Steven Miller Emerging As Key Piece During Penn State Pitching’s Rough Patch
This past weekend is one the Nittany Lions are hoping to forget.
After dropping two of three games to the Indiana Hoosiers, Penn State fell to 1-5 in Big Ten conference play as it enters the month of April. The series’ final game was one of the worst appearances for the pitching staff, allowing 22 runs on 18 hits.
Head coach Rob Cooper spoke candidly about the pitching staff’s struggles following his team’s doubleheader and series loss to the Hoosiers.
“When you walk seven, you hit as many [players] as we hit, and make four errors, you’re not gonna win,” Cooper said. “We haven’t given ourselves a chance, and we’ve got to do better.”
Despite the unit’s overall struggles, game one of the doubleheader saw reliever Steven Miller pitch the best game of his Penn State career.
The starter in game one, Daniel Ouderkirk, didn’t offer much help, allowing two runs and leaving the bases loaded after less than two innings of work. Miller was subsequently called upon to clean up the damage that the Hoosiers had already caused.
While he let up a single to the first batter he faced, Miller was dominant for the rest of the contest. Cooper said Miller was the reason the team had a chance to win the first game.
“That was a Herculean effort,” Cooper said. “He gave us an opportunity to get back in that game. We didn’t do anything offensively, and he was lights out.”
The right-hander tossed just over seven innings of relief during game one of the doubleheader, allowing just four hits and punching out seven. While the Nittany Lions didn’t win the game, there’s no denying that Miller’s performance was a bright spot on an otherwise sour day.
Miller’s season has been a mix of up and down appearances, with the worst coming in an eight-run performance in Chapel Hill against North Carolina. Since then, he has only allowed one run and nine hits through 13.1 innings pitched.
Miller talked after the game about the improvements he has shown since beginning conference play.
“I never want to say it feels different playing Big Ten, but it gives me a little extra adrenaline boost,” Miller said. “It’s been a big part of my performance recently.”
Now in his fifth season with the Nittany Lions, the former walk-on has emerged as one of the best relievers Penn State has in its bullpen. Cooper talked about the adversity Miller underwent to put himself in the spot he’s in today.
“He’s what a Penn Stater is all about,” Cooper said. “He’s one of our most dependable and one of our hardest workers, and one of the guys that really wants to win.”
While the majority of the pitchers have many things to improve as the season goes on, Miller’s stellar play can only help an otherwise struggling staff stay in contention among a crowded conference of Big Ten competitors.
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Kotelnicki’s hiring was first reported Thursday afternoon.
The Nittany Lions survived a late Minnesota comeback attempt to split the series.