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Defending Big Ten Champion Spartans Open Conference Play Against Ohio State

Jordan Keur leads the Big Ten in batting average (.400) and on-base percentage (.491).

March 30, 2012

Michigan State (15-7, 0-0) vs. Ohio State (13-10, 1-2)
 Dates Saturday, March 31 - Monday, April 2
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | McLane Baseball Stadium (2,500)
 Tickets Saturday/Sunday: $5 | $3 (youth/seniors) | Monday: Free admission
 Statistics Michigan State | Ohio State
 Notes Michigan State | Ohio State
 Social Media @statebaseball | Facebook

Game 1
 Date | Time Saturday, March 31 | 1:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Sr. RHP Tony Bucciferro (3-1, 3.49 ERA) vs.
OSU: So. RHP Jaron Long (0-1, 3.22 ERA)
 Media Coverage Live video stream available for purchase at
 Live Stats Gametracker

Game 2
 Date | Time Sunday, April 1 | 1:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Jr. RHP Andrew Waszak (2-1, 1.63 ERA) vs.
OSU: Jr. LHP Brian King (2-2, 6.04 ERA)
 Media Coverage Live video stream available for purchase at
 Live Stats Gametracker

Game 3
 Date | Time Monday, April 2 | 3:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: R-So. RHP Mike Theodore (2-1, 1.39 ERA) vs.
OSU: Jr. RHP Brett McKinney (3-2, 3.65 ERA)
 Media Coverage (Internet) Free live audio broadcast available at
 Media Coverage (Mobile) Broadcast available on Spartan Sports Network Mobile App:
iPhone/iPad | Android
 Live Stats Gametracker

Defending Big Ten Champion Michigan State opens conference play this weekend as it hosts Ohio State Saturday-Monday at McLane Baseball Stadium. The series was pushed back a day due to inclement weather in the Greater Lansing Area on Friday.

The Spartans, who won their first league title since 1979 last spring, are looking to repeat as Big Ten Champions for the first time in program history. MSU (15-7) will begin that challenging task by taking on the Buckeyes (13-10, 1-2), who started Big Ten play last week and fell in two of three games to No. 19 Purdue.

Michigan State enters the weekend on a eight-game winning streak, currently the second-longest of the Jake Boss era. In his second season in 2010, MSU rattled off 11 straight.

The Spartans have won 11 of their last 12 games overall, including series sweeps over Cincinnati (March 16-18) and Oakland (March 23-25) and midweek victories over Bowling Green and Central Michigan. In the come-from-behind triumph over the Chippewas on Wednesday, the Spartans claimed their second walk-off win of the season on a Jared Hook sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning that scored Torsten Boss.

"We've played well at home and our guys enjoying playing here," said Boss, as the Spartans are 5-0 at home this season and went 11-1 at home last season in Big Ten games. "It's a very good Ohio State team that's coming in. They really competed with Purdue last week and had a tough, hard-fought series against them. They're going to be a good ballclub, we know that."

Ohio State defeated Eastern Michigan, 13-4, in its last outing Tuesday at Bill Davis Stadium in Columbus. The Buckeyes have played a difficult non-conference schedule, including a three-game series at Georgia Tech, a two-game set against Coastal Carolina, as well as games against Connecticut, Louisville and South Florida.

OSU leads the overall series against MSU, 131-84-1, and won two of three games last season in Columbus.

MSU has won four Big Ten regular-season titles in school history (1954, 1971, 1979, 2011) but has never repeated as conference champs. The Spartans won their fourth Big Ten title and first since 1979 with a 15-9 record in 2011, sharing the regular-season crown with Illinois. MSU was in first place wire-to-wire in the Big Ten standings. In a vote by the conference coaches, Michigan State was selected as the 2012 preseason favorite in the Big Ten, followed by Purdue and Minnesota.

Michigan State leads the Big Ten in nearly every pitching category, including ERA (2.70), opposing batting average (.241), saves (7) and walks allowed (60). Entering the week, MSU was ranked No. 24 in the nation with a 2.82 ERA. In addition, the Spartans own a strikeout/walk ratio of 2.50 (150 strikeouts/60 walks), which is first in the Big Ten, and rank 17th in the nation in walks allowed per nine innings at 2.53.

"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."

Senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro continues to climb up the ladder in Michigan State's record book. He's third in innings pitched (299.2) and strikeouts (211) and tied fourth in wins (23).

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 third in the Big Ten in strikeouts (32), tied for fourth in innings pitched (38.2), tied for sixth walks allowed (2) and tied for seventh in wins (3).

Michigan State's weekend rotation of Tony Bucciferro, Andrew Waszak and Mike Theodore has pitched at an elite level all season. The three starters have combined for a 2.16 ERA, 66 strikeouts and just 24 walks allowed in their combined 17 starts (108 1/3 innings).

Waszak, MSU's No. 3 starter last season, has moved up into the No. 2 spot in convincing fashion. Every one of his six starts this season has been a quality start (at least six innings pitched; three earned runs or less), and he has given up just seven earned runs in 38 2/3 innings this season. Waszak (2-1) ranks among the Big Ten leaders in opposing batting average (second at .194), ERA (fourth at 1.63), and innings pitched (tied for fourth with 38.2).

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 leads the Big Ten with a 1.39 ERA while ranking ninth in the conferece in opposing batting average (.237). In his five starts, Theodore (2-1) owns a 1.16 ERA.

Junior Ryan Jones is in his third season as the starting second baseman for the Spartans. Last season, Jones became the first Spartan to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors at second base in 36 years as he hit .344 and led the team with a .442 on-base percentage.

Jones currently leads the team and ranks sixth in the Big Ten with a .536 slugging percentage (six doubles, two triples, two homers) and is second on the team in batting (.371) and on-base percentage (.432). After batting in all four spots in the order during the first month of the season, Jones has batted leadoff in the past five games.

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.

Junior left fielder Jordan Keur, who has reached base in 17 straight games, has led the Spartans in batting average all season long and is currently first in the Big Ten with his .400 average. He also ranks among the league leaders in on-base percentage (first at .491) and hits (tied for second with 36). Keur has started all 22 games in left field this season for the Spartans.

After beginning the year 0-4 in one-run games, with losses to South Florida (2-1), Louisville (7-6), Miami-Ohio (1-0) and Texas A&M (9-8), the Spartans have won five consecutive games decided by one run.

With one more save, Tony Wieber will hold the career saves record at Michigan State. He's currently tied with Brad Lamont for first with 14 saves.

Junior right-hander Tony Wieber has been named to the Stopper of the Year Award Preseason Watch List, as announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association of America. The award has been given annually since 2005 to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.

Thus far in 2012, Wieber has backed up the preseason accolades, as he is tied for the Big Ten lead with five saves (5-for-6 in save opportunities). He has struck out 11 batters in his 10 innings and opponents are hitting just .179 against him.

A third-team All-Big Ten selection as a relief pitcher in 2011, Wieber 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.

Wieber owns a 9-0 career record on the mound and his 14 career saves are tied for most in MSU history, along with Brad Lamont.

Wieber also plays right field for the Spartans and sees time as a designated hitter. He enters the Ohio State series third on the team with a .355 batting average. Wieber batted .288 with 12 doubles and 21 RBIs in 2011.

BOSS MAN Torsten Boss has hit two of his three home runs this season against preseason All-Americans.

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 .351 with 16 homers and 117 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 .322 with three homers, six doubles and 17 RBIs this season. He is hitting .444 (8-for-18) in his last five games.

Michigan State is 3-0 in extra-inning games this season. The Spartans scored four runs in the top of the 11th to defeat Furman on Feb. 25, 6-2, in Greenville, S.C. On March 10 against Seton Hall, the Spartans gave up three runs in the top of the 15th in a scoreless game, but rallied to score four runs against the Pirates to win in the bottom of the 15th, 4-3. At Cincinnati on March 17, the Spartans squandered a 4-2 lead as the Bearcats scored two in the bottom of the ninth, but MSU eventually held off UC in 14 innings, 5-4.

Senior shortstop Justin Scanlon has started every game at shortstop for MSU the past two seasons - 79 straight - since transferring from Madison Junior College. For the season, he is seventh on the team with a .247 batting average and started the season on a seven-game hitting streak. He was voted a captain by his teammates prior to the season. Scanlon played for the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League last summer.

Michigan State has used three different starting catchers this season: junior John Martinez (15 games), senior Andy Johnson (4) and sophomore Joel Fisher (3).

Fisher entered the year as the starter after earning All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors in 2011, but he injured his leg in the second game of the season Feb. 18 vs. South Florida. He has just returned to the lineup in the past week.

Filling in for Fisher, Martinez has started 15 of the last 20 games. He is batting .286 with nine RBIs, including two game-winning RBIs in the sweep over Cincinnati.

MSU owns a 47-14 (.770) record at home under head coach Jake Boss, including a 5-0 mark this season. Boss is 38-13 (.745) overall at McLane Baseball Stadium and 9-1 (.900) at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing. MSU went 12-5 (.706) at home in 2011, including an 11-1 record in the Big Ten.

SCOUTING THE OPPONENT: Ohio State (13-10, 1-2 Big Ten)

• Returns 15 letterwinners, including six position starters, from last season's team that went 26-27 and finished 13-11 in conference play.

• The Buckeyes are led by second-year head coach Greg Beals, who owns an 39-37 record at OSU.

• OSU is coming off a midweek win over Eastern Michigan, 13-4.

• The Buckeyes and Spartans have played three common opponents in South Florida, Seton Hall and Louisville. MSU lost 2-1 to South Florida and 7-6 to Louisville on the opening weekend, and defeated Seton Hall, 5-4. OSU lost to USF 5-4 on Opening Day, but came back to beat Seton Hall, 14-7, the next day. U of L beat Ohio State, 20-0.

• Ohio State took two of three from MSU last season in Columbus. MSU won game one in 10 innings on a Jordan Keur solo homer in the top of the 10th, but the Buckeyes came back to win game two, 9-8, and game three, 10-5.

• Ohio State leads the overall series, 131-84-1.



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