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May 16, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State baseball (27-24, 13-8) travels to Michigan State beginning on Thursday for its final series of the 2012 regular season before Big Ten Tournament action. The Nittany Lions, who have clinched a spot in the conference tournament, are currently tied for second place in the standings with Indiana. If Penn State closes out the weekend with the two seed, it will earn itself a first round bye in the tournament.
First pitch for Thursday and Friday's games will be at 3:05, while Saturday's noon game will air live on the Big Ten Network. Thursday, Friday and Saturday'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 weekend sweep of the Illinois Fighting Illini. It was Penn State's first sweep since April of 2010. Penn State won its fifth-straight Big Ten series for the first time in program history. In Sunday's 3-2 victory, the seniors accounted for all three runs that were scored in the Senior Day contest. Senior Jordan Steranka (Pittsburgh, Pa.) led the way with three hits, two of which were doubles and one of those doubles scoring senior Joey DeBernardis (Lake Zurich, Ill.). Steranka's double in the seventh inning gave him 459 career total bases, passing Michael Campo for first in the Penn State record books.
The Nittany Lions have won 14 of their last 18 contests and are a season-high three games over .500. Penn State, which started the season 7-18 overall, has gone 20-7 in its last 27 games and 24-10 in its last 34. 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 Thursday, followed by junior Steven Hill (Colleyville, Texas) on Friday and junior John Walter (Haddonfield, N.J.) on Sarurday. Kurrasch has allowed just nine earned runs in his last eight starts, posting an ERA of 2.04 on the season. The sophomore has been dominant since becoming a starter, posting an ERA of 1.92 as a starter. Walter had his best start of the season last weekend against Illinois, going eight innings of two- run ball while striking out eight batters. The trio through their last 18 starts have combined for an 8-2 record and a 2.76 ERA in 117.1 innings, while giving up just 95 hits and striking out 99.
Michigan State enters the weekend with a 34-17 overall record to go along with a 12-9 mark in conference play. The Spartans are a very good hitting team, swinging at a .298 clip overall as a team. Leading the way for Michigan State in the lineup is Ryan Jones, who is hitting .363 on the season, good for third overall in the conference. Jones leads the Big Ten in hits with 82 and has also belted three home runs to go along with 33 RBI. Torsten Boss is the Spartans leader when it comes to power, hitting five homers and knocking in 41. The Spartans rank third in the conference in batting average, slugging percentage and on base percentage. RHP Tony Bucciferro (5-3, 3.05), RHP Andrew Waszak (4-3, 2.44) and RHP David Garner (4-3, 3.52) will start on the mound for the Spartans this weekend.
Michigan State holds a 39-29 all-time advantage against the Nittany Lions in the series history. The two teams have exchanged sweeps in the last two series meetings. Last season in East Lansing, Michigan swept. The previous year, the Nittany Lions took all three games in Happy Valley. Penn State is 13-18 in games played at Michigan State and is just 4-6 in the last 10 matchups.
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