparison as of May 3).
He is first in home runs (17), extra-base hits (31), total bases (129) and slugging percentage (.772), second in OPS (1.229) and runs scored (47) and fourth in RBI (53). He is also ranked in the top 10 in hits (62) and doubles (14) - among other categories.
Heath also cracked the Rivals.com weekly college baseball power rankings. He is rated as the sixth best catcher in the nation among all 301 Division I teams. The All-America and Johnny Bench Award candidate is one of two Big Ten catchers ranked, along with Michigan's Chris Berset, who comes in seventh. Rivals.com, powered by Yahoo.com, unveils weekly positional power rankings throughout the entire college baseball season.
Tracking Heath: Season Updates
Heath has already tied the school's single-season home run record, averaging a home run every 10.4 at-bats. He by far leads Penn State in almost every statistical category. His current OPS is an incredible 1.214 while his slugging percentage of .757 would put him second in program history. He could also finish among the top five (if not top) in nearly every statistical category, including hits, runs, RBI and total bases (among others).
In total, Heath leads the Lions with a career-high 17 home runs, 14 doubles, 54 RBI and .757 slugging percentage. He also has a team-best .457 on-base percentage. Heath is hitting .379 in 45 games (all starts), with his average jumping 59 points (from .318) over the last month.
Heath has a 1.378 OPS behind a .855 slugging percentage and .523 on-base percentage in 18 games against Big Ten opponents. He is at .435 with eight home runs and 23 RBI.
Heath now has three home runs in two games against nationally-ranked Pittsburgh, who is 34-12 on the season, and six long balls in five games against BIG EAST teams.
The highlight of last weekend was his first triple since 2008, when he went 2-for-4 on Saturday.
In four games two weeks ago, Heath batted .429 (6-for-14) with five walks, a hit-by-pitch, six RBI and nine runs scored to go with his two long balls (both on Sunday vs. Michigan State). It already marked his fourth two-homer game of the season (and fifth of his career). His OBP for the week was .600 along with an .857 slugging percentage good for a 1.457 OPS. As part of the Lions' weekend sweep of Michigan State, Heath reached base an incredible 75 percent of the time (12-of-16 plate appearances) against the Big Ten's top pitching staff entering the weekend - via six hits, five walks and the HBP.
A week prior, the junior catcher had his second straight three-homer week, with all three long balls coming in the span of two days against Ohio State - both Penn State wins. He was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Apr. 26 for his efforts.
Heath began the Purdue series by hitting a second-inning home run off one of the Big Ten's best pitchers (and New York Mets draftee) - Matt Bischoff - on Friday. He finished 2-for-3 on the afternoon.
Before his monster game against Pittsburgh (4/13), Heath finished the series against Northwestern (4/9-11) with a .583 average (7-for-12) along with three doubles. He also had two three-hit games to tie a career-high.
Big Ten opening weekend at Illinois (4/2-4) featured a home run in back-to-back games. It marked the third time that he went deep in two or more consecutive games. He then made it four times with home runs in consecutive games vs. Pittsburgh (4/13) and Purdue (4/16).
Against Pittsburgh (3/24) and Hofstra (3/26-28), 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.
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, 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 (3/19-21), playing in three of four games with a .455 average (5-for-11), a double, two home runs (including first-career grand slam), 10 RBI and six runs scored. He also had four walks, improving his on-base percentage to .600 for the week.
His hits have come at huge moments, starting in the season-opener vs. Cincinnati (2/26) when his solo homer in the sixth broke a 1-1 deadlock.
Then against Notre Dame (2/28), 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.
Against McNeese State (3/5), his home run doubled Penn State's lead from three (4-1) to six (7-1), serving as the key knockout blow in a 12-6 win.
Heath has also been strong defensively, posting a .991 fielding percentage while throwing out 28 percent of potential base stealers (17-of-60).
The Series With Minnesota
Minnesota leads the all-time series, 30-19, with all games coming since Penn State's first year in the Big Ten (1992).
The Nittany Lions did win the last meeting though, in last season's finale, 10-8, to spoil the Gophers' chance at the Big Ten Regular Season Championship.
Penn State is 11-18 all-time in Minneapolis, but has won two of its last three - both in a doubleheader sweep on May 16, 2008.
The series has been extremely competitive with Penn State going 10-11 in the last 21 games.
The Golden Gophers are in the midst of a resurgence in the Big Ten after struggling (12-19 record) in nonconference action. They are one of four teams currently tied for first with a 10-8 conference mark.
A pitching-oriented squad, Minnesota's team ERA is an impressive 4.71. Last week's Big Ten Pitcher of the Week - Scott Matyas - leads in ERA with a stellar 2.88 mark and five saves. Phil Isaakson is 4-1 with a 3.08 ERA while Seth Rosin comes in at 5-4 with a 4.44 and TJ Oakes is 3-3 with a 4.08.
Nick O'Shea and Michael Kvasnicka lead the way at the plate - coming in first and second in RBI with 42 and 41, respectively. They also bring impressive averages of .355 and .356. Only two other regulars are hitting .300 or greater - Matt Puhl (.327) and Kyle Knudson (.307).
Minnesota comes in winners of three of four - two victories against conference power Michigan and one vs. nationally ranked Kansas State.
Snyder & Lutz Sweep Big Ten Baseball Awards Following Michigan State Sweep
Following a sensational all-around weekend, two Penn State baseball players were recognized with Big Ten weekly awards.
Freshman outfielder Steve Snyder (West Chester, Pa.) was named Player of the Week after hitting .632 in four games while senior pitcher David Lutz (West Chester, Pa.) earned Pitcher of the Week accolades, going 2-0 with a 0.82 ERA in 11.0 innings.
Snyder Included On College Baseball Foundation's National All-Star Lineup
Just two days after garnering Big Ten Player of the Week laurels, freshman Steve Snyder was one of 16 players named to the weekly National All-Star Lineup, as announced by the College Baseball Foundation.
The week 10 lineup includes some of the nation's top players from nationally ranked teams including Virginia, Louisville, Texas Christian, Oregon and more. Snyder batted .632 in four games last week, including a .667 clip in the Lions' series sweep of Michigan State.
Lutz Named CollegeBaseballInsider.com Central Pitcher Of Week
Senior pitcher David Lutz was also named CollegeBaseballInsider.com's Central Pitcher of the Week.
This came only hours after Steve Snyder was named to College Baseball Foundation's National All-Star Lineup.
Sweeping The Spartans Away
Penn State won its second straight series against a team in the Big Ten lead (either solely or tied).
The Lions swept an opponent (conference or nonconference) for the first time all season while sweeping Michigan State for only the second time in school history. Last time also came at home in a four-game set in 2001. Penn State had lost five straight against the Spartans.
In total, the Lions ended up winning six straight Big Ten games, their longest conference winning streak since 2007.
Outscoring Michigan State 49-13 behind 18-7, 22-5 and 9-1 wins, Penn State won five straight games by a combined score of 81-29, scoring an average of 16.2 runs/game.
What makes it more impressive is who they've beaten. The Buckeyes came into the late-April series with the Big Ten's top ERA, as did the Spartans. That changed quickly.
Lost on Saturday was Bobby Jacobs' performance, coming off the bench with a two-run double to give Penn State its first pinch-hit of the season.
At one point, Michael Glantz reached base in seven straight plate appearances (a PSU season-high). He went 4-for-4 (to tie a career-high) on Friday while walking twice, then walked in his first at-bat on Saturday.
The 49 runs were the most Penn State has ever scored in a three-game series and only one shy of the school record. The Lions scored 50 in a four-game set against La Salle in 1997.
Saturday's 22-run outburst was the most since Apr. 4, 2001 when they bested Cornell, 26-4. It also marked the program's first 20-run game since then.
It was the first time the Lions scored 20 against a Big Ten squad since (ironically) beating Michigan State, 21-8 on Apr. 5, 1998. The 22 runs also stand as a Penn State record for a Big Ten game.
At one point on Saturday, Penn State was leading 20-4 with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, looking to potentially break the school record for runs in a game (28). In the end, it fell six runs short of tying the mark, set in that 1997 series against La Salle when the Nittany Lions won, 28-1 on Mar. 22.
Down 6-2 in the sixth inning on Friday, Glantz reached base in what began an incredible streak of batting around. Glantz went on to lead off all three innings in which the Lions batted around.
Penn State went on to bat around in the sixth, seventh and eight, along with the first inning on Saturday to up its streak to four straight innings. The Lions batted around twice more on Saturday to make it six in the span of two games (16 innings), including six of nine frames at one point.
The Lions scored four, four, eight, five, seven and five runs during those "batting-around" innings, making it a total of 38 runs in the span of 11 innings and 36 in nine (bridging the sixth inning Friday to the sixth inning Saturday). For comparison, the 36 runs over nine innings (one game) would have shattered the school record for runs in a game (28).
Lutz Not Out Of Place
Senior pitcher David Lutz has been in an unfamiliar role the past two Sundays - his first-career starts.
Against Michigan State, the spot starter ended up going the distance, Penn State's second complete game this season (the other was Ryan Ignas vs. Hofstra) and first nine-inning complete game since teammate Mike Wanamaker on May 21, 2008 against Indiana.
For Lutz, this came only two days after the durable lefty threw two innings on Friday.
Overall, Lutz had a 0.82 ERA that week in 11.0 innings while he currently owns a miniscule 1.25 ERA over his last 28.2 innings of work to lower his team-best mark to 3.03.
He also leads the team with 62.1 innings, this mainly out of the bullpen.
Wounded Warrior Benefit Game A Success!
The May 1 game was developed to honor and empower wounded warriors. The WWP purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service members, to help severely injured men and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a national, apolitical organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla. For more, check out the official event web page at www.gopsusports.com/woundedwarrior.
In total, an estimated $5,000+ was raised for the project behind one dollar per ticket sale, T-Shirt sales, online and silent auction and more.
Significance Of Ohio State Success
In winning two-of-three at Ohio State, the Nittany Lions captured their first-ever road series win against the Buckeyes. They had split on a number of previous occasions.
It also marked Ohio State's first Big Ten series loss all year.
Both wins were eight-run victories to (at the time) mark season-highs for run differential in a game. The previous high was at Illinois when Penn State won by seven (16-9 final).
The Lions scored 32 runs over the final two days, the first time they've scored that many over a two-game stretch since Mar. 29-30 of 2005 when they topped St. Bonaventure, 15-4 and Bucknell, 19-6.
Scoring 10+ runs in back-to-back games marked the first time since last Apr. 5 and 8 when they plated 16 at Michigan and 12 vs. Bucknell.
Saturday: Penn State 18, Ohio State 10
Penn State's four home runs tied a season-high - also had four in the Big Ten opening win at Illinois.
Elliot Searer's five hits tied the single-game school record. Only 12 other Nittany Lions have reached that many with the last (ironically) coming three years ago to the day when Matt Cavagnaro had five on Apr. 24, 2007 vs. Duquesne.
Ben Heath set a new career-high with four hits. He also tied career-highs in home runs (2), runs scored (4) and at-bats (6).
Sunday: Penn State 14, Ohio State 6
Strong pitching from Ryan Ignas coupled with another offensive outburst led the Penn State baseball team to a 14-6 win at Ohio State.
Leading 4-3 in the seventh, Heath gave the Lions some breathing room with a leadoff homer to left field. That sparked a seven-run inning to give Penn State an 11-3 advantage.
A day after Elliot Searer had a five-hit game, Steve Snyder recorded a career-high four, going 4-for-6 with an RBI and two runs scored. Jordan Steranka was 2-for-6 with two RBI and three runs while Sean Deegan went 2-for-4 with an RBI and run.
Searer Continues To Shine
Redshirt freshman Elliot Searer has taken advantage of increased playing time by hitting .358, fourth on the team.
The highlight of his season came on Saturday at Ohio State when he tied a school record with five hits, becoming only the 13th player in school history with that many. The last (ironically) came three years ago to the day when Matt Cavagnaro had five on Apr. 24, 2007 against Duquesne.
Searer had a standout game in the series finale at Purdue when he finished 2-for-3 with two walks and two RBI. He recorded 40 percent of Penn State's hits (2-of-5) while reaching base four times. He also had a big two-run single in the seventh inning.
He has at least one hit in 29 of 35 starts, including 15 multi-hit games.
Searer owns the Lions' second-longest hit streak this season -17 - good for eighth in school history.
The Lewistown, Pa. native showed his versatility when he saw his first-career action in the outfield after working solely as an infielder.
He also led off for the first time at Illinois.
Searer has been an opportune base runner, swiping nine bags on the season (third on the team), including a career-high two in the series finale against Hofstra.
Redshirt senior pitcher Mike Wanamaker has impressed of late, including at Purdue (4/18) in (at the time) his best start since returning from injury. He threw 6.2 dazzling innings, allowing only six hits and two runs (one earned). He left with the lead, but ended up with a no-decision.
The native of Upper Nyack, N.Y. bounced back from a tough outing at Ohio State by earning the win against Michigan State (5/1).
He earned his second consecutive win by going eight innings, allowing only two runs in a dominating 10-strikeout performance against Iowa. It marked a season-high in innings pitched and career-high in punchouts.
Wanamaker returned to the mound against Texas A&M (3/10) after missing last season. He was a Second Team All-Big Ten honoree in 2008.
On a pitch count, he tossed the first four innings, 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 in a span bridging the first through fourth innings.
Wanamaker was strong against Kent State (3/19), tossing six strong innings for his first win since 2008.
Lions Stage Impressive Comeback Win Over Nationally Ranked Pittsburgh On Apr. 13
Trailing 8-4, the Penn State baseball team responded with five runs in the seventh inning and five more in the eighth on its way to a thrilling 14-8 victory over No. 24 Pittsburgh at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
The Nittany Lions ultimately took the lead off Panthers' ace starter Corey Baker, who entered in the seventh inning and was touched up for three runs in 1.1 innings. Ben Heath once again spearheaded the Penn State offensive attack, going 3-for-5 with two home runs.
Pittsburgh is now up to an incredible 34-12 on the season.
All-Time Against BIG EAST
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 three-of-five BIG EAST games so far this season, Penn State is now 263-138-2 against current members of that conference.
The squad has faced Pittsburgh the most (122 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 road tilt at Villanova (5/18) still remains.
The 11-inning loss to Northwestern (4/10) marked Penn State's fifth extra-inning game of the season. The Lions are 2-3 in those contests.
After a 12 game "drought," the Nittany Lions saw the Mar. 20 tilt 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.
Until Apr. 10, the Lions were 0-2 in games ending in 10 innings, but 2-0 in games lasting longer than 10 frames. That ended when Northwestern scored in the 11th to hand Penn State's first "over 10 inning" loss.
Ironically, three of the extra-inning games were when Ryan Ignas has started - Northwestern (4/10), Winthrop (3/20), Cincinnati (2/26).
Johnson Shows Versatility
Junior Heath Johnson came out of the bullpen against Bucknell (4/6) for his first-career pitching appearance after starting 20 games in the outfield.
The native of Alamagordo, N.M. tossed a scoreless fourth inning, while striking out one.
He then pitched a scoreless ninth inning vs. Northwestern (4/11) for his first-career save. This after starting the game as the DH. He also struck out the only batter he faced at Purdue (4/18).
Johnson came back in the finale at Ohio State to throw a career-high 2.1 innings as part of the 14-6 victory.
Johnson is the third of three position players to pitch this season as Steve Snyder and Joey DeBernardis have also seen action.
With the walk-off win over Bucknell (4/6), Penn State has seen an incredible eight games this season end via a walk-off of some kind, five in the Nittany Lions' favor.
Joey DeBernardis has two walk-off singles while his bouncer to third against Hofstra was thrown away to give the Lions the 2-1 victory. Juniors Mario Eramo and Bobby Jacobs were at the plate for the Lions' other walk-offs.
After the Nittany Lions came back for a 6-5 win over Columbia at the Coca-Cola Classic, Winthrop pulled out a 14-13 walk-off (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."
The Nittany Lions have staged some impressive late-inning comebacks, including against Bucknell (4/6) when they plated two ninth-inning runs for the victory.
Down 5-0 against Columbia (3/20), 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 vs. Kent State before scoring two to hold on for the win.
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.
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 Feb. 20 game was canceled.
From The Pocket To The "Hill"
Freshman pitcher Steven Hill, also a quarterback on the football team, has been strong in his first collegiate appearances - owning a 5.69 ERA, second on the team among regulars.
He followed up his first-career start against Lamar (3/6), with another strong performance 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 (3/20). 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 and earn his second win.
He picked up his first-career save, tossing 1.1 scoreless frames against No. 24 Pittsburgh (4/13), then at Ohio State (4/23), he dueled with one of the nation's best pitchers in Alex Wimmers, falling just short. In the end, he only allowed three runs in a career-high seven innings.
Six Penn State pitchers - Ryan Ignas, Neal Herring, Steven Hill, Mike Wanamaker, Calvin Grumley and David Lutz - have combined to toss 15 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 (3/19) when he only allowed three runs in six innings for the victory.
Ignas and Herring posted quality starts against Hofstra (3/27-28), each throwing seven innings while allowing one and two earned runs, respectively.
Ignas then dazzled against Northwestern (4/10), going a career-high 7.1 innings, allowing only one earned run.
Arguably Penn State's best pitching performance of the season came at Purdue (4/18) when Wanamaker went 6.2 innings, only allowing six hits and one earned run against the high-powered Boilers' offense.
Grumley was strong, allowing only two runs (one earned) in six innings vs. Mount St. Mary's (4/21).
The most recent quality start came when Lutz made his first-career start and went the distance in Sunday's 9-1 win over Michigan State. Then Wanamaker went eight strong, allowing only two runs with eight K's vs. Iowa.
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.
About Wounded Warrior - May 1 Benefit Game
May 1 against Michigan State marks a special day for Penn State baseball as it hosts a Wounded Warrior Benefit Game. The mission of the Wounded Warrior Project is to honor and empower wounded warriors. Its purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service members, to help severely injured men and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a national, apolitical organization headquartered in Jacksonville, FL. To get involved and learn more, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.
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.
For the complete story, please click here
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.
For the complete story, please click here
Lions Release Ticket & Promotional Information
Penn State baseball season tickets are very affordable at $99 in the box and $63 all other sections. Youth and students are only $20! 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 (email@example.com).
For more information, please click here
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).
For the complete story, please click here
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 867-2202 with any questions or to RSVP.
For more information, please click here.
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 (email@example.com) 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.