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Baseball: Nebraska at Penn State
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Baseball: Nebraska at Penn State

Baseball: Nebraska at Penn State

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Where: Medlar Field, University Park, Pennsylvania

Radio: 590 AM

5 p.m. Friday: LH Cade Povich (3-1, 3.74 ERA) vs. RH Bailey Dees (2-2, 5.74)

Noon Saturday: RH Chance Hroch (2-0, 5.70) vs. RH Conor Larkin (2-3, 3.98)

10 a.m. Sunday: RH Shay Schanaman (3-0, 5.59) vs. RH Kyle Virbitsky (1-2, 4.58)

Scouting Nebraska (15-6): The Huskers have yet to lose a weekend series and sit just outside most Top 25 polls nearly halfway through their 44-game, league-only schedule. Their record has them a half game up on Michigan atop the Big Ten standings and represents the program’s best 21-game start since the last Nebraska team to host an NCAA regional opened 17-3-1 in 2008. ... One key to NU’s dominance has been a decided edge with runners in scoring position. NU is hitting .304 (68 for 224) in such situations while opponents are batting .228 (37 for 162). For the offense, that translates into earning nearly three more scoring chances per game in addition to the relatively high success rate. Meanwhile, Husker pitchers and fielders are doing their jobs in key spots — NU remains fifth nationally in fielding percentage (.983) and 76th of 285 Division I programs in earned-run average (4.28). ... Various Huskers continue to pace the Big Ten in multiple categories, including Luke Roskam (.500 on-base percentage), Jaxon Hallmark (10 steals) and Efry Cervantes (five sacrifice bunts). Hallmark also leads the team in batting average (.370), while Cam Chick has a team-leading six home runs.

Scouting Penn State (8-13): Sitting in 11th place in the 13-team Big Ten is an improvement for the Nittany Lions, who are coming off three straight last-place finishes with a combined league record of 11-59. Their so-so standing is reflected by so-so numbers, including ERA (5.52, 174th nationally and ninth in the league), scoring (4.6 runs/game, 242nd and 10th) and fielding percentage (.965, 186th and 10th). ... Senior infielder Gavin Homer has been Penn State’s top hitter as the only lineup regular hitting above .300 (.338). He’s part of an offense that doesn’t do much stealing (13, ninth in the Big Ten) or sacrificing (seven, ninth) and hits for average power (.431 slugging percentage, sixth). It does, however, own a league-leading 48 doubles. ... Conor Larkin has been the clear staff ace, striking out 41 in 31⅔ innings with a 3.98 ERA. Beyond him, the only Penn State arms with more than five innings and an ERA under 5.00 this year are occasional starter Jaden Henline (4.30) and regular starter Kyle Virbitsky (4.58). ... Despite its record, Penn State has taken single games from Maryland and Michigan and blew two late leads against Indiana. It split pairs against Michigan State and Purdue last weekend.

Dugout chatter: Temperatures around the 50s with a chance of rain each day is the forecast for the three-game series. ... Nebraska is 11-2 all time against Penn State, with all of the games coming as fellow Big Ten members. NU coach Will Bolt said the Nittany Lions have shown flashes midway through the spring. “They’re going to try to create a little havoc with the bunt game, maybe a slash here and there, some hit and runs,” Bolt said. “Just like everybody else in this league, we’ve got to show up and play our best if we want to have the results we want to have this weekend.” ... NU’s junior left-hander Kyle Perry is on track to return to action in a few weeks, possibly for the next home series against Rutgers (April 30-May 2). He had been trending toward a weekend starting job before undergoing Tommy John surgery last summer. The Millard South grad will likely fill a single-inning bullpen role down the stretch, though Bolt said Perry has been such a key dugout presence all year that he’s still traveled to some road series. “From that aspect, he’s helped our team even without throwing a single pitch,” Bolt said. “And that’s really what you want in a player.” ... Bolt said he’s optimistic that the Big Ten might adopt video replay as early as next season. For 2020 and this year, NU would have had a replay option for nonconference games. He said the reason the league doesn’t employ it now is the ability to utilize it “at a level that would be useful” isn’t uniform among all schools.

— Evan Bland

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