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Penn State Baseball Off to Another Strong Start

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The Nittany Lions are clicking on all cylinders through their first two weeks but can they keep it up?

Heather Weikel

Last season, we provided weekly updates on the doings of the Penn State baseball program. We’re back and ready to reprise those efforts, though we’re about two weeks late on doing so. However, don’t fear, we’ll recap what you may have missed early on here in 2020.

Entering this weekend, Rob Cooper’s program is sitting at a respectable 5-2 overall. The Nittany Lions have spent their last two weeks at the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, North Carolina.

The Nittany Lions opened their season up on Valentines Day, February 14th with a 9-6 win over fellow in-state program Bucknell. They would drop their first game of the season, the next day to NJIT, 4-2 but rebound shortly after as part of a double-header with a 6-4 win over the Highlanders. They’d finish off their first weekend of play with a 14-2 clobbering of Monmouth.

This past weekend, they had their first official series of the season, taking on the Wagner Seahawks. They would drop their series opener in a pitching duel, 1-0 but would come back strong in the second game of a double-header that day with the bats wide awake, putting up 11 runs on 13 hits, on the way to an 11-0 victory. They allowed just one hit in the blowout. Then on Sunday, they would finish up the series by taking the rubber match in extra innings 4-2.

They’ll once again be playing in Cary, North Carolina this weekend at the USA Baseball Complex with four-games scheduled against the Princeton Tigers. It will be the season opener for the Ivy League program after going 14-26 last season.

The Nittany Lions will finally make it out of North Carolina following this weekend and will play six more games away from State College before playing their home opener on March 18th against Binghamton.

Offensively, the Nittany Lions are rolling early in the season with a team batting average of .301 and an on-base percentage of .402. Offensively, they’ve been led by freshman backstop Matt Wood (Pine Richland - Gibsonia, PA) who has started all seven games for the Nittany Lions and is hitting .423/.516/.462 with four RBI.

Senior Homer Gavin is also hitting above .400 to start the season, entering this weekend with a .412 batting average and an on-base percentage of .524. He’s also tied for the team lead in RBI with seven.

Other notable performers offensively include junior Parker Hendershot who is sporting a slash of .368/.455/.474 heading into this weekend. Additionally, junior outfielder Curtis Robinson has the teams lone home run of the season and is tied with Gavin for the team lead with seven RBI.

The Nittany Lions have also been very effiecient on the base paths with 13 steals in 14 attempts. Three players are tied for the team lead in stolen bases in Homer, Robinson, and two-sport athlete Mac Hippenhammer all recording three so far this season.

While the Nittany Lions have been great at the plate, they’ve been even better on the mound. After seven games, as a team, they’re posting an ERA of 1.68 over 59.0 innings. Their control has been masterful to say the least with just 15 walks while striking out 65.

Starters Connor Larkin and Bailey Dees have been the leaders of the pitching staff through their first two starts. Larkin has an ERA of just .84 this season, allowing a single earned run in 10.2 innings of work. While he’s allowed nine hits, he’s allowed just two walks and has struck out 13. Dees, ERA is slightly higher at 1.54 but opponents are hitting just .143 off of him. In his 11.2 innings so far, he’s allowed just six hits and four walks while striking out 11.

Sophomoer Tyler Shingledecker is off to a great start out of the bullpen with seven scoreless innings pitched. He’s allowed just a single base runner and has struck out eight. We really could go on and on about the pitching performances out of the bullpen but simply everyone is performing well so far this season. The highest ERA on the team entering their third weekend of play is a 4.00.

While the strong start is certainly nice for the Nittany Lions, it’s hard to buy in at this point. Last season, the Nittany Lions started 13-3 overall before completely collapsing once Big Ten play came around and would finish 22-27, going 9-24 over their last 33-games including 4-18 in conference play.