Jack Anderson chews two pieces of Juicy Fruit every time he takes the mound.
The Penn State closer said he’s counted 47 superstitions included in his pre-pitching routine. His pitching career with the Nittany Lions (15-12) has been as consistent as his commitment to his rituals.
If Anderson pitches in the Lions’ game against Pittsburgh (13-11), which starts at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, it would be his 86th collegiate appearance, which would set the all-time school record for appearances.
“It’s a big time testament to the coaching staff for just having a lot of confidence in me,” Anderson said. “It’s definitely a testament to just being blessed enough to stay healthy throughout the four years.”
The Lions ride a six-game winning streak heading into Tuesday night. They are 10-2 over their last 12 games, improving their seasonal record from 5-10 to 15-12.
Their pitching staff, led by Anderson, has been their strength this season. They have a 3.11 ERA, which ranks fourth best in the Big Ten.
But the staff will be put to the test Tuesday night against the Panthers.
Led by sophomore infielder Charles LeBlanc, who boasts a .436 batting average, the Panthers average 7.54 runs per game. They have five players batting over .300 and their team batting average is .295.
Lions coach Rob Cooper said the Panthers’ lineup poses a similar challenge to the one his pitching staff faced this past weekend against Purdue’s two best hitters, Kyle Johnson and Kyle Wood.
Wood came into the weekend series with nine homeruns, and in the first game on Friday, he had three hits, two of which were doubles.
However, the Lions staff buckled down against Wood, who went 0-for-8 with two walks in the two Saturday games.
“I feel like our guys looked at the stats and pitched to [Wood] too fine early on,” Cooper said. “Once they kind of got away from that and went to the game plan…he didn’t have as much success.”
“Now that’s not because [Wood] isn’t a good hitter,” Cooper said. “You can’t let the statistics change how you go about doing things.”
Left-handed pitcher Nick Hedge will start for the Lions Tuesday. In his last outing against Binghamton, the southpaw tossed 5.1 innings of one-run ball.
The Lions’ six consecutive wins mark their longest streak since 2014, when they also won six straight.
Though Cooper wasn’t convinced the squad is playing better than any of his other Lions teams in the past, he acknowledged the current group’s superior mentality in close games.
“From a progress standpoint,” Cooper said. “I don’t know if we win some of those games in the past.”