April 26, 2011

PSU Baseball Tied For First Place in the Big Ten

PSU is hanging around the Big Ten baseball race for first.
(Photo: Mark Selders/PSU)
Penn State baseball propelled itself into the thick of the Big Ten championship race this week, as the Nittany Lions (24-13, 7-5 Big Ten) are now tied with Purdue (24-12, 7-5 Big Ten) and Michigan State (27-13, 7-5 Big Ten) for the conference lead. This past weekend, Penn State clawed its way to a 10-9 comeback win over Ohio State, grabbing the series and a critical win from the Buckeyes. Here's how the Big Ten baseball standings break down as of today:

Team Record Pct. Record Pct.
1. Purdue 7-5 .583 27-13 .675
Michigan State 7-5 .583 24-12 .667
Penn State 7-5 .583 24-13 .649
4. Indiana 6-6 .500 25-15 .625
Minnesota 6-6 .500 14-15 .483
Ohio State 6-6 .500 16-18 .471
Illinois 6-6 .500 14-21 .400
Michigan 6-6 .500 13-25 .361
9. Northwestern 5-7 .417 13-23 .361
10. Iowa 4-8 .333 15-22 .405
The only Big Ten series Penn State didn't win was against first-place Purdue, so it will require a few losses by the Boilers to key opponents for Penn State to maintain its shot at the title. Fortunately, the Nittany Lions have a great opportunity to help themselves, with a series coming up this weekend (Apr 29-May 1) at Michigan State. Then the following weekend (May 6-8) Purdue takes its own trip to East Lansing.

Purdue leads the conference in nearly every offensive category (even hit by pitch!), but Penn State has been close in some impressive areas. In home runs, the Nittany Lions (19 HR) trail Purdue (20 HR) by a slim margin. Penn State is also in the Big Ten top three in RBI, slugging pct, runs scored and doubles. But a glaring problem is that Penn State strikes out, a lot, leading the league.

If Michigan State (or anyone else) beats Purdue, especially winning a series vs the Boilers, it would be a major upset.

Penn State does, however, lead the league in ERA (3.52) and opponent batting average (.251), and is 2nd with only 303 runs allowed.

The next two weekends could make or break Penn State's shot at a regular season Big Ten baseball championship and top seed in the conference tournament. It starts with taking care of business against Michigan State this week, which is easier typed than done. Barring some sort of meltdown in the second half of this season, and with a little help from Michigan State against Purdue, Penn State should be in great shape heading into the Big Ten Tournament on Memorial Day weekend.

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