Spartans Host Oakland in Home-Opening Series at McLane Stadium
March 22, 2012
SPARTANS HOST OAKLAND IN HOME-OPENING SERIES AT McLANE STADIUM
The Oakland home series actually begins MSU's longest homestand of the season, as the Spartans will host eight straight games at McLane Baseball Stadium from March 23 to April 1. Following the games against the Golden Grizzlies this weekend, the Green and White will take on Bowling Green on Tuesday, March 27 and Central Michigan on Wednesday, March 28 before facing Ohio State in the Big Ten opener March 30-April 1.
"We're very excited to play at home," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "We play in a beautiful ballpark that's in great shape, and we have great fans."
The Spartans (10-7) are coming off a sweep over Cincinnati on the road last weekend and have won six of their last seven games. MSU edged the Bearcats in two one-run games with a 4-3 win on Friday and a 5-4, 14-inning triumph on Saturday. The Spartans prevailed 9-4 in the series finale. The current stretch started with a 4-0 shutout victory at No. 25 Baylor and also includes a win over Xavier and a 15-inning victory over Seton Hall.
"Our guys have a lot of character," said Boss. "They believe they can win, and that's what it's going to take to win those extra-inning ballgames and close one-run games. We've pitched it very well, which has been extremely encouraging. We feel like we have the depth, especially out of the bullpen. If we do get in those extra-inning games, we have a good feeling about the guys we have going out there on the mound. They're going to give us a chance to win when we score enough runs."
Oakland (3-13) is coming off a midweek loss at Toledo on Wednesday, 3-2. The Golden Grizzlies and Spartans have played two common opponents in Louisville and Cincinnati. MSU lost 7-6 on the opening weekend to Louisville and swept Cincinnati, while OU went was swept by Louisville and lost three of four at Cincinnati. Oakland and Michigan State split a doubleheader last April at Cooley Law School Stadium; however, MSU leads the overall series, 25-3.
The Spartans will be sending ace Tony Bucciferro (3-1, 4.26 ERA) on the mound for Opening Day against Oakland.
"It's an exciting time," said Bucciferro. "We're coming off a series sweep against Cincinnati, and our home record last year was unbelievable, near perfect. We're ready to go."
MSU owns a 42-14 (.750) record at home under head coach Jake Boss and went 12-5 (.706) at home in 2011, including an 11-1 record in the Big Ten. Boss is 34-13 (.723) overall at McLane Baseball Stadium and 8-1 (.889) at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing. The Spartans are 2-1 on Opening Day at McLane Baseball Stadium under Boss.
"We have guys that are going to play hard," Boss said on what the fans can expect to see out of the 2012 Spartans. "We're going to pitch it well and we should play good defense. We're going to have to work to manufacture runs; we're going to have to move runners and do a lot of the little things that have given us some success in the past couple of years. Hopefully this ballclub will take the same kind of character as last year's team. I do know they're going to fight and compete for nine innings, and that's all we can ask them to do."
SPARTAN PITCHING STAFF RANKED FIRST IN BIG TEN
"Mark Van Ameyde is doing a great job," said Boss. "I've said on more than one occasion that I think he's the best pitching coach in this conference. You see the results that he's getting with our guys."
Tony Bucciferro GARNERING NATIONAL ATTENTION
Bucciferro has put together several impressive performances on the mound during his career at Michigan State - add Opening Day 2012 to that list. The senior right-hander allowed only one hit through six innings against No. 11 St. John's. He struck out six, didn't surrender a walk, and retired his first 13 batters. Bucciferro, a 2011 Cape Cod League All-Star, gathered some national attention for his start, as Perfect Game USA columnist Kendall Rogers tabbed him as "one of the nation's best pitchers." 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.
In the 4-3 victory over Cincinnati on March 16, Bucciferro won his third game of the season and struck out a career-high 10 batters.
Bucciferro ranks tied for second in the Big Ten in walks allowed (2), third in strikeouts (28), tied for third in wins (3) and sixth in innings pitched (31.2).
Waszak, MSU's No. 3 starter last season, has moved up into the No. 2 spot in convincing fashion. Every one of his five starts this season has been a quality start (at least six innings pitched; three earned runs or less), and he has given up just five earned runs in 33 2/3 innings this season. Waszak (1-1) leads the Big Ten in ERA (1.34) and opposing batting average (.178) and ranks second in innings pitched.
Theodore attended Tennessee but did not see action in 2010, and had to sit out the 2011 season after transferring to MSU. He earned his first collegiate win on March 18 at Cincinnati. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native ranks second in the Big Ten, behind only Waszak, with a 1.42 ERA, and his opponents batting average of .226 is eighth in the conference. In his four starts, Theodore (1-1) owns a 1.12 ERA.
SOLID AT SECOND
Jones currently leads the team with a .564 slugging percentage (six doubles, one triple, two homers) and is second in batting (.385) and on-base percentage (.424). He went 3-for-6 with a season-high four RBIs in Sunday's 9-4 win at Cincinnati, including a bases-clearing double in the second inning that gave MSU a commanding 5-0 lead. For the weekend, Jones led MSU with seven hits (7-for-17; .412 avg.), including two doubles, and scored three runs.
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.
KEUR OFF TO HOT START
"We know what we're going to get out of Torsten at third base - he's very athletic," said Jake Boss. "And really, the onset of Tony Cheky has really enabled us to feel comfortable with that move. Tony has really played well in center field. We've struggled a little bit defensively at third base and moving Torsten back there I think is a place where he's comfortable. I think it's solidified some things in the infield for us. We feel good about that. Barring any type of injury or anything that happens in the outfield, it will probably stay that way for awhile."
In front of numerous scouts against St. John's, Boss delivered a solo homer in his first at-bat of 2012 off of preseason All-American Kyle Hansen, hitting a 94-mph fastball over the left-center field wall. Boss stayed hot throughout the game, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs, including a two-run single in the fifth inning. The Lowell, Mich., product hit .429 overall (6-for-14) at the Big Ten/Big East Challenge.
In his first at-bat in College Station, Texas, Boss hit another solo blast, this time against preseason Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Michael Wacha. An All-American last season, Wacha is ranked the No. 10 junior in the nation by Baseball America.
Boss was a second-team All-Big Ten choice in 2010 and a first-team all-league selection in 2011 as a third baseman. He currently has a career average of .347 with 15 homers and 113 RBIs, and was named to Louisville Slugger's Preseason All-America Third Team. Boss, who began the season starting in center field but is now back at third base, is batting .291 with two homers, six doubles and 13 RBIs this season.
MEET ME IN EXTRA INNINGS
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 four-for-five in save opportunities. He has struck out nine batters in his 8 1/3 innings and opponents are hitting just .206 against him.
Wieber owns a 9-0 career record on the mound and his 13 career saves already rank second in MSU history.
Wieber also plays right field for the Spartans. He started his first two games of the season in right field last weekend at Cincinnati and took advantage by collecting four hits in his eight at-bats. He went 1-for-4 in the second game of the series before going 3-for-4 with a run scored in the 9-4 win on Sunday. Wieber batted .288 with 12 doubles and 21 RBIs in 2011.
FILLING IN BEHIND THE DISH
Martinez is batting .283 with eight RBIs, including two game-winning RBIs in the series sweep at Cincinnati. The junior from Auburn Hills, Mich., who hit .417 (5-for-12) against the Bearcats, had a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning of Friday's win that put the Spartans in the lead for good, while on Saturday, Martinez delivered the game-winning hit with an RBI single up the middle that plated Torsten Boss in the top of the 14th inning.
Martinez has also provided excellent defense for the Spartans, as he owns a caught stealing percentage of .363.
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