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Reshaped Roster Presents New Opportunity For Penn State Baseball In 2022

Simply put, last season wasn’t what Penn State baseball hoped it would be.

The Nittany Lions went just 18-24 in 2021, which equated to a 43% winning percentage that was good for a ninth-place finish in the Big Ten. They never quite hit their stride a year ago and came out of the gates with a record of just 4-10 across their first month. At no point during the season did Penn State have a winning record.

Rob Cooper is back for his ninth season as head coach of the Nittany Lions. He and the Nittany Lions are aiming to improve on a 2021 season that saw Penn State beat just one ranked opponent.

For starters, Penn State can draw some optimism after it led the Big Ten in doubles a year ago with 93 while ranking No. 10 in the country in doubles per game with 2.21. The extra-base power provides the offense with some reason for positivity heading into the 2022 season.

Following the departures of pitchers Bailey Dees, Conor Larkin, and Kyle Virbitsky, the Nittany Lions will have some big shoes to fill on the bump. Senior Tyler Shingledecker and graduate student Mason Mellott are the only returning pitchers who threw more than 20 innings last season. Mellott and Shingledecker led the team in appearances a year ago with 17 and 16, respectively.

Right-handed pitcher Steven Miller will return to the mound for the Nittany Lions in 2022. Just last season, the Pittsburgh native led the team with a 3.29 ERA (minimum 10 appearances). After striking out 17 batters in just over 13 innings, Miller is expected to be a big part of Penn State’s pitching staff in 2022.

Another pitcher expected to play a significant role on the staff is sophomore Jaden Henline. As a freshman in 2021, Henline recorded nine appearances (three starts) and pitched to a 3.72 ERA with 22 strikeouts across 19.1 innings pitched.

Catcher Matt Wood, who earned second-team All-Big Ten honors as a designated hitter in 2021, returns for his junior year as well. Wood started in 39 of Penn State’s 42 games a year ago and hit .295 with an OPS of .852 to go along with four home runs and 21 RBIs. Wood will undoubtedly be one of the bigger bats in Penn State’s lineup.

Arguably biggest and most impactful bat returning to the lineup for Penn State is star outfielder Johnny Piacentino. Recently named one of the top-150 outfielders in the nation by D1Baseball, Piacentino will try to build off a monster 2021 season in which he led the Nittany Lions in slugging percentage (.525), OPS (.875), at-bats (162), doubles (15), home runs (eight), and RBIs (32). If Penn State wants to turn things around offensively in 2022, Piacentino’s big bat must have an impact in the middle of the order.

Some other returning bats include redshirt junior Josh Spiegel and sophomore shortstop Jay Harry. Last season, Harry started all 42 games at shortstop and hit .268 with 28 RBIs. Between splitting time at catcher, first base, and designated hitter, Josh Spiegel hit .261 with four home runs. Spiegel also racked up an OPS of .760, which is the third-highest among returning players. Both players should play big roles in the lineup for the Nittany Lions in 2022.

The Nittany Lions will open up their season on the road in Cary, North Carolina against the Monmouth Hawks. The first pitch is set for 2 p.m on Friday, February 18.

Fans will need to wait nearly a full month to see Penn State take the field at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, though. The Nittany Lions’ home opener is set for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 15, against Niagara.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Devon is a junior studying sports journalism. He has the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia sports fan...IYKYK. Send your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter to @devon3134. Devon is also your friendly, neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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