Spartans Begin Spring Break Trip with Series at No. 5 Texas A&M
March 1, 2012
SPARTANS BEGIN SPRING BREAK TRIP WITH SERIES AT FIFTH-RANKED TEXAS A&M
The three-game series against the Aggies is just one part of a seven-game spring trip to both Texas and Florida. After playing fifth-ranked Texas A&M, MSU will face No. 21 Baylor in Waco, Texas, on March 7 before heading to Port Charlotte, Fla., for three games (March 9-11) against Xavier, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "We'll be in an atmosphere really unlike any other in college baseball. Their fans are really passionate, so it's going to be a neat experience for our guys. On top of all that, we're playing a ballclub with a lot of returning guys that's coming off a trip to Omaha a year ago. It's certainly going to be a very good challenge. It's going to be a (NCAA) Regional atmosphere, which is something our guys need to experience to try and take the program to another level."
The Spartans (4-3) are coming off a 3-1 weekend at the First Pitch Invitational at Fluor Field in Greenville, S.C. MSU split with Miami-Ohio and defeated Furman twice at the event.
"Overall, if you take a step back and look at the big picture, I think we played well last weekend," Boss said. "I'll take three out of four anytime. At the same time when you look at each game and break some things down, there's always room for improvement. I think we can be better in a lot of areas."
The fifth-ranked Aggies took two games from Northwestern State earlier this week. In Tuesday's 14-10 win over the Demons, they posted their biggest-ever comeback at Olsen Field, erasing a 10-1 deficit in the sixth inning. On Wednesday, Texas A&M won, 8-1.
Friday's opener will be a battle between two of the top starting pitchers in the nation, as Spartan senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro matches up against Wacha. Bucciferro is 2-0 this season and owns 22 career victories, tied for fifth most among active NCAA Division I pitchers. Wacha, who was named the Big 12 Preseason Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America, earned All-America honors last season after leading the Aggie pitching staff with 129.2 innings pitched and 123 strikeouts. He went 9-4 overall with a 2.29 ERA and is ranked the No. 10 junior in the nation by Baseball America.
On Saturday, junior Andrew Waszak (1-0, 1.38 ERA) will go against Stripling of the Aggies. A ninth-round pick by the Rockies in last June's MLB First-Year Player Draft after leading the nation with 14 wins in 2011, Stripling elected to return to Texas A&M for his senior season. Waszak has excelled out of the No. 2 spot in the rotation; through 13.0 innings this season, he owns a 1.38 ERA with seven strikeouts and just three walks.
Following his impressive performance in his first career start last Sunday against Miami-Ohio, red-shirt sophomore Mike Theodore will move into the weekend rotation to face the Aggies. Although he took the hard-luck defeat in the 1-0 loss to the RedHawks, Theodore allowed just one unearned run and four hits in 7.2 innings of work. Sophomore right-hander Rafael Pineda (2-0, 1.29 ERA) gets the call on the mound for Texas A&M in the series finale.
1) SPRING BREAK 2012
2) LOOKING FOR ANOTHER WIN OVER A RANKED TEAM
MSU Wins Over Ranked Opponents (Since 2000)
3) SPARTAN PITCHING STAFF RANKED FIRST IN BIG TEN
Last weekend at the First Pitch Invitational, Michigan State's bullpen didn't allow a single earned run or walk one batter in 13.1 innings pitched. Joe Zwierzynski pitched three scoreless innings to earn the save in the 13-4 win over Miami-Ohio, closer Tony Wieber picked up his second save of the season in the 4-2 victory against Furman, and Jeff Kinley allowed one run - unearned - and struck out four in four innings of work to get his first career victory in Saturday's 11-inning win over the Paladins. Trey Popp (2.1 innings) and Bryce Jenney (2.0 innings) also didn't give up a run out of the bullpen for MSU.
4) KEUR OFF TO HOT START
5) RUN PRODUCTION
6) Tony Bucciferro GARNERING NATIONAL ATTENTION
Bucciferro gathered some national attention for his start, as Perfect Game USA columnist Kendall Rogers tabbed him as "one of the nation's best pitchers." Coach Boss also labeled it "as good of a performance by Tony since he's been here. He threw strikes, located all of his pitches, and was in charge the entire time he was out there."
It was good enough for Bucciferro to earn Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week accolades, marking the second time in his career he has won the weekly award. Bucciferro won his second start last Friday against Miami-Ohio (6 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 10 H), the 22nd of his career.
The Joliet, Ill., native continues to climb up the ladder in Michigan State's record book. He's third in innings pitched with 273.0, fifth in strikeouts with 188, and sixth in victories with 22.
7) BOSS MAN
Although he was an All-Big Ten performer his first two seasons at third base, Boss moved to center field this spring for the Spartans following the departure of four-year starter Brandon Eckerle.
Boss, who has started 76 games at third base, was a second-team All-Big Ten choice in 2010 and a first-team all-league selection in 2011. He currently has a career average of .354 with 14 homers and 104 RBIs, and was named to Louisville Slugger's Preseason All-America Third Team.
8) SOLID AT SECOND
With two homers in the first seven games, Jones has already eclipsed his home run total from last season (1). He currently leads the team and ranks fifth in the Big Ten with a .645 slugging percentage (two doubles, one triple, two homers).
Last summer, Jones was named to the Cape Cod League All-Star Team while playing for the Brewster Whitecaps. He finished 17th in the CCL with a .283 average during the 44-game regular season, and had a hit and a run in the CCL All-Star Game at Fenway Park on July 29.
During his All-Big Ten campaign as a sophomore, Jones collected a school-record 33-game hitting streak from March 6 to May 8. It tied for the longest hitting streak in the nation in 2011.
9) FAMILIAR FACES
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT
No. 5 Texas A&M (8-1)
Voted the preseason favorite to win the Big 12, the Aggies tied for first last season with a 19-8 conference mark and also won the Big 12 Conference Tournament.
Took two games from Northwestern State earlier this week. In Tuesday's 14-10 win over the Demons, they posted their biggest-ever comeback at Olsen Field, erasing a 10-1 deficit in the sixth innnig. On Wednesday, Texas A&M won, 8-1.
Junior right fielder Tyler Naquin, the 2011 Big 12 Player of the Year, returns to lead the Aggie lineup. Naquin led the nation with 104 last season and is off to another hot start this season (.563 batting average). Naquin was named a first-team preseason All-American by Baseball America.
Friday starter Michael Wacha, who was named the Big 12 Preseason Pitcher of the Year by Baseball America, earned All-America honors last season after leading the Aggie pitching staff with 129.2 innings pitched and 123 strikeouts. He went 9-4 overall with a 2.29 ERA and is ranked the No. 10 junior in the nation by Baseball America.
Saturday starter Ross Stripling was a ninth-round pick by the Rockies in last June's MLB First-Year Player Draft after leading the nation with 14 wins in 2011 but elected to return to Texas A&M for his senior season.
Series History vs. Texas A&M: First meeting.
MICHIGAN STATE NAMED 2012 BIG TEN PRESEASON FAVORITE
The Verona, Wis., native went 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBIs in Friday's opening 13-4 win over Miami-Ohio, then followed that effort up by going 2-for-4 with a run in the nightcap victory against Furman. In Saturday's 11-inning win over Furman, Scanlon went 1-for-6 with a run, but bounced back by collecting two of MSU's three hits in the 1-0 loss to Miami-Ohio on Sunday.
Scanlon has started every game at shortstop for MSU the past two seasons - 64 straight - since transferring from Madison Junior College. For the season, he is third on the team with a .313 batting average and currently owns a seven-game hitting streak. He was voted a captain by his teammates prior to the season.
WIEBER NAMED TO PRESEASON STOPPER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST
Wieber, a third-team All-Big Ten selection as a relief pitcher in 2011, led the team and ranked fourth in the Big Ten with eight saves last season; that total tied for third most in an MSU single-season. He also compiled a perfect 5-0 record with a 3.64 ERA and struck out 38 batters in 42.0 innings. In addition, Wieber ranked second on the team with 23 appearances.
Thus far in 2012, Wieber is two-for-two in save opportunities (St. John's, Furman).
Wieber owns a 9-0 career record on the mound and his 11 career saves already rank fourth in MSU history. Wieber could also play outfield for the Spartans; he batted .288 with 12 doubles and 21 RBIs in 2011.
FILLING IN BEHIND THE DISH
Martinez went 5-for-13 at the First Pitch Invitational (.333) and scored three times. In the tournament opener against the RedHawks, Martinez recorded a career-high three hits, including a triple, and tied a career high with two RBIs.
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