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Nebraska Baseball: Weekend Preview vs Penn State

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Claiming the top spot in the conference once again this week and with Michigan ranked #25, Nebraska fans are wondering, what’s a team gotta do to crack the top 25?

Series Preview:

Date: April 16th - 18th

Time: April 16th (Fri.) @ 5:00 p.m, April 17th (Sat.) @ 12:00 p.m, April 18th (Sun.) @ 10:00 a.m.

Location: Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, University Park, Pennsylvania

Record(s): Penn State (8-12) 11th in Big Ten & Nebraska: (15-6) 1st in Big Ten

Head Coach(s): Rob Cooper

Stream: BTN+

Radio: Husker Sports Network

The Nebraska boys were at it again this past weekend taking two of three against the Maryland Terrapins. The Huskers outscored the Terps 27 to 15 and continued to show dominance offensively and with the pitching staff, not to mention a fielding percentage that continues to be top five in the country. The Cornhuskers lead the Big Ten in Batting Avg. runs scored, RBI’s, Stolen Bases, On-Base Percentage, and Sacrifice Bunts. The team is clearly firing on all cylinders right now and it doesn’t seem like theres much they can do wrong.

Cade Povich and Shay Schanaman shined on the mound once again. Povich pitched 6.1 innings in the series opener while striking out five and allowing only two runs on four hits. Schanaman remains perfect and fanned a career high 11 hitters. Spencer Schwellenbach came in to close a game pitching one inning with two strikeouts keeping his ERA at 0.00 on the season. Junior reliever Jake Bunz came in for 2.2 innings on the weekend striking out six and giving up no hits. Lincoln high grad Cam Wynne continues to be a reliable arm out of the pen pitching two innings and only giving up one hit.

Senior captain and outfielder Joe Acker has been unstoppable lately and is no doubt one of the hottest hitters in the Big Ten. Acker went seven for fourteen on the weekend with three RBI’s and four doubles. Freshman Bryce Matthews went four for eleven with a double and seven RBI’s on the weekend, capped off by a monster grand slam late in game three which put the game out of reach for Maryland. These true freshman in the Husker lineup are getting comfortable and it’s a great sight for Husker fans. Cam Chick, Luke Roskam, Jaxon Hallmark, Max Anderson, and Spencer Schwellenbach also had very consistently solid weekends at the plate as well.

Maryland was one of if not the hottest team going into the series, and left Lincoln looking relieved to be headed back home. The Huskers head up against a Penn State team that has really struggled offensively and owns a pitching staff that is averaging nine runs a game, which could be a problem against a good pitching team and one of the most potent offenses in the country in Nebraska.

Penn State:

March 16th: vs Illinois @ 5:00 p.m

March 17th: vs Illinois @ 12:00 p.m

March 18th: vs Illinois @ 10:00 a.m

Penn State is coming off of a weekend split between two teams from the bottom half of the conference standings in Michigan State and Purdue. The Lions are averaging 5.0 runs per game and giving up about 9.1 runs per game. As a team the Nittany Lions are hitting just .264 with only one starter (Gavin Homer), hitting above .300. The Huskers on the other hand are hitting .292 with five players hitting above .300. They’ve also only scored 96 runs this year whereas Nebraska has scored 162.

The offense’s main weapon for the Nittany Lions is Senior Infielder Gavin Homer, he is hitting .338 with five doubles, a home run, and six RBI. Behind him is sophomore Justin Williams who is hitting .299 with five doubles and three home runs on the season. Catcher Josh Spiegel and freshman Johnny Placentino are the only other two hitters on the team with more than 20 hits hitting .278 and .263 respectively. Placentino also leads the team in homers with five. Hitting is definitely not the strength of this Nittany Lions ball club and they’re going to need their guys to step it up if they want to climb back into the standings.

The pitching for Penn State has been okay but has also really struggled at times. The starting pitching has been serviceable but their bullpen has really struggled and late game has not been very kind to the Lions. The Lions rotation is lead by a trio of Junior Righties as Connor Larkin has been the teams best starter so far owning a 3.38 ERA in six appearances with a 2-3 record while also leading the team in strikeouts (41). Another junior righty in Kyle Virbitsky owns a 4.58 ERA with 36 strikeouts in 35.1 innings which is right behind Larkin for second on the Team. Bailey Dees (5.74 ERA) and freshman Jaden Henline (3.98) round out the rotation.

As for the teams bullpen, only one reliever has more than three appearances and a sub 5.00 ERA and that is redshirt sophomore Ralph Gambino. Gambino owns a 1.80 ERA in only five innings however with only three strikeouts. Tyler Shinglehelder leads the team in appearances with 24 strikeouts but in 15.1 innings has gotten hit hard owning a 5.28 ERA. Mason Mellot is right behind him with a 5.65 ERA in 14.1 innings with only ten strikeouts. Steven Miller, Hutch Gagnon, and Jared Freilich all have been frequently turned to relievers but their ERA’s are all above 7.00.

The verdict here is that there are a lot of good pieces to this team but only a few of them have really put it together yet. With an offense like the Huskers’, the Nittany Lions are gonna need their hitters to find their swings this weekend if they’re gonna have a chance at winning any games this weekend. The bullpen struggles are also a concern if you’re a Penn State fan since Nebraska has absolutely dominated the later innings. With the momentum the Huskers have, I expect them to keep on rolling against Penn State this weekend and hopefully come out of this week ranked in the top 25.

Prediction: Huskers sweep series 3-0