Coach Rob Cooper said a little bit of adversity has forced his team to look closer at the way it plays, which could be something Penn State needs, heading into a five-game home stint with no days off.
The Nittany Lions (10-17, 0-3) will welcome the Buckeyes (12-16, 1-5) to Medlar for a three-game series this weekend and will host Binghamton and Bucknell on Monday and Tuesday, respectively.
Five games in five days will likely be a challenge for Penn State, a team that’s currently suffering from a four-game losing skid.
The marathon of play may be difficult in terms of the opponents and the tiring effect it could have on the pitching staff.
“You’re looking at basically 45 innings of pitching over five days,” Cooper said. “But we have to worry about the first inning on Friday and go from there.”
Cooper said trying to plan too far ahead with pitching choices can make a team lose sight of the game in front of it, a problem he said the Nittany Lions need to avoid heading into this series.
Regardless, Cooper said Sal Biasi will get the start on Friday, and Justin Hagenman on Saturday. While he’s still unsure about Sunday, Cooper said he’s leaning toward having Eric Mock start on the mound.
“Our plan is to go and try and be successful in the Big Ten because those are the games in front of us,” Cooper said. “We’re going to do everything we can to win Friday night, and we’ll go from there.”
Trying to focus only on the series with Ohio State, Cooper said the Buckeyes are a well-coached ball club that knows how to win at a high level.
“They’re going to be really, really good even though they are young and they’ve lost a lot,” Cooper said. “They’ve got guys on the team that were in the NCAA tournament last year and that won a Big Ten championship.”
While 2016 proved to be a great year for the Buckeyes, they haven’t had much luck this season, but neither have the Nittany Lions. Both teams post a sub-par conference record and sit well below .500.
Ohio State leads 64-35 in the all-time series with Penn State, including a series sweep by the Buckeyes in Columbus, Ohio during the 2015 season.
In contrast, Cooper thinks playing the Buckeyes on their home field this time may give the Nittany Lions an advantage.
“The thing I love is that we’re playing at home,” Cooper said. “We just have to continue to worry about ourselves, and we’re excited to get back home and get on a winning streak.”
Editor's note: Penn State will now be playing five games in four days, as Friday's game was moved to Sunday at 11 a.m.