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Penn State Baseball Seeking Bounce-Back Drive Amid Playoff Push

After its matchup against West Virginia was canceled, Penn State baseball has just 14 games remaining on its long schedule with nine games being against conference opponents. It currently sits with a 19-17 record and a 6-9 record in conference play.

The Nittany Lions remain in 10th place in Big Ten standings. To get into the Big Ten Tournament, Mike Gambino’s squad has to finish as at least the eighth seed in the conference.

The nine remaining games against Big Ten opponents are Rutgers, Maryland, and Minnesota, three teams who are all beneath the Nittany Lions in the standings. All three of the teams are having down seasons, which means Penn State needs to take advantage of the situation.

However, the Nittany Lions are in one of the worst stretches of their entire season. They’ve lost five of their last six games, being outscored 49-25 in those matchups, and have blown multiple leads in nearly every game.

After the Nittany Lions’ most recent home loss to Kent State, Gambino was more upset with the lack of competition from his team rather than the performance displayed in the stat book.

“We got to put a better product out on the field. We got to play better than that,” Gambino said. “You know, win or lose, I thought we got out-competed and that can happen.”

Pitching has been a major disappointment as seen in the run differential. Penn State ranked in the bottom tier in the Big Ten in ERA and hits allowed as well as last in the conference in runs and earned runs allowed.

The offense has and will probably continue to be the strong suit of this team with players like J.T. Marr with a .420 batting average and Adam Cecere and Grant Norris leading the team with 13 and 12 home runs, respectively. Bryce Molinaro also has played well as he’s recorded a hit in 17 of his last 20 games. However, inconsistent run-scoring has caused the team to go cold throughout multiple innings in games, creating early leads to crumble as the bullpen gets used more and more.

“One of the things we talked about is don’t connect unconnected things,” Gambino said. “Your second at-bat in a game, that at-bat is emotionless, it has no clue whether you’re 1-for-1 or 0-for-1. Our focus has been on the game, just playing the game, regardless of where we are, regardless of the opponent. Execute whatever it is, whatever the game needs at that time.”

While the success lately hasn’t been what the team is looking for, attendance and support for the Nittany Lions are at an all-time high. In just the last two home games, a total of 9,927 people have attended the games — a near-5,000-person attendance average per game.

In baseball, getting fans to want to support teams, especially ones located in the middle of Pennsylvania where weather is one of the most unpredictable things ever, is a tough thing to do. Whether it’s the steal of the Dollar Dog Nights or the atmosphere that Penn State baseball is creating, people want to see a baseball game from the Nittany Lions.

Creating an atmosphere like that has not only helped the current team on the field as it fights down the stretch for the postseason, but it’s positively affecting the future of the group.

“People want to come to Penn State. Yes, to play with James Franklin but also to play in front of those fans,” Gambino said. “Recruits that we’re talking to, are talking about wanting to play in front of this group and these students and fans. We’re in a playoff hunt and these fans affect the game that they’re watching and it affects recruiting.”

While the future of Penn State baseball is still far ahead, Gambino and the rest of his program are moving in the right direction. However, the first step to putting the program in the right direction is getting the team back to the postseason after missing the Big Ten Tournament last year. If adjustments to the way they play can be made, the Nittany Lions still have a chance.

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About the Author

Matt Brown

Matt is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in sports studies from Bensalem, Pa. Matt is a huge Philadelphia sports fan and an overall sports fan in general. When not watching sports, you'll find him taking down any Dollar Dog challenge or rewatching the Big Ten Maps Commercial. To reach him, follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @matt_brown63, or email him at [email protected].

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