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Spartans Travel to Greenville, S.C., for Second Straight Weekend

Blaise Salter leads the Spartans with a .375 batting average.

Feb. 21, 2013

Games 3-6: Michigan State (1-1) at First Pitch Invitational
 Dates Friday, Feb. 22 - Sunday, Feb. 24
 Location Greenville, S.C. | Fluor Field at West End
 Stadium Address 945 S. Main Street | Greenville, SC 29605 | Directions
 Ticket Information Click here for ticket pricing.
 Social Media Updates @statebaseball | Facebook

Game 1 vs. Western Carolina (3-1)
 Date | Time Friday, Feb. 22 | 1 p.m.
 Coverage Twitter updates @statebaseball
 Notes Michigan State | Western Carolina
 Statistics Michigan State | Western Carolina
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Sr. RHP Andrew Waszak (0-0, 1.50 ERA) vs.
WCU: So. RHP Jeremy Null (1-0, 2.57 ERA)

Game 2 vs. Cincinnati (0-3)
 Date | Time Friday, Feb. 22 | 5 p.m.
 Coverage Twitter updates @statebaseball
 Notes Michigan State | Cincinnati
 Statistics Michigan State | Cincinnati
 Pitching Matchup MSU: So. RHP Mick VanVossen (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs.
UC: Jr. RHP Christian McElroy (0-1, 8.10 ERA)

Game 3 vs. Furman (2-1)
 Date | Time Saturday, Feb. 23 | 2 p.m.
 Coverage Twitter updates @statebaseball
Live stats at
 Notes Michigan State | Furman
 Statistics Michigan State | Furman
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Jr. RHP David Garner (1-0, 6.00 ERA) vs.
FUR: So. RHP Elliott Warford (0-0, 0.00 ERA)

Game 4 vs. Miami-Ohio (0-2)
 Date | Time Sunday, Feb. 24 | 11 a.m.
 Coverage Twitter updates @statebaseball
 Notes Michigan State | Miami-Ohio
 Statistics Michigan State | Miami-Ohio
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Jr. RHP Mike Theodore (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs.
MU: So. RHP Nathan Williams (0-0, 9.00 ERA)

The Michigan State baseball team travels to Greenville, S.C., for the second weekend of the First Pitch Invitational and will play four games this weekend (Feb. 22-24) at Fluor Field. Last weekend, the Spartans fell to Furman on Opening Day, 4-3, but bounced back to defeat Northwestern on Sunday in a non-conference game, 7-4. Saturday's game against Miami-Ohio was cancelled due to a snow storm.

The Spartans open this weekend's slate with two games on Friday. MSU will take on Western Carolina at 1 p.m., following by a 5 p.m. start against Cincinnati. The Catamounts are off to a 3-1 start following a midweek victory over Wake Forest and a series win over Washington State. The Bearcats were swept last weekend at Florida Atlantic.

In a rematch of Opening Day, Michigan State and Furman will meet again on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Spartans led the Paladins 3-2 with two outs and the bases empty in the bottom of the ninth, but Furman rallied for two runs to pull out the 4-3 victory. MSU closes out the weekend against Miami-Ohio on Sunday at 11 a.m.



On heading back to Greenville and the difference between this weekend and last weekend...
"Doubleheaders are always long games, especially when you're playing two nine-inning games. We've got some depth. We'll get a lot of guys in the ball game, in both ball games. Again, I like our depth on the mound. It will be a long day, but we'll be playing two real good opponents so we're going to really have to be focused, be real locked in for 18 innings and play well."

On how big these games are after a tough weekend last weekend...
"We didn't play well last weekend and were fortunate to get a win. I felt like we could have gotten two, but we really didn't deserve to win the first one so it's important for us to go out and play well and just let the result take care of itself. I feel good about our guys, they're working hard. I feel like if we go in and play well and really play well defensively especially, we have a chance to make some good things happen."

On having snow in South Carolina...
"It was an interesting weekend down there. We've always had great weather in South Carolina. This is the first time we've really run into any type of snow. There was winter weather advisory on Friday night and I think they got an inch of snow so it was a little different down there, but at the same time it's a highlight of the year for us to go down there. Craig Brown and the Greenville Drive and his staff really treat us well down there. It's a first class ballpark. Everything about the weekend is always a great time, so we're looking forward to getting back down there. We're fortunate that we can go two weeks in a row."

On South Carolina's chilly weather again this weekend and it affecting their play...
"We're used to that, we play in that and it'll be warmer down there than it is here so that's the important thing. We just need a chance to get out and run around and play the game outside."

This marks the sixth consecutive season Michigan State is playing at Fluor Field at the West End. Home of the Class A Greenville Drive, the facility is modeled after Fenway Park in Boston, featuring its own "Green Monster" in left field with a 30-foot high wall and a manual scoreboard. The outfield dimensions are identical to Fenway Park, including "Pesky's Pole" in right field. Fluor Field at the West End opened in 2006 and was named the "Ballpark of the Year" by in its inaugural season. Drive co-owner and team president Craig Brown is an alumnus of Michigan State University.

The Spartans started their annual trek to Greenville, S.C., in the 2008 season with a three-game series against Quinnipiac. In 2009, the Spartans took on Clemson, Quinnipiac and Xavier, and in 2010, they faced Furman, Clemson and Miami-Ohio. During 2011, the Spartans went 2-1 at the First Pitch Invitational with victories over Charleston Southern and Furman in the first two games before dropping an 8-0 contest to No. 6 Clemson on Sunday. Last season, MSU defeated Miami-Ohio, 13-4, and then won two straight games over Furman before falling to Miami on Sunday, 1-0. Overall, MSU is 8-7 in games played at Fluor Field.

Michigan State baseball was picked third in the Big Ten according to a poll of conference coaches as announced on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Indiana and Nebraska came in on top followed by MSU, Ohio State, Minnesota and Illinois. The Spartans are coming off a season that ended in the NCAA Regionals, their first trip to the tournament since 1979.

"We talked about that five years ago and needed to increase expectations," head coach Jake Boss said. "We wanted to have a little bit of buzz around the program and that is to these guys' credit. They've put the work in and earned the success on the field. We are at a position now where people expect us to do some good things. That's a program type statement. We don't guarantee a championship every year, but at the same time we expect to compete for one."

Three MSU players were also named to the Big Ten Players to Watch list. Senior RHP Andrew Waszak and junior RHP David Garner, along with senior left fielder Jordan Keur represented Michigan State on the list.

Waszak compiled a 4-4 record with a 2.96 ERA last season as the No. 2 starter and tied for first in the Big Ten with 16 starts and ranked second in innings pitched with 106.1, second most in school history.

Garner saw action as both a starter and reliever last season and had a 6-3 record with a 3.28 ERA. He ranked seventh in the Big Ten in strikeouts (75) and fourth in hits allowed (64).

Keur, who started in all 60 games (49 in left field, 11 in center field) last season, was the team's lone first-team All-Big Ten selection and led the team with a .353 batting average, good for eighth in the conference. He finished the season with 89 hits, second in the Big Ten only to teammate Ryan Jones; that total also ranks fourth most in an MSU single-season.

The 2012 senior class helped Michigan State to a 130-94 record (.581), including three straight 30-win seasons and the 2011 Big Ten regular-season title. The 130 wins are the most by any senior class in the history of Michigan State baseball (second: 128, Class of 1989 and Class of 1990). The senior class included Tony Bucciferro, Andrew Carpenter, Bryce Jenney, Andy Johnson, Chad Nielsen, Justin Scanlon and Tim Simpson.

"I don't know that you do replace all of them," Boss said of the 2012 seniors. "We lost three infielders that were as good as anyone in the conference last year. We don't look at it as trying to replace those guys but doing the best job we can with the guys we have and I think we have some pretty talented guys. John Martinez will play third and also two new guys up the middle, but as long as we make the routine play, I think we will be OK."

Freshmen Justin Alleman (Holt, Mich./Holt High School) and Cam Gibson (Grosse Pointe, Mich./Grosse Pointe South High School), who signed National Letters of Intent with the Spartans last November and were also selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft in June, each elected to enroll at Michigan State University and continue their baseball careers in East Lansing.

A right-handed pitcher and infielder, Alleman was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 18th round (No. 553 overall), while Gibson, an outfielder, was chosen by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 38th round (No. 1173 overall).

"We plan on him closing for us," Boss said of Alleman. "He has a really strong arm and the breaking ball is coming. It shows signs of being a big league breaking ball at times. He is a guy that wants the ball and he can pitch on short rest. It's a pretty good combination for him to close as opposed to start right now and we will see what the future holds."

Alleman was named 2012 Mr. Baseball by the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association after recording a perfect 9-0 record and 1.43 ERA on the mound for Holt while striking out 146 batters. Gibson earned first-team MHSBCA Division 1 all-state honors the past two years.

The Spartans lost both second baseman Ryan Jones and shortstop Justin Scanlon off of last year's team and they both leave big shoes to fill. Jones, who was also named the Kirk Gibson Offensive Player of the Year and the Danny Litwhiler Defensive Player of the Year, led the Big Ten in hits with 92, which ranked third most in an MSU single-season. Selected in the 13th round (No. 418 overall) of the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the San Francisco Giants, Jones is the only Spartan second baseman in school history to earn All-Big Ten honors three times (second team in 2010; first team in 2011; second team in 2012).

A second-team All-Big Ten selection, Scanlon started every game at shortstop for MSU the past two seasons - 117 straight - after transferring from Madison Junior College. He batted .265 with 27 RBIs, and collected a .314 average during conference games.

MSU will turn to Ryan Richardson, a redshirt sophomore transfer from Elgin Community College, at shortstop and sophomore Kevin Goergen at second base.

"I like the guys that we have," Boss said. "Our defensive philosophy has always been to make the routine plays. And Jones and Scanlon were certainly very good and took a lot of base hits away from teams. At the same time, with our pitching staff, if we can just make the routine play we have a chance to be pretty good."

Senior right-hander Andrew Waszak, who was voted a tri-captain by his teammates, is the team's No. 1 starter this season. In his first game as the Friday starter, Waszak was solid on Opening Day vs. Furman, allowing five hits and two runs, one earned, with three strikeouts and just one walk.

Waszak tied for first in the Big Ten with 16 starts last season and also ranked among the Big Ten leaders in innings pitched (second with 106.1), opposing batting average (tied for sixth with .238) and ERA (eighth at 2.96). The 106.1 innings pitched were second most in school history. Waszak will step up and fill the No. 1 slot in the rotation after being the No. 2 starter last year. He went 4-4 last season with a 2.98 ERA as a junior.

"Waszak, as far as a leader, has turned into one of the best we have had since we've been here," Boss said. "He is a tremendous kid and has really taken ownership of the pitching staff."

Michigan State returns seven players with starting experience to the lineup for 2013: junior catcher Joel Fisher, sophomore first baseman Ryan Krill, senior third baseman John Martinez, senior left fielder Jordan Keur, sophomore center fielder Anthony Cheky, right fielder Jimmy Pickens and designated hitter Blaise Salter. On the mound, MSU welcomes back four starters with experience in senior Andrew Waszak, junior David Garner, sophomore Mick VanVossen and junior Mike Theodore. In the bullpen, the Spartans return Trey Popp and Jeff Kinley.

All three outfielders return off last year's NCAA Tournament team, led by left fielder Jordan Keur. The Spartans also bring back Anthony Cheky in center field and Jimmy Pickens in right. Keur ranked among the Big Ten leaders in batting average (eighth with .353), on-base percentage (fifth with .432), runs scored (eighth with 47) and hits (second with 89). The mark of 89 hits ranked third all-time in a single season at Michigan State. Sophomore Anthony Cheky, who was named to the Stanford All-Regional team last season, hit .311 with 15 stolen bases a year ago. As a freshman, Jimmy Pickens started 43 games in right field and saw action in 57 games. He was an All-Big Ten Freshman Team selection and led team with six homers while compiling a .257 batting average. Pickens also ranked third on the team with 35 RBIs.

Andrew Waszak and David Garner headline the Spartans' pitching staff, along with sophomore Mick VanVossen in the No. 3 role. MSU also has Mike Theodore returning with starting experience and MSU is expected to count on its starters often.

"All three of them have improved," Boss said. "David has become a lot more consistent. He has always had a ton of ability, but is starting to become more consistent and we know what we're going to get every time he takes the mound. Mick (VanVossen) has followed up a really strong freshman year and now the expectations are a little greater for him. At the same time, I think he is ready for it and I feel real good about all three of those guys."

Senior left fielder Jordan Kuer, senior third baseman John Martinez and senior right hander Andrew Waszak have been voted captains by their teammates for the 2013 season.

"It means a lot, these guys voted for me and it means a lot for me to have their support, for them to trust me," Waszak said. "Going out there, you don't have to worry about anything, just lead by example."

Waszak noted that the seniors are looking to leave their own legacy at MSU and that the camaraderie the three captains share is vital.

"We all live together and we've been friends since freshman year," Waszak said. "I've been friends with John (Martinez) since I was eight. All of us, we know each other really well, we're all close. I feel like we have a good combination of leadership to combat each other."


Western Carolina (3-1)
• Took two of three from Washington State last weekend and defeated Wake Forest on Wednesday.

• Bobby Moranda, who is in his sixth season as the head coach, owns a 159-127-2 record at WCU.

• The Catamounts return 23 letterwinners from last season's 32-24 team.

Cincinnati (0-3)
• The Bearcats were swept at Florida Atlantic to open the season.

• UC returns 16 letterwinners from last season's team that went 18-38 and finished 12th in the Big Ten at 7-20.

• Michigan State swept a three-game series at Cincinnati last season, including a 14-inning win in the second game of the series.

• Coach Boss is 4-0 against UC as the head coach at Michigan State.

• Bearcat junior outfielder Justin Glass, a 2012 All-Big Ten First Team selection, was named to the All-Big East preseason team. Glass had 83 hits and 21 doubles last season for UC.

Furman (2-1)
• Defeated Michigan State and Miami-Ohio last weekend at Fluor Field; fell to Garner-Webb on Wednesday.

• Finished 28-31 overall in 2012 and finished eighth in the Southern Conference with a 13-17 record.

• Third baseman Chris Ohmstede and RHP Elliott Warford were Southern Conference All-Freshman Team selections last season.

• Return 23 letterwinners from last season's team including six position starters.

• Ron Smith is in his 20th season as the head coach at Furman.

• Outfielder Will Muzika was named to the coaches preseason All-SoCon second team.

• Picked to finish seventh and eighth out of 11 in a pair of Southern Conference preseason polls.

• Furman 2012 baseball signee Skye Overton has been named a 2013 Louisville Slugger Preseason High School All-American, it has been announced.

• Pitchers Tyler Wood and Matt Solter and Paladin outfielders Greg Harrison and Taylor Johnson have been named to summer baseball league all-star teams.

• Pitcher Elliott Warford was named to the 2012 Louisville Slugger Freshman All-America Team as a relief pitcher last season.

Miami-Ohio (0-2)
• Fell to Northwestern and Furman last weekend at Fluor Field.

• Picked to finish second in the East Division of the MAC.

• Finished 30-29 last year.

• Outfielder Matt Honchel was chosen as a pre-season All-American after a season in which he earned Freshman All-American honors, was a MAC Freshman of the year, and a first-team all-conference selection.

• Six position starters and three regular starting pitchers also return in 2013.

• Roster includes 15 letterwinners, including preseason All-America choice Matt Honchel.

• Honchel earned Freshman All-America, MAC Freshman of the Year and first-team all-conference honors after batting .395 in his initial collegiate campaign.

• Signed four players to national letters-of-intent on the opening day of the early signing period. Spencer Dull (Indianapolis, Ind.), Stephen Sada (Saegertown, Pa.), Jacob Banks (Cincinnati) and Christian Bokich (Hindsdale, Ill.) will play for the RedHawks beginning in 2014.



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