March 26, 2009
Michigan State (7-14) vs. Illinois (13-5)
Illinois Field Champaign, Ill.
Friday, March 27, 6:05 p.m. CT TV: Big Ten Network
Sr. RHP Nolan Moody (3-2, 3.27) vs. RHP Lee Zeerusen (0-0, 3.00)
Saturday, March 28, 3:05 p.m. CT TV: Big Ten Network
So. RHP A.J. Achter (0-2, 3.26) vs. RHP WIll Strack (1-0, 3.95)
Sunday, March 29, 1:05 p.m. CT
TBD vs. RHP Bryan Roberts (2-0, 7.56 ERA)
GameTracker available for all games at MSUSpartans.com
Complete Spartan Baseball Notes
Spartans Open Conference Play
Michigan State opens the Big Ten portion of its schedule with a three-game series at Illinois this weekend. After defeating Western Michigan, 5-3, on Wednesday, the Spartans enter Friday's game with a five-game winning streak. The Green and White defeated Eastern Michigan March 18 to the start the streak and swept Oakland in a three-game series at Oldsmobile Park last weekend. MSU is looking for its first conference-opening series win since 2007 when it took three of four games from Indiana. In their only meetings last season, the Fighting Illini took three of four games from the Spartans in the first conference series of the year.
Starting to Click
After a slow start to the season that saw the Spartans drop 11 straight (Feb. 21-March 11), MSU has has rebounded to win its last five games. The Spartans had two five-game winning streaks last season but prior to 2008 their last best winning streak came in 2004 when they strung 12 consecutive wins together.
Difference of Day and Night
Without question, the Spartans have improved in every facet since their win streak began against Eastern Michigan on March 18. When compared with their 11-game losing streak earlier this year, MSU is significantly improved over the last five games in the following key offensive categories: +.136 in batting average (.349 vs. .213), +.163 in on-base percentage (.452 vs. .289), and +.164 in slugging percentage (.479 vs. .315). On the mound, the pitching staff dropped its ERA by 2.38 (4.00 vs. 6.38) while the Spartans' fielding percentage improved +.029 (.980 vs. .951).
The Spartans have put up 43 runs in their last five games, compared to just 38 during the 11-game losing streak.
Boike Continues to Impress
Junior Eli Boike continues to lead the team in several offensive categories, including: batting average (.368), runs scored (18), home runs (5), total bases (47), slugging percentage (.618) and on-base percentage (.462). His seven stolen bases places him in a tie with Jeff Holm for the team lead. The junior also leads MSU with 11 multi-hit games.
Earlier this season, Boike had a team-high 12 game hitting streak before it was snapped in a 9-6 win over Oakland (3/21). MSU is 5-2 since Boike began hitting from the lead-off spot in the lineup.
Bo Gets on Track
Junior Bo Felt enters Friday's game with the Illini with a team-high seven game hitting streak and is hitting .316 in his last five games. The left fielder is currently hitting .239 and raised his batting average by .184 in the last seven games, going 9-for-34 with three doubles and 10 RBIs. He leads the team with five multiple-RBI games.
With the Sunday's game against Okland tied at five in the bottom of the eighth, Felt broke the tie with a two-RBI hit to give the Spartans the eventual win.
Wolff Leads Bullpen
Entering Friday's game as the lead leader in saves with three, senior reliever Peter Wolff has been the Spartans' best arm out of the bullpen this season. In eight appearances and 10.2 innings of work, Wolff has given up 10 hits and three earned runs. His 10 Ks this season has eclipsed his three previous single-season totals and he also picked up his first-career save by pitching the final three innings against Quinnipiac (DH game one) earlier this season. The righty's 2.53 ERA leads all relievers on the staff that have pitched at least one inning.
Wolff has earned saves in his last two appearances, vs. Oakland (3/22) and Western Michigan (3/25).
Streaks of Note
The rollowing Spartans have hitting streaks entering Friday's game with the Illini:
7 games Bo Felt
6 games Chris Roberts
3 games Jonathan Roof, Eric Roof, Brandon Eckerle and Seth Williams
2 games Eli Boike, Johnny Lee
Roberts Nearing 150 Hits
Through 21 games, junior infielder Chris Roberts leads MSU in hits this season with 30 and now has 143 for his career. He collected 48 hits as a freshman and 65 as a sophomore and with a 1.4 hit per game average this year, he is on his way to eclipsing last year's mark. Roberts is still a ways from moving into the MSU top 10 in career hits as Mike Davidson (1985-88) and Matt Riggins (1993-96) are tied for ninth place all-time with 203.
Tough Luck A.J.
Despite starter A.J. Achter's 0-2 record, the sophomore has the lowest ERA of any starter on the MSU staff at 3.26. Just 11 of his 21 runs surrendered this year have been earned. Achter gave up a season-high seven runs in his March 7 start vs. Xavier but just one of the runs was earned as MSU committed a season-high five errors in the game. Adversly, when the Spartans played error-free defense behind Achter on Feb. 27 vs. UNC Wilmington, Achter went 7.1 innings, giving up two hits and three runs, two of which were earned.