Indiana Daily Student

IU faces Penn State at home in search of third straight conference series win

<p>Junior infielder Jeremy Houston prepares to hit the ball March 23 at Bart Kaufman Field. IU will play Penn State on April 5-7. </p>

Junior infielder Jeremy Houston prepares to hit the ball March 23 at Bart Kaufman Field. IU will play Penn State on April 5-7.

IU’s season has been inconsistent so far, but conference play has been the one constant. This weekend, IU will put its 5-1 conference record on the line as it welcomes Penn State to Bloomington. 

After back-to-back series wins over Iowa and Maryland, IU will play a Penn State team that has hasn't won a game in the Big Ten so far this year. IU’s bats have come alive in the first two conference series, scoring 62 runs in six games. 

Both teams are coming off disappointing midweek games. IU was throttled Wednesday by Wright State University 15-4 in IU Coach Jeff Mercer’s first game against his former team. That same night, Penn State was beat handily 18-6 by St. Bonaventure University in State College, Pennsylvania.

Penn State’s offense has struggled to find consistency. The Nittany Lions are led by senior outfielder Jordan Bowersox, who is batting .315 on the season. Sophomore infielder Kris Kremer and junior infielder Gavin Homer don’t hit for high averages but do provide some pop to the Penn State lineup.

IU’s offense continues to slug the ball. After Wednesday’s game, in which junior utility player Scotty Bradley, junior outfielder Matt Gorski and sophomore infielder Cole Barr all hit home runs, IU still leads the nation with 55 home runs this year. 

The bats fell cold Wednesday against Wright State at points, but IU proved against Maryland that the lineup can explode at any moment. 

IU could soon get sophomore pitcher Tommy Sommer back from an injury. However, it appears that Mercer will stick with senior pitcher Pauly Milto and junior pitchers Tanner Gordon and Andrew Saalfrank as the three starters this weekend. 

Senior outfielder Logan Kaletha and catcher Ryan Fineman will also miss this weekend with injuries. Kaletha suffered a lower body injury in the third game of the Iowa series. Fineman wasn’t dressed on Wednesday night and will be out a handful of weeks, Mercer said.

Three wins this weekend would push IU to the 20 win mark on the season and keep it among the top-tier teams in the Big Ten standings.

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