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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Penn State will conclude its 2018 baseball season with a three-game series at Iowa in Duane Banks Field Thursday-Saturday. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. ET Thursday and Friday, while Saturday’s game is set to start at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be televised live on ESPNU.
Live Video: BTN Plus (Thu.-Fri), Watch ESPN (Sat.)
Live Audio: GoPSUsports.com
Live Stats: HawkeyeSports.com
TV: ESPNU (Sat.)
Radio: State College’s ESPN Radio 1450
Series History: Penn State, 39-33
Last Series: Iowa, 3-0 (2017)
PSU RHP Bailey Dees (1-2, 6.26 ERA)
IOWA LHP Nick Allgeyer (5-4, 2.71)
PSU RHP Justin Hagenman (3-6, 4.26 ERA)
IOWA RHP Cole McDonald (3-1, 3.61 ERA)
PSU LHP Dante Biasi (3-5, 4.89 ERA)
IOWA LHP Jack Dreyer (4-2, 3.86 ERA)
Finishing on a High Note
Penn State enters the Iowa series on a three-game winning streak, which is its longest since winning three in a row at Elon to open the season.
Penn State has won six of its last nine games, which is its winningest stretch since also winning six of nine games Feb. 26-Mar. 11, 2017.
Penn State won consecutive three-game series (Michigan State (5/4-5); Xavier (5/10-11) for the first time since early in the 2017 season against Pacific (3/4-6/17) and Sacramento State (3/9-11/17).
Penn State’s six wins in the month of May are the most wins in any month this season. Penn State’s previous high was four wins in all of March.
Penn State is hitting and pitching well above its season averages over the last 13 games.
The Lions were batting just .218 with 131 runs scored (3.97 per game) in their first 33 games, but are hitting at a .284 clip with 86 runs scored (6.62 per game) in their last 13. In their last three games, the Lions are batting .367 (36-for-98) with 30 runs scored (10 per game).
Penn State’s ERA after 33 games was nearly a season-high 6.23, but the Lions’ ERA over the last 13 is 3.60. It was a minuscule 1.33 against Michigan State two weekends ago, Penn State’s last Big Ten series, and 1.96 in the last three games.
Like many teams across the country Penn State was affected by inclement weather.
The Nittany Lions had five games canceled due to weather this season, including two national television appearances on BTN, and had a series at Minnesota moved to Purdue.
Weather shortened a pair of games, a loss to Cornell was reduced to eight innings in March due to fog, while Penn State won a rain-shortened game at Villanova Tuesday.
Freshmen and Newcomers Step Up
Penn State’s freshmen and newcomers have been particularly impressive in its last four wins.
Penn State’s top-three hitters over the stretch are all newcomers. Playing in three of the games, freshman middle infielder Tommy Gibson has gone a team-best 6-for-10 (.600) with a double four RBIs and four runs scored. Classmate Parker Hendershot has seen similar success, going 7-for-15 (.467) with a game-winning home run, two doubles, six RBIs and six runs scored. Junior transfer Shea Sbranti trails the pair batting .364 (4-for-11), but is reaching base at a team-best .588 clip with a homer, double, five RBIs, four hit by pitches, four runs and two walks.
Freshmen started on the mound in three of the four wins. In the two wins over Xavier, Penn State used seven pitchers, of which six were freshmen who pitched 15 2/3 out of 16 possible innings pitched.
Thursday, senior Jake Pilewicz was the lone veteran to pitch, but it was for just one out. RHP Kyle Virbitsky earned his first career win with a scoreless eighth and RHP Mason Mellott picked up his fourth save of the season. RHP Bailey Dees made his third start of the season and went a career-high 4 1/3 innings, striking out a career-high nine but allowing four runs on three hits and two walks. RHP Conor Larkin got the Lions out of a jam in the fifth and pitched into the seventh, and playing matchups LHP Jeff Taylor got the final out of the seventh.
In the second game of a doubleheader Friday, LHP Dante Biasi threw a seven-inning complete game, allowing just an unearned run on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts.
At the plate in the two wins over Xavier, freshmen Hendershot, Gibson, Curtis Robison and Derek Orndorff combined to bat .500 with nine of the 21 hits, five of nine extra base hits, nine of 19 RBIs and 12 of the 19 runs scored.
Thursday, Hendershot drove in a career-high four runs and broke a deadlocked game in the eighth inning with his first career home run. Led by Hendershot, the Nittany Lion freshmen drove in five of the six runs. Hendershot and Robison accounted for half of Penn State’s eight hits, as they both posted two each.
In the second game of a doubleheader Friday, Gibson reached base four times and scored all four times, going a career-high 3-for-3 with a double and RBI.
Finding a Way
Freshman Derek Orndorff holds the team’s longest active reached base streak at eight despite having hits in just three of the games, batting .176 (3-for-17).
Orndorff has been plunked four times and drawn five walks for a team-best .462 on-base percentage in the eight games.
Hendershot Heating Up at the Dish
Freshman Parker Hendershot has been Penn State’s hottest hitter over the last 18 games.
Over the last 18, Hendershot is batting a team-best .375 (24-for-64), 42 points higher than the next highest average on the team (Ryan Sloniger, .333). with a team-high 24 hits.
Hendershot’s 20 RBIs are nine more than the next highest figures (Sloniger and Jordan Bowersox, 11).
Despite just making 27 starts and 32 appearances in 46 games, Hendershot is third on the team with 23 RBIs and second on the team with seven multi-RBI games).
Hendershot’s .468 on-base percentage over the last 18 games is 39 points higher than the next highest total (Sloniger, .429). Hendershot also has a team-best 11 walks.
Hendershot hit his first career home run in the Xavier series opener. It came in the bottom of the eighth inning and gave Penn State a 6-5 win.
Catcher Ryan Sloniger has been the team’s leading hitter all season.
Sloniger currently leads the team with a .306 batting average, five home runs, 12 doubles, 30 RBIs, 49 hits, 80 total bases, a .500 slugging percentage and .406 on-base percentage.
Sloniger’s five home runs, 12 doubles and 26 RBIs surpass his 2017 totals of one home run, four doubles and seven RBIs. He had two career home runs, 10 doubles and 24 RBIs in 78 games played over his first two seasons.
He has started 82.6 percent (38-of-46) of Penn State’s games behind the plate this season, including the first 18-straight. Overall, he started the first 29 consecutive games of the season o with 28 starts at catcher and one at designated hitter.
Over the last 10 games, Sloniger and fellow Punxsutawney product Braxton Giavedoni are the team’s leading hitters with .355 and .321 batting averages, respectively
Sloniger had a hit in 17 of the first 19 games this season. He opened the season on a nine-game hitting streak. It was the longest hitting streak to start a season since Jim Haley tallied at least one hit in the first 10 games of 2016 and it remains the longest hitting streak by a Nittany Lion this season.
Hagenman Leads Rotation
Junior RHP Justin Hagenman leads the Nittany Lions with a 4.26 ERA and 72 strikeouts (4th in Big Ten) in 68 2/3 innings pitched (t-9th in Big Ten).
Hagenman is particularly adept at striking out hitters looking, as he ranks second in the conference with 34 backwards K’s.
Hagenman is 3-5 on the season in 12 starts, leaving with the lead three times and in a tie game once in four no decisions. Two of his losses have come when Penn State scored one or fewer runs.
In his last Big Ten start, which was against Michigan State, Hagenman threw seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts to earn his first win since Mar. 17 against NJIT.
The week prior against Northwestern, Hagenman worked eight innings, allowing four runs (two earned) and striking out eight. Despite leaving with a two-run lead, Penn State was unable to secure the win.
If not for an uncharacteristic outings at Michigan (4/20) and against Xavier (5/11) in which he gave up a combined 16 runs in 6 2/3 innings, Hagenman would have a 2.54 ERA for the season. The 16 earned runs allowed represent 45.7 percent (16-of-35) of the runs he’s allowed in 13 starts this season.
In the series finale against Xavier, freshman LHP Dante Biasi threw Penn State’s first complete game win (7.0 IP) since Greg Welsh did the same on May 17, 2013 against Michigan State.
It was Penn State’s first complete game overall since current junior RHP Justin Hagenman went the distance (8.0 IP) in a loss at Indiana on May 13, 2017.
Biasi’s complete game was the first for Penn State this season. Two were thrown last season, as in addition to Hagenman’s, Dante’s older brother Sal Biasi threw a complete game against Maryland (8.1 IP).
Biasi is the first Penn State freshman to throw a complete game since Sean Stidfole went nine innings in a complete game win over Ohio State on April 6, 2003. It was Stidfole’s first career start.
Biasi has been Penn State’s most dominant pitcher the past three weekends, going 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA in 20.0 innings pitched. He has allowed just three runs (two earned) on 10 hits and 10 walks with 12 strikeouts.
Freshmen On the Mound
Freshmen have pitched 178 1/3 of the 397 2/3 innings pitched (45 percent) for Penn State this season and started 19 of 46 games (41 percent) this season.
Two of Penn State’s starters in the Xavier series were freshman, led by RHP Bailey Dees making his third career start Thursday and Dante Biasi making his 13th Friday. Kyle Virbitsky made his first career start at Villanova (5/15).
Dees, Biasi and Virbitsky are three of five freshmen to draw starts on the mound along with Conor Larkin (2) and Jeff Taylor (1).
Biasi has been a regular in the weekend rotation and ranks second on the team with 57.0 innings pitched.
Freshman RHP Mason Mellott leads the team with four saves. His four saves are the most by a Penn State freshman since Ryan Ignas saved five games in 2009.
An NCAA-leading (courtesy Chris Rash, Elon) 39 percent of Penn State’s games this season (18 of 44) have been decided by one run, with Penn State going 5-13 in those 18 games.
Penn State’s 18 one-run games are its most since playing in a program-record 19 one-run games in 2006.
Penn State’s 13 one-run losses are its most in program history, surpassing the record of 12 set in 2006.
Five of Penn State’s 13 wins have been by one run, and seven have been decided by two runs or less.
Twenty-two of Penn State’s 44 games played this season have been decided by two runs or less. Penn State is 8-14 in those games.
Junior catcher Ryan Sloniger leads the team with five home runs.
Following Sloniger are redshirt sophomore infielder Connor Klemann and sophomore outfielder Braxton Giavedoni with four each.
Sloniger had two home runs in his first two seasons and Klemann had not hit a home run prior to this season. Giavedoni’s four home runs this season best his total for all of last season.
Penn State has 21 homers this season hit by nine different players. Parker Hendershot hit his first career home run in the series opener against Xavier.
A trio of Nittany Lions are making their mark on the program’s career records list.
Junior catcher Ryan Sloniger ranks ninth all-time at Penn State with 748 putouts. He is trailing Todd Stoner, who totaled 871, (1986-89) for eighth.
Junior pitcher Justin Hagenman ranks tied for fourth sixth all-time at 41 career starts. with Craig Clark (2004-07) and Dan Goebler (1997-00).
Senior LHP Taylor Lehman is the only Nittany Lion pitcher to rank on both the Penn State career appearances and career starts top-10 lists. With 65, Lehman has moved into eighth, while with 38 starts, he has tied Steven Hill (2010-12) for seventh.
Junior transfer Shea Sbranti ranks second in the Big Ten with 0.33 hit by pitches per game and third overall with 12 this season. The figure ranks him fourth all-time at Penn State in a single-season. Half of his 12 HBPs have come in his last nine games. Sbranti trails Chris Frank’s 1984 season and Michael Campo’s 1999 season (14) for second.
With four saves this season, freshman pitcher Mason Mellott is one save shy of joining an eight-way tie for eighth all-time at Penn State for saves in a single-season.
See Record Watch on Page 9
Penn State’s 17 triples lead the Big Ten and rank 22nd in the NCAA.
A total of 12 different Nittany Lions have a least one triple. Jordan Bowersox leads the team and ranks fourth in the Big Ten with four triples.
The first career hits for freshmen Derek Orndorff and Kris Kremer were both triples.