Baseball Begins Spring Trip at No. 18 Mississippi State
Spartans will face both the No. 18 Bulldogs and Eastern Illinois twice.
Feb. 27, 2014
Michigan State is making its second trip to Mississippi State in the last four seasons as the Spartans last played in Starkville in 2010 ... The Spartans are 1-2 all-time against Mississippi State, while they will be meeting Eastern Illinois for the first time in program history.
Michigan State's 8-7 win over No. 1 Oregon State was its third over a top-10 non-conference opponent since 2008 ... Oregon State was the highest-ranked non-conference opponent MSU has defeated since topping No. 6 Rice, 9-3, in 2008.
The Spartan bullpen has a 2.08 ERA through six games ... Eight pitchers have combined to throw 26.0 innings, limiting opponents to 17 hits and six earned runs.
After going 12-3 in one-run games last season, MSU is off to another good start in 2014, going 2-0 in one-run games so far this season.
Entering Friday, the Spartan pitching staff ranks second in the Big Ten in ERA at 3.06.
MSU has a .978 fielding percentage, which is currently second highest in the Big Ten ... Last season the Spartans posted a .975 fielding percentage, which was third best in the conference.
Anthony Cheky's four stolen bases (4-5) are tied for third in the conference ... Last season, Checky tied for first in the Big Ten with 23 stolen bases.
MSU has outscored opponents, 13-0, in the fourth through seventh innings this season.
Closer Jeff Kinley picked up saves in both victories over Wright State on opening weekend and earned another last weekend vs. Utah, giving him three on the year, which leads the Big Ten ... Kinley, a redshirt junior, made just nine appearances last year after suffering a blood clot in his arm ... In 2.0 innings of work last weekend, Kinley gave up one hit, had two Ks and one walk.
The Spartans won at least 30 games for the fourth consecutive season last year ... Entering the season, MSU has more wins (140) than any other Big Ten team over the last four seasons.
Returning To Mississippi State
Michigan State will meet the Bulldogs for the fourth and fifth times in program history this weekend. In their last trip to Starkville in 2010, Michigan State fell to the Bulldogs, 7-4 and 14-6. In the only other meeting between the programs, Michigan State defeated Mississippi State, 4-3, in March 1931.
Pitching Staff Producing
Spartan pitchers enter the weekend as one of the top staffs in the Big Ten, ranking second in ERA (3.06), third in opponent batting average (.240), second in walks (22), first in hits allowed (46) and first in runs allowed (25).
...Young Arms in the `Pen
Three freshmen relievers - Jake Lowery, Walter Borkovich and Josh Buchalski - have yet to allow a run in 6.0 combined innings. Lowery is tied with closer Jeff Kinley for the team lead in appearances with four and earned his first collegiate win by pitching a scoreless final 1.1 innings.
Since Jake Boss took over the Spartan program in 2009, the Spartans have a 40-33 record in one-run games. The Spartans were outstanding in one-run games last season, going 12-3.
Change of Plans
MSU opened the season by going 2-1 against Wright State at Vanderbilt's Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tenn. The Spartans were supposed to begin the 2014 campaign in Cary, N.C., at the USA Baseball Complex, but winter storms forced a change in plans. MSU and WSU were slated to meet once in North Carolina, but agreed to play at the neutral site due to the winter storms.
Experience in the Outfield
Michigan State returns all three of its starting outfielders from the 2013 campaign, highlighted by Big Ten Players to Watch Cam Gibson and Jimmy Pickens. Pickens was a second-team All-Conference selection last year, while Gibson earned a spot on the Big Ten's All-Freshman Team.
Gibson, a sophomore, spent much of the 2013 season as the team's leadoff hitter, compiling a .325 batting average, 34 runs and 12 steals. He started 40 games and his .325 average was the 12th best in the Big Ten and third on the team.
Pickens enters his third year as the starting right fielder for the Spartans and is coming off a season in which he was named the team's John Kobs Most Valuable Player. Pickens started all 50 games for MSU and led the team in runs scored (39), RBIs (42), total bases (103), slugging percentage (.528) and home runs (9).
Anthony Checky started 44 games last season and the junior enters his third season as the starting center fielder for MSU. Checky was the league-leader in stolen bases, swiping 23 bags on 25 tries, while his 34 runs were tied for the second most on the team.
Alleman Wins First Career Start
After making 22 appearances all out of the bullpen last season, sophomore Justin Alleman won his first-career start on Feb. 16 in MSU's 2-1 victory over Wright State. Alleman threw six-complete scoreless innings and surrendered just four hits to earn in the victory.
Kinley Back Healthy
Redshirt junior closer Jeff Kinley is back healthy after a blood clot forced him to miss nearly the entire 2013 season. Kinley saw action in just nine games and after discovering the blood clot in mid-March, he was unable to pitch the remainder of the season. In 2012, his last full season, Kinley posted a 2.47 ERA in 47.1 innings of work. He had a 6-5 record with two saves and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 4-to-1.
MSU Wins Over Non-Conference Ranked Opponents - Since 2000
|Feb. 22, 2014||Suprise, Ariz.||MSU 8, No. 1 Oregon State 7|
|March 9, 2013||Lexington, Ky.||MSU 6, No. 7 Kentucky 1|
|March 7, 2012||Waco, Texas||MSU 4, No. 25 Baylor 0|
|Feb. 17, 2012||Dunedin, Fla.||MSU 11, No. 11 St. John's 4|
|March 7, 2008||Houston, Texas||MSU 9, No. 6 Rice 3|
|March 16, 2007||Norman, Okla.||MSU 4, No. 21 Oklahoma 3|
|Feb. 28, 2003||Myrtle Beach, S.C.||MSU 3, No. 20 North Carolina 1|
|March 8, 2000||Coral Gables, Fla.||MSU 13, No. 10 Miami 11|