May 11, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro threw a five-hit, complete game shutout and struck out nine batters, one shy of his career high, to lead Michigan State past Iowa, 6-0, Friday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium.
It marked the fourth complete game shutout of Bucciferro's career, and in the process, he became the all-time leader in innings pitched at MSU with 352 1/3.
"I was just able to execute my pitches," said Bucciferro, who improved to 4-0 in his career against Iowa. "I had outstanding defense behind me; I can't say enough about it, they were making plays all day for me. Our team is coming together at the right time. We just have to stay focused and keep playing hard."
"Tony was very good today," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "He got himself into trouble a little bit early, but got himself out of it. He threw strikes early in the count, which allowed him to get into the seventh, eighth and ninth inning. We were able to open up a lead and run him back out there for the ninth, which is good for him. It's good to see your senior captain go out and throw a complete game on a big day for us."
The victory, MSU's sixth in its last seven games, also pushed the Spartans (32-16, 11-8) into a second-place tie with Indiana in the Big Ten standings, as the Hoosiers fell at Northwestern in the first game of the series in Evanston, Ill., 4-3.
Bucciferro (5-3) got all the run support he would need early as the Spartans went ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first on a Ryan Krill RBI single.
The Spartans went up 3-0 in the fourth as Blaise Salter blasted his first career home run with a deep shot well over the 375-foot sign in the left-center field gap.
Bucciferro did run into trouble in the fifth after uncharacteristically hitting three batters to load the bases, but got out of the jam with a flyout. Earlier in the inning, Jones made a diving stop to his left on a grounder to second base that prevented a single, a play that ultimately saved a run.
After a walk and another hit batter started things for Iowa (19-25, 7-12) in the seventh, Bucciferro settled down and recorded three straight outs to end the Hawkeye threat.
Already up 3-0, MSU provided some breathing room for Bucciferro in the bottom of the seventh, scoring three times - all with two outs - to take a commanding 6-0 advantage. Krill walked with the bases loaded, and Martinez followed with a two-run single to center. Justin Scanlon, who led MSU with three hits, came in to score on Martinez's RBI single, along with Keur.
"I think that relaxed (Tony) a little bit," Boss said of the three-run seventh. "He got himself through the seventh inning and he made some big pitches. Ryan Krill had a great at-bat with the bases loaded to draw a walk, and Johnny Martinez came in and had a big hit to break it open for us.
"That's what we're going to need. We're going to need every guy to contribute and every guy to be ready to go every day. We got that today."
With 108 pitches under his belt after eight innings, Bucciferro took the mound for the ninth, and finished off his complete game shutout with two strikeouts to seal the win. Bucciferro, who also didn't walk a batter, finished with 118 pitches.
"I really wanted to go back out there for the ninth," said Bucciferro. "But Vandy (Mark VanAmeyde), our pitching coach, told me I wasn't going to go out because he wanted to give my arm a rest...but he gave me the opportunity (to finish), and I appreciated it. I love our home field, I love our fans cheering - there's nothing better."
The Spartans return to action for the second game of the series Saturday at 1:05 p.m. A pregame ceremony will be held at 12:50 p.m. to honor former Spartan Brandon Eckerle, who will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
Bucciferro also threw complete game shutouts against Southeast Missouri State on March 7, 2010 (9 hits, 7 strikeouts), Notre Dame on March 21, 2010 (3 hits, 5 strikeouts) and Minnesota on April 9, 2011 (5 hits, 2 strikeouts) . . . it marks the second complete game shutout for MSU this season (David Garner at Purdue on April 29) . . . it's also the fourth time MSU has shut out an opponent this season (Baylor on March 7; Indiana on April 15; Purdue on April 29) . . . Bucciferro has now thrown eight complete games in his career (5-3 record) . . . Bucciferro has struck out nine on three other occasions (vs. Penn State on April 30, 2011; vs. Northwestern on May 20, 2011; vs. Ohio State on March 31, 2012) . . . Bucciferro's career high is 10 strikeouts, which arrived earlier this season on March 16 at Cincinnati . . . Torsten Boss had his 15-game hitting streak and 24-game streak of reaching base safely end, as he went 0-for-3 with sacrifice fly . . . Ryan Jones is now tied for Matt Riggins for fourth place in MSU history with 42 career doubles; Jones hit a leadoff double in the bottom of the first . . . John Martinez made his first career start in right field . . . the 32 wins this season by MSU already ties for ninth most in school history (1984, 1978, 1968).