Preview: Penn State

vs. Penn State

from psu.edu

12:05pm Saturday, 30 minutes after Game 1 (~3:30pm), 1;05pm Saturday (all EDT)
Ray Fisher Stadium
Ann Arbor, MI

Media Game 1: Live Stats and Audio, TV: BTN
Probable Starters Game 1: Chris Fetter (3-1) vs Macy (2-2)
Media Game 2: Live Stats and Audio
Probable Starters Game 2: Eric Katzman (4-2) vs Grumley (2-1)
Media Game 3: Live Stats and Audio
Probable Starters Game 3: Mike Wilson (1-0) vs Lorentson (0-1)
Series: Michigan trails 33-40
Last Meeting: Michigan won 3 of 4 in 2008 @ PSU
Last Michigan Loss: Recap – 1-10, L – Travis Smith (.2 IP in the  start)

Overview

Penn State comes into Ann Arbor with a 15-11 record on the season, and 1-2 in BigTen play.  The BigTen series was against current conference favorite Ohio State with scores of 3-8, 2-12, and 15-11.  The split a pair of mid week games against Bucknell (W) and Kent State (L).  Both of those teams are upper middle in the ranks of NCAA at 133 and 111 in psuedo RPI.   Meanwhile Penn State currently comes in at 78 in those same rankings.

Penn State has been playing about the same level of baseball as Michigan this season.  By that, I mean they’ve played solid ball, but they aren’t really dominating teams.  Looking at their win-loss record so far, I’d argue that they’ve actually played a little bit better than we have based off the teams they’ve beaten.

The Weather

Despite the amazing weather in Ann Arbor today (Thursday), things look ugly the next 24 hours.  It looks so bad (100% chance of rain with wind gusts up to 40 mph) that the two teams pushed back the Friday game without even trying.  The two teams will instead play a doubleheader beginning Saturday at 12:05pm.  The second game will follow 30 minutes after the first is completed, probably around 3-3:30pm.

If the field drains quickly enough, the weather for Saturday is currently looking to be sunny with a high around 50 degrees.  Sunday looks for more horrible weather as there is a 60% chance of rain with highs in the low 40s.   I’m not confident about getting any games in there, but you never know.

Winds look to be from the northwest or west by northwest at 15-20 mph on Saturday., which means right to left cross winds, maybe even a bit in from right field.  This is the same thing we’ve had the last few days, so don’t expect fly balls to right field to carry out.  On Sunday they are due to switch to the east by northeast, which is out to right center.

The Team

Lineup

The Nittany Lions as a team aren’t the greatest hitting bunch, but they are hitting .301 as a team and scoring 7.3 runs per game (98th in NCAA). The do strikeout a little bit, but not at quite the same clip as the Wolverines.

Most of their offense is sparked through lead off man Blake Lynd.  Lynd ranks 49th in the NCAA with a .427 batting average, and he also boasts a .510 on base percentage.  Lynd is definitely a singles hitter, with just one extra base hit in 35 knocks.  The junior centerfielder is currently 13/18 in stolen base attempts.  As a side note, the junior college Lynd came from last year (and went to the JUCO World Series with) was where I took dual credit classes at in high school.  Weird.

Behind Lynd is generally senior second basemen Landon Nakata.  Nakata isn’t a big hitting threat, batting only .286 on the season (63 at bats).  He’ll be used more to sacrifice bunt Lynd around the base or even hit and run.  Nakata does split some time with junior Louie Picconi, but he’s even less of a threat, batting only .196 in 46 at bats.

Left field and the three hole are nearly exclusively Mike Deese’s.  Deese, a senior, hasn’t really taken over as the RBI producer this year, especially without a good number two hitter, but he has knocked in 25 RBIs on the season.  He does the some power, already hitting 6 doubles and a home run on the season.

Behind Deese is Cory Wine at first base.  Wine is the team’s RBI leader with 28 on the year.  He also ranks second on the team with a .389 batting average.  He’s actually the teams leading run scorer as well with 25.  Wine also is tied for the team home run lead with 2 and firmly holds the team lead with 10 doubles. In all, he holds a .579 slugging percentage.

In the five hole, third basemen Jordan Steranka will get many chances to knock in Deese and Wine.  On the year he has 25 RBI and a .359 batting average.   Steranka has the second highest slugging percentage of any of the regulars at .511.

The six through nine hitters change often for PSU, but the most consistent player in this area has to be Grant Youngblood platooning in right field.  Youngblood is batting .314 in 19 starts.  He shares right field with Rick Marlin who also has made 20 starts.  These two also work into the DH role (for you math majors scratching your heads).  Marlin is only hitting .227 on the season, and hasn’t really seen too many runs or RBIs come to his credit.

At catcher, the Nittany Lions split time between a pair of sophomores, Jacobs and Heath.  Jacobs has been getting more of the time, but hasn’t taken the job exclusively.  On the season, Jacobs is hitting .302 with 12 runs and 10 RBIs.  Heath will probably catch one of the last two games.  He’s currently batting .270 with 6 runs and 5 RBI.

Shortstop Michael Glantz is the only starter at his position, but his spot in the lineup floats up and down from seven to nine in almost every game.  He’s batting .281 on the season wiht 18 runs and 8 RBI.

Also keep an eye out for Wes Borden to DH.  He had a lot of playing time last year, but has lost his swing.  He’s splitting time with the two right fielders for the DH spot, batting just .218 with 13 runs and 9 RBI.

Starting Pitching

Everything starts with T.J. Macy.  Macy is the definite stud on the team, posting a 2.31 ERA on the season (61st in NCAA).  He’s had some tough draws on the season, such as the 1-0 complete game loss to Texas, so don’t let that 2-2 record fool you.  Macy is good.   In his last start, he began the game just allowing one runner in the first 4 2/3 innings pitched, but ultimately the Ohio State team (17 in the nation in hitting) knocked him for a 5 sp0t in the 5th inning.  He ended the game with 7 innings, 5 ER, 4 hits, 5 walks, and 5 Ks.

Calvin Grumley is slated to start game 2.  The left hander has struggled a bit in his 7 appearances, 5 starts, posting a 7.14 ERA in 29 innings of work.  His opponent batting average sits just over .314.  His last outing was a no decision in game 3 versus the Buckeyes, lasting only 4 1/3 inning, giving up 7 runs on 7 hits, 2 walks, and 3 Ks.

Mike Lorentson, another left hander, is scheduled to finish the series on the mound.  He’s currently 1-3 after 9 appearances, 5 starts.  His 6.18 ERA isn’t really that good.  His last start came against Kent State on March 24th, where he earned the victory.  He pitched 7 2/3 innings, giving up 2 runs on 5 hits, 1 walk, and four strike outs.  His last appearance was a relief outing on Wednesday, only throwing an inning, giving up 3 runs (1 earned) on 3 hits and one walk.

Bullpen

David Lutz is the first person we’ll see out of the bullpen when its close late.  Lutz has 14 appearance this season including one save.  His 3.80 ERA is second only to Macy on the team.  Lutz has only struck out 13 in his 21 innings, and he does give up about a hit per inning.

Freshman right hander Ryan Ignas is another reliever we’re sure to see this weekend (probably Sunday as he had a 3 inning start on Wednesday).  He’s had 11 appearances this year including that start.  His ERA is 5.24, but he does have 2 saves.

Junior Jesse Alfreno also has 10 relief appearances this season.  His 4.20 ERA is one of the best of the relief corp.  He does have an 8-to-5 walk to strikeout ratio, so that is in our favor.

Lastly, Scott Kelly, previously of the starting rotation, is now going to be tried out as the team’s closer.  Kelly has been pretty good this season in 8 appearances, 6 starts.  He has an ERA of 3.86, 4-3 record, and opponent batting average of .496.

Outlook

If Chris Fetter can out deul Macy, Michigan should take at least 2 of 3 games.  I remain skeptical about the sweep just because of Katzman and Wilson’s inconsistent pitching.  Penn State also is very good about inducing double plays, ranking 19th in the NCAA at 1.21 per game.  They are a little bit better of a team than anyone else we’ve played.  I’d put them just a step below Arizona (if they had Stoffel, I’d call them even).

That said, I think they finish just over .500 for the Big10 season, good enough for a six (bottom) seed in the Big10 Tourney.  Michigan must take 2 of 3 from these guys to keep up with the top teams in the conference.  This series will be the big test (if we get all the games in) on how well Michigan will do the rest of the Big10 season.

Other Note(s) for the Weekend

BTN Cancels Coverage

The first game of the doubleheader, originally scheduled for Friday was due to be shown on the BigTen Network. With the reschedule, the game will no longer be shown as there is a scheduling conflict with the Michigan softball due to be aired at 2pm.  I can’t fault the BTN here (I plan to have a post on their lack of coverage at a later date), they are actually out trying to show more games by doing a couple games this weekend at Michigan.   They also are broadcasting the Sunday softball game at 1pm.  If you’re not in Ann Arbor, be sure to catch those games.  Our softball team ranked #10 and 11 in the two polls that matter.

Promotions

I meant to include these in previous previews, but the program provides several promotions throughtout the present season.  Mostly unintentional alliteration aside, this weekend continues the trend of ways to encourage attendance:

Saturday, April 4, vs. Penn State, 1:05 p.m.
Michigan Baseball Hot Chocolate/Coffee Mug Giveaway — The first 250 fans will receive a thermal Michigan baseball mug. In addition, stop by and fill your mug with complimentary hot chocolate or coffee while supplies last.

Sunday, April 5, vs. Penn State, 1:05 p.m.
High School Team Night #1 — High school baseball teams are invited to attend these games FREE of charge! All members of the team and up to three coaches are eligible to receive FREE admission by faxing (734-615-1567) or emailing (katjacks@umich.edu) a roster at least two days prior to the game(s) they plan to attend.

Kids Run the Bases — Immediately following the conclusion of the game, all kids in eighth grade and under will have an opportunity to run the bases!

Trading Card Giveaway #1 — The first 500 fans will receive the first set of Michigan baseball trading cards

The hot chocolate and coffee is enough to get me there early.

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