Baseball faces unbeaten USF in weekend series

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lion baseball team heads south for a three-game weekend series against the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla. Game one is set for 7 p.m. on Friday night followed by a game on Saturday at 6 p.m. and then the third and final contest is slated for Sunday at 1 p.m.

ALL-TIME SERIES VS. SOUTH FLORIDA: The Nittany Lions and Bulls have not met on the diamond in over 20 years, as the two sides have played five times in the programs' histories. USF leads the head-to-head series 4-1, winning the last four matchups. Penn State was victorious in the first meeting between the two squads, winning in Tampa by a final of 9-3 in 1975. Since then the Bulls have won the last four games, recording a victory in the 1987 and 1989 seasons and winning two in 1991. Each game in the series has been played at the University of South Florida.

SCOUTING THE BULLS: South Florida has gotten off to a hot start in 2014, bringing a perfect 4-0 record into this weekend's three-game series. USF's wins have come over Liberty, Richmond, UNF and FGCU. The Bulls have excelled both in the batter's box and on the mound thus far. The USF hitters have combined to hit .333 with 30 total runs for an average of 7.5 per game. On the bump, USF pitchers have stymied opposing offenses with a 1.00 earned run average, holding opponent batting averages below the Mendoza Line at .192.

Offensively the Bulls are led by junior outfielder Michael Arencibia, who comes into the game with a .583 batting average on seven hits, including a double and a triple. The left hander has driven in five runs and scored six. Other notable hitters are Daniel Portales and Luke Maglich. The duo has combined for 14 hits, seven RBIs and seven runs.

As good as USF has been at the plate, the team's pitching staff has been just as dominant. Sophomore right-hander Jimmy Herget led the team to an opening day win by tossing seven innings, allowing no earned runs. The four starters have combined to throw 22 innings with just three earned runs allowed.

ALL-TIME VS. AAC TEAMS: Despite only winning one of five games against the Bulls in program history, Penn State has historically fared well against teams in the newly formed American Athletic Conference. Then Nittany Lions have a combined record of 92-70-1 against members of the AAC, playing six different institutions, including Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Rutgers, South Florida and Temple. The majority of the 163 games come from matchups against Temple and Rutgers. Penn State holds an advantage of 51-34-1 over Temple and 37-27 over the Scarlet Knights.

PATIENCE AT THE PLATE: The Nittany Lions drew 19 free passes in the three games in Boiling Springs. In the Saturday doubleheader alone Penn State reached base a combined 16 times via a walk, with sophomore James Coates leading the way with five base on balls. J.J. White, Steve Snyder and Greg Guers each chipped in three walks during the opening weekend.

COATES KEEPS STREAK ALIVE: Dating back to the 2013 season, James Coates has reached base safely in 15 consecutive games. The sophomore has recorded hits in 13 of the 15 games during the streak, seven of which have been multi-hit performances. The outfielder has started out 2014 with two walks in the opener, three walks and a hit in game two and two hits in the most recent outting.

COMING THROUGH IN THE CLUTCH: In each of Penn State's two victories, the Nittany Lions have won in dramatic fashion. In the opener J.J. White ripped a double to deep right field in the ninth inning with the bases loaded to plate two runs and give the Nittany Lions a 5-3 lead in a game where they would go on to win 6-4.

On Sunday, the third and final game of the series, the Blue and White's back was up against the wall, as GWU had the bases loaded in a tie game with no outs in the bottom of the ninth. Sophomore reliever Jack Anderson escaped the jam by inducing a 3-2-3 double play and then punching out a Bulldog hitter to keep the game tied. The Nittany Lions then manufactured a run in the top of the 10th and Ryan Harper pitched a perfect bottom of the frame to seal the victory.

OWNING THE OPENERS: Historically Penn State has thrived in the first game of the season. With the 6-4 win over Gardner-Webb in this season's first game, the Nittany Lions improved their overall record to 78-48 (.619) in season openers.

Last season the Blue and White defeated East Tennessee State by a score of 6-4 to start the season 1-0. The Nittany Lions have won three of their last four first games of the year, picking up wins over ETSU in 2013, Seton Hall in 2011 and Cincinnati in 2010.

COACH SPEAK: The Penn State baseball coaching staff is active on Twitter. Follow Head Coach Rob Cooper @16RobCooper, Assistant Coach Brian Anderson @BA_PSUBaseball, Assistant Coach Ross Oeder @lifesarush3 and Assistant Coach Blake Beemer @BTBeem24.

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Last Updated February 21, 2014