After stumbling against Wright State on Wednesday, 15-4, the Hoosiers jump right back into Big Ten play this weekend with a three-game series against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
In Indiana’s most recent loss against Wright State, the pitching struggled, using seven pitchers after freshman McCade Brown didn’t make it out of the third inning.
With the recent injury to Ryan Fineman expected to keep him out a few weeks, Indiana will turn to Wyatt Cross behind the plate, who struggled against Wright State. He committed two throwing errors and allowed two passed balls for runs as well.
The Hoosiers will need to have a short memory as they quickly enter back into Big Ten play. They’ll put their 5-1 conference record on the line this weekend against Penn State. The Nittany Lions come in with a 15-9 record, but they are 0-5 in conference play.
Let’s take a look at what Penn State brings to Bloomington this weekend.
Penn State has a couple really solid starting pitchers, which they will likely throw at Indiana on Friday and Sunday. As a team, Penn State boasts a 3.85 ERA with 248 strikeouts.
The weekend’s probable starters are:
Penn State: Dante Biasi (RHP)
Indiana: Pauly Milto (RHP)
Penn State: Bailey Dees (RHP)
Indiana: Tanner Gordon (RHP)
Penn State: Eric Mock (RHP)
Indiana: Andrew Saalfrank (LHP)
Let’s start with Penn State’s Friday starter, Dante Biasi. He’s the best on their staff statistically, leading the way among the starters with a 2.03 ERA in seven starters. He has 57 strikeouts to just 16 walks.
The issue is that Penn State has struggled putting up runs against opponents’ Friday night starters, especially in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions are just 4-3 in his starts, and 0-2 in his Big Ten starts. His most recent appearance was a gem against Purdue, where he went six innings and allowed just one run and struck out six.
His worst outing was in non-conference play against Duke, allowing five runs in 4.2 innings pitched.
Bailey Dees, the Saturday starter, takes the mound with a 4.41 ERA in seven starts, the worst ERA of the three weekend starters. He has an impressive 40 strikeouts to just 10 walks.
Eric Mock is the probable Sunday starter. He has a solid 2.48 ERA in his five starts this season. His last start against Purdue was one of his best of the season. He went five innings, struck out seven and allowed just one hit and no runs. He also showed that he could go deep, pitching 8.2 innings against Fairfield back in February.
Indiana leads the nation in home runs with 55. The next closest team in the Big Ten is Ohio State with 27. Indiana’s Cole Barr leads the conference with 11 long balls through 28 games.
Penn State is toward the bottom of the Big Ten with just 13 home runs this season. Sophomore Kris Kremer and junior Gavin Homer lead the team with three long balls.
Only two Nittany Lions are hitting over .300 this season. Sophomore Mac Hippenhammer leads the team with a .356 batting average in his 14 appearances. He also boasts a .408 on-base percentage.
The other hot bat in the Penn State lineup is senior Jordan Bowersox. He is hitting .315 and slugging .427. He also leads the team with 28 hits and has two home runs this season.
As a team, Penn State is batting .239, ninth in the Big Ten. Indiana is two spots ahead, tied for seventh, hitting .261 as a team.
When Indiana Head Coach Jeff Mercer was a player at Wright State, he played under current Penn State Head Coach Rob Cooper. Cooper spent nine seasons at the helm of Wright State, from 2005-2013.
Just two days after Mercer coached against his former team, he will now coach against his former coach. He mentioned what it will be like to coach against Cooper after the game on Wednesday.
“Coach Cooper was one of the most influential people in my life,” Mercer said. “The standard that he held me to is the same standard I’ve carried forward into my coaching career… I love Coach Cooper. It’ll be a lot of fun to compete against someone you have so much respect for. Hopefully we come out and we play well.”