Baseball opens Big Ten play against Northwestern

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lions welcome Northwestern to Happy Valley this weekend to open up Big Ten play. The series against the Wildcats is scheduled for a three-game set, with one game on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday’s first pitch is slated for 5:30 p.m., Saturday’s for 2 p.m. and Sunday’s game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

Promotions: The weekend series features THON Sluggers day on Sunday. After the conclusion of the third game of the series, each member of the team will get their head shaved to raise money and awareness for THON. The Penn State player who has raised the most money in the fundraising will have the opportunity to shave head coach Rob Cooper’s head. Along with Sunday’s THON game, fans will be able to play baseball bingo on Saturday to win Penn State baseball prizes.

All-Time Series vs. Northwestern: The series against Northwestern has historically been one of the Nittany Lions most competitive series. Penn State holds a slim one-game lead over the Wildcats in the all-time series with a record of 36-35. Friday’s game will be the first in the series in nearly three years, as the teams have not squared off since the 2011 season. The Nittany Lions have won nine of the last 12 contests vs. the Wildcats and sport a 22-13 record in games played at Penn State.

Northwestern at a Glance: The Wildcats come into the weekend with a 4-17 overall record and a 1-2 mark in the Big Ten. NU is currently on a two-game losing streak and has dropped seven of it’s last eight games. Despite their record, the Wildcats have come on the losing end of a number of close games. Northwestern has lost six one-run games and three in extra innings. The Wildcats and Nittany Lions share one common opponent thus far this season in USF. Northwestern took one of three games against the Bulls, while Penn State was unable to grab a win.

NU at the Dish: The Wildcats are led by freshman Matt Hopfner, who comes into the weekend with a .377 batting average. Hopfner leads the team in runs (11), hits (29) and is tied for the team lead in RBI (14). As a team, the Wildcats hit .273 and has a slugging percentage of .336 and an on-base percentage of .339.

NU on the Mound: Each of Northwestern’s three starters for this weekend’s series have an ERA under five. Sunday’s scheduled starter, Matt Portland leads the team in ERA (4.24), innings pitched (34.0) and strikeouts (27). However, the sophomore has also walked 17 opposing hitters, the most on the squad.

Last Series vs. Northwestern: Penn State won two out of three games the last time the two sides met in 2011. The Nittany Lions opened the series with one of their most dominating pitching performances of the season, as Steven Hill tossed a complete game shutout in a lopsided 12-0 win. The Lions followed by taking game two 7-3 before falling short of the sweep with a close 9-8 loss to the Wildcats in the final game of the series. Penn State’s Joey DeBernadinis picked up six RBIs off five hits to lead the way at the plate for PSU.

Last Time Out: The Nittany Lions took three of the four games against Bucknell over the weekend to cap off an impressive 5-1 week. Penn State defended the home field by winning both games at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park on Saturday’s doubleheader, claiming game one by a final of 7-2 before edging the Bison 4-3 in game two. Then the two sides traveled to Bucknell for the final two games of the series on Sunday. The Bison won game one in a pitcher’s duel 1-0 before Penn State rebounded to take game two and the series with a 6-2 victory.

Home Sweet Home: Penn State is a perfect 4-0 in games played at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park this season, which is the best start to its home schedule since the 1997 season, when the team won its first six home games to start the season. Over the four games, the Nittany Lions have outscored the opposition 26-8, for a margin of victory 4.5 runs per game. The pitching staff has stood out in the four games, posting a team ERA of 1.59 and holding opposing hitters to a .206 batting average.

Seven-Straight Strikeouts: In Saturday’s game one 7-2 win over Bucknell, senior reliever Ian Parvin tossed four innings of hitless baseball out of the bullpen. Parvin ended the game in incredible fashion, punching out the last seven consecutive batters to secure the victory. The seven strikeouts mark a career high for the senior. Parvin finished with a line of four innings pitched, no hits, no runs, one walk and seven strikeouts, while facing the minimum 12 batters.

Snyder’s Sensational Start: Senior outfielder Steve Snyder is off to a great start to the 2014 season. Snyder is hitting .384 on the season, ranking third in the Big Ten. The senior’s 33 hits tie Snyder for the most of any player in the conference and his on base percentage of .461 is the third-highest mark in the league. Snyder is 6-for-7 on stolen base attempts and has recorded a hitting streak of 11-straight games already this season, matching his previous career high for consecutive hits.

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Last Updated March 27, 2014