Baseball: Penn State Preview

Submitted by formerlyanonymous on May 20th, 2010 at 11:10 AM

Lorenz slides into third
Lorenz slides safely in to third. Photo by

(32-19, 12-9)


Penn State
(21-28, 8-13)

Thursday 6:35pm ET

Alan Oaks
(4-5, 3.81 ERA)
vs Mike Wanamaker
(4-3, 6.68 ERA)
Stats Audio   Video($)  
Notes: Michigan is 34-42 all time,
Last year: 1-2 series loss.



Penn State

Friday 5:35 ET

TBA vs Steven Hill
(2-6, 5.75 ERA)
Stats Audio   Video($)  



Penn State

Saturday 1:05pm ET

Stats Audio   Video($)  

Michigan is on the road for the Big Ten finale. With just a game separating Michigan from first place Minnesota, they'll be giving it all with the Big Ten Title on the line. The Wolverines need just one win to clinch a spot in the Big Ten Tournament, but they'll need quite a bit more to secure a coveted bye, presented to the top two teams in conference.

Brief look at the Ball State game and a Penn State preview after the jump.

About that Ball State game

Michigan took a mid-week game 16-10 against a pretty good Ball State game on Tuesday. It was yet another come from behind type victory as Michigan fell behind early with a struggling Kyle Clark and some mediocre play early. After Michigan fell behind 4-1 in the 3rd, they would see the offense explode over the next three innings. The Wolverines scored 3 in the third, 7 in the 4th, and 4 in the 5th.

Several seniors saw time late in the game including Jeff DeCarlo, who had a Jeff DeCarlo type outing (his academic prowess will be missed), Vinnie Sarafa, the bull pen catcher, and Mike Kittle who was on fire. Kittle got the start with Toth moving to short and Dennis getting the day off. Kittle went 4/5 on the day with a double, a run scored, and 2 RBI. Huge day for Mike to show that he's ready off the bench if we need him down the stretch.

Six different Wolverines had multiple hits. It was pretty ridiculous. Biondi had 3 with 3 runs, Toth had 4 with 2 runs and an RBI. LaMarre went 4/6 with 3 runs, 3 RBI, and a double while playing centerfield (for the scouts in attendance). Crank hit another homer on a 2/6 day with 6 RBI, and most notably, a very solid day playing catcher instead of DH'ing. Berset went 1/4 with 3 runs and an RBI. Lorenz with 2/5. Nick Urban had what has to be his 6th different game where he goes 1/2 with 2 walks.

It was a hit fest, but it meant nothing. Now, on to Penn State.


Penn State's Season

penn state RPI

The above graph comes from Happy Valley Hardball, the blogging home to the Nittany Lions. In the graph, you can see how Penn State's RPI has faired this season, as well as compare this season to 2008 and 2009. We're interested in the 2010 green line, currently sitting around the 170 mark (out of ~300).

So what do we see? Well, early in the season, Penn State played one of the toughest schedules in the nation. Their second and third weeks of the season were spent in Texas, taking on teams like Texas A&M and Texas State, both top 50 teams. They also took on two quality teams from the Southland Conference in McNeese State and Lamar, as well as top 100 Dallas Baptist. The problem, Penn State went 2-7 with wins over McNeese and DBU only. The next two weeks saw a split with meh opponents and a series win over Hofstra, a bad team.

Then came the Big Ten season. PSU would lose series to Illinois and Northwestern before hitting their season low, being swept by Purdue. After that, the Lions bats got hot. Penn State would take 2 of 3 from the Buckeyes in Columbus, then sweep Michigan State in Happy Valley.

Things have since normalized as Penn State has lost series to Iowa at home and were swept by Minnesota in the Metrodome. They didn't play a midweek game this week, so they enter the Michigan series on a 5-game losing streak.

Penn State on the Mound

The Penn State ace should be a vaguely familiar name for those who have followed the Big Ten over the last few years. Mike Wanamaker busted onto the Big Ten scene in 2008 as a junior, proving to be one of the best pitchers in the conference and earning 2nd Team All Big Ten as a starter. After sitting out a redshirt year in 2009 due to an arm injury, he's returned this year, picking up around where he left off. On the year, in 10 starts, he's 4-3 with 62 innings pitched. His opponent batting average is pretty high at .333, but he hasn't given up many homers (just 5) this year. His strikeout numbers also aren't what they were before his Tommy John surgery, posting just 46 on the season.

On Friday, Michigan will see Steven Hill. Hill was a reliever to start the season, but he's earned his way into the rotation. On 20 appearances this season, he's made 7 starts. In his 61 innings, he's struck out 40 and walked only 18. He also sports a high opponent batting average - .359. Hill was actually a preferred walk-on for the football team, but it's a near zero chance that he'll actually see the field there.

As for Saturday, there's no telling who will get the start. Calvin Grumley made the start in game three against Minnesota, lasting just 3 innings while giving up 3 runs on 3 hits, walking four and striking out three. The week before, Penn State's primary reliever David Lutz made only his 2nd start of the season, lasting 5 innings in an eventual Nittany Lion loss to Iowa at home; this came one week after he threw a complete game win against Michigan State in his first start of the season.

No idea who to expect, much less how good they might be in what could potentially be Penn State's last gasp to gain a BTT spot. As they say in The Waterboy, "Last game of the season, can't hold anything back."

As far as the bullpen, Lutz has been a favorite this season. He's 4-3 with a 3.15 ERA in 33 appearances stretching 65.2 innings pitched (both team highs). After that, three's several guys with plenty of appearances, most of them aren't that great statistically. Mike Pierce is 1-0 in 14 appearances with a 4.20 ERA. The rest are a hodgepodge of reliever/starter types.

Penn State at the Dish

Penn State's offense, and for that matter, it's pitching staff, are both anchored by a Johnny Bench candidate (who will lose to Chris Berset). Ben Heath has been destroying pitchers this season. He leads the Big Ten with 18 homers on the season, and is slugging a crisp .761. His on base percentage is sitting at .457, so he's sporting a 1.218 OPS - which is totally ridiculous. He has 55 RBI on the season and has scored 50 runs – both team highs. Heath's defense is also pretty good, allowing just 8 passed balls on the season as the primary catcher, but he's only thrown out about 30% of base stealers (unlike Berset who has only 4 passed balls and has caught over 40% of base stealers… BERSET FOR BENCH!).

Heath isn't alone when it comes to hard hitting Nittany Lions, though. Steve Snyder is hitting .367 on the season with 34 RBI and 30 runs scored. He's been getting on base consistently, but isn't causing a whole ton of damage. He is second on the team in steals with 12 in 16 tries. Joey DeBernardis is doing similarly, hitting .359, but he's scored 40 runs and knocked in 33. Slightly better, but not overwhelming.

Jordan Steranka is the run producer. His on base percentage is ridiculously low (.345) for being second to Heath on the team in runs scored (40). He is also second in RBIs on the team with 41.


Thursday and Friday are to be sunny with highs in the low to mid 80s. Winds are supposed to be light enough not to matter. Saturday sees the rain chances raise up to 60% and temps to drop to around 70. Winds will still be pretty light.

Series Thoughts and Prediction

Penn State is a dangerous team, even if they are in last place. They showed they could keep up with Ohio State (when they were healthy) and Michigan State (even if they Sparty No!'d this season away). They definitely are talented enough on offense to smash their way to victory when needed. Mike Wanamaker also gives them a chance to win their opener every week. I'm quite afraid he'll set a personal season high in strikeouts.

On the flip side, Michigan has all the momentum in the world right now. The Wolverines can definitely smash the ball if it comes down to a home run derby for the win. Several of Michigan's pitchers are also due for a return to the mean, but this time in a good way. Evil Katzman (Eric's evil alter-ego) got the win against Ball State. I'm still sold that he's due for a brilliant outing this weekend. The bullpen is pretty well rested, with only Wood and Katzman seeing any action (out of the regulars) during the mid-week. Kyle Clark is all but scratched from this weekend, and Ballantine may become available Saturday if needed. Hopefully we'll have a #2 seed clinched by then, in which case, get the young guys some time.

Speaking of clinching a bye, I'm predicting a Michigan series victory 2-1, however, I'm not sure that's good enough for a bye. Purdue is playing Iowa this weekend, and if Iowa can't steal a game, Michigan could potentially fall into third place behind the Boilermakers and Minnesota. I'd love to pick Jarred Hippen to take a win from Purdue, but going up against Matt Bischoff is no easy task. Minnesota has tough pickings against Ohio State (with Alex Wimmers), but they hold the tie breaker over Michigan in the head-to-head win.

Weekend Rooting Interests:

  • Iowa over Purdue
  • Ohio State to take at least 2 from Minnesota
  • Northwestern and Michigan State not to sweep each other
  • Illinois over Indiana. I don't want to face Indiana in the BTT



May 20th, 2010 at 12:03 PM ^

Is there anyway we can finish 1st and OSU miss the tournament? We would have to win 2 more than Minnesota, but can OSU still be left out if they win at 2 of 3 from the Gophers?


May 20th, 2010 at 1:28 PM ^

Even with said log jam, OSU holds tie breakers over anyone that they would probably be tied with at 6th. They lost series to Illinois and Penn State, the former needing a sweep over Indiana and the former completely unable to reach 12-12. Iowa would be the only other team capable of tying them that has ownes the head-to-head advantage. At least in that hypothetical.

Basically, you have a choice of Michigan winning the Big Ten regular season title (which gets you nothing as far as the NCAA), but Ohio State gets into the BTT, or Michigan gets a bye, and the Buckeyes could potentially not make the BTT when it's on their home field and their coach retiring an unhappy man. I'd take either, as long as Michigan can get a bye. We will almost certainly need it desperately. Lots of aces I don't want to face in the first round.


May 20th, 2010 at 12:10 PM ^

FA-First, lots of thanks for your previews this year, they've been great.  It's taken until the final weekend of play, but I think I finally have the Big 10 (at least MIchigan's spot) figured out.  Check my "math", but as I see it:


1. MIchigan sweeps PSU - assured 1st Rd Bye in tourney and would win B10 reg season title if MN loses two to tOSU;

2. MIchigan wins 2 - Bye if PUR loses 1 to IOWA; B10 title if MIN gets swept

3. Michigan wins 1 - can still get BYE if PUR loses 2, but doesn't get swept by IOWA and NU loses 1

Hoping for that sweep of course.

Go Blue! 


May 20th, 2010 at 1:22 PM ^

#3 becomes tricky. If Michigan State were to sweep Northwestern, it would depend on what teams are in the top 6 (ties included) as that tie breaker is winning percentage against all teams in or tied for the top 6 spots. Michigan State has lost series to Ohio State and Purdue by 2-1 margins, but was swept by Penn State, who won't count in the top 6 if they win two (your hypothetical).

That should give State at least a slightly better winning percentage against teams remaining. It then just becomes anyone's guess on what other teams don't make it in the top 6.  Losing Iowa from the top 6 would help our cause the most, but if we need them to take 2 from Purdue, I think that almost definitely locks them in at least a tie for 6th.

Tie Breaker Rules


May 20th, 2010 at 1:58 PM ^

#3 makes my head spin - hope they win 2 and make scenario #3 moot.  As usual, game one is huge as a win will set them up nicely for the weekend.  I am expecting  the bats to stay hot and for Oakes to have a  solid game on the hill -  if I am right, should = WIN!


May 20th, 2010 at 12:58 PM ^

We gonna get a softball preview tomorrow? 

Gonna be a beautiful weekend, everyone should get out to Alumni Field and support the #2 Wolverines.


As for baseball, a sweep would obviously be huge.  Lets wake up the bats this weekend for both teams!


May 20th, 2010 at 6:00 PM ^

Northwestern won 2-1 over Michigan State. Both starters (Jokisch and Achter) both threw complete games. Spartans almost got the tying run across in the 9th with a 2 our rally to put runners on the corner, but it just wasn't enough.

Indiana also blew out Illinois.


May 20th, 2010 at 9:06 PM ^

Hopefully Gerbe didn't throw too many pitches in the pen. Burgoon is throwing a lot of pitches today. The way he's gone on back-to-back days lately, he'll need a day off.


May 20th, 2010 at 9:22 PM ^






























Michigan State




Ohio State








Penn State



These are final standings. Tie breakers for tournament as such:

  • Purdue defeated Indiana 2-1
  • NU's wins against teams in top 6: 6
  • Iowa's wins against teams in top 6: 5


May 21st, 2010 at 10:04 PM ^

We want Iowa to Sweep. As a higher seed, if they win their opening round, we would face them. That bodes well as their bullpen and second starters are better for us.

We want Minnesota to win as many as possible. As much as gettting a share of the Title would be great, I'd rather see the Buckeyes knocked out so there will be no home field advantage.

We want Indiana to win. Their second starter would also be favorable if we were to face them, so we want them as high a seed as possible in case they win.

Michigan State vs Northwestern is tricky. If the above rooting interests come to be, the match ups don't come out as pretty as I'd like. The winner is in the tourney, but at vastly different locations. If NU wins, they're a 3 seed (Iowa 4, Indiana 5, Purdue 6). If MSU wins, they're a 6 seed (Iowa 3, Purdue 4, Indiana 5, MSU 6). I'm liking out chances in the latter. If MSU wins, they play Minnesota, and that would be a great chance to knock Minnesota to the losers bracket. Michigan would then get the winner of Purdue vs Indiana, which I would lean to Purdue, which isn't ideal, but if Indiana can pull out an upset (possible), Michigan would have a much nicer match up in their opener. If MSU would lose to Iowa, we would get Iowa's 2nd starter.

If NU wins, the opening rounds are NU vs Indiana and Iowa vs Purdue. I'm not thrilled with that as I think NU and Purdue both would win, making our first opponent tough either way.

So for that reason, I think we root for Michigan State tomorrow.

Alright, I'm on my way home. I won't be around the game live, much less the internet much. Neice's birthday was scheduled for game time, that brat. Not really, she's awesome.

Go Blue. Beat Penn State.


May 20th, 2010 at 11:21 PM ^

almost did the boys in today.   4-5 players were not feeling good after eating fettucini alfredo....including Burgoon who closed the game.  Ty was throwing up during the 7th & 9th innings yet still pitched?    Way to "gut" it out Ty.  Now, please rest.

Three, and Coley's HR was to the deepest part of the park...over 410 ft.   Great game go sweep 'em!


May 20th, 2010 at 11:24 PM ^

Reminds me of the last time I was in State College, but instead of Olive Garden it was Mad Mex. And instead of fettucin alfredo, it was happy hour margaritas. Oh, man, did they used to make them strong.

Steve in PA

May 21st, 2010 at 2:24 PM ^

T-minus 40 minutes until I leave for today's game.  My son & wife are very excited.  Even though she's a PSU fan she's coming around.  Dare I say I'm CONVERTING her?


I'll throw some pics up afterward if anyone is interested.


May 21st, 2010 at 6:48 PM ^

Penn State lacks recent baseball tradition. They're a big spot for JUCO transfers, not so much the huge freshman baseball talent. It really is a shame with that stadium.

Bonus for you that Brosnahan is working at a grueling pace. He's been rather quick other than that spot in the 5th. They've played 5 innings in an hour and ten minutes. That's how game should be.


May 21st, 2010 at 7:39 PM ^

Michigan just had the mother fucking inning. Bases loaded, Dufek is the hero with a single through the right side with a full count and 2 outs. 2 runs score. Nick Urban then pulls off the suicide squeeze.

4-1 Michigan. M8

Other Chris

May 21st, 2010 at 8:18 PM ^

But softball is problematic if you can't anchor your ark by the track and field building, so we are home.

It's been good.  No goats, all heroes.

EDIT: Obviously, I spoke too soon.  Ninth inning pitching = nightmarish.

Steve in PA

May 21st, 2010 at 10:16 PM ^

Just got home from the game and didn't feel like dealing with weak wifi at the stadium to post.


This one hurt.  What you couldn't see on the radio is that the team was very dejected after the game.  One of the dads (not sure who's dad) kept yelling to the team to get their chins up.  I can only hope they come out with some fire in their belly tomorrow because PSU is gonna play hard since it's last game for Seniors and they were very excited about the win.



May 22nd, 2010 at 9:55 PM ^

you and EVERYone else.  Good decisions are hard to come by on this coaching staff.  I especially love the way he berates his players as a group and singles guys out when he has them in the outfield after games.  Such an exceptional motivator he is.