Defending Big Ten Champion Spartans Open Conference Play Against Ohio State
March 30, 2012
DEFENDING BIG TEN CHAMPION SPARTANS BEGIN CONFERENCE PLAY AGAINST OHIO STATE
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.
LOOKING TO MAKE HISTORY
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 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).
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.
SOLID AT SECOND
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.
KEUR OFF TO HOT START
WINNING THE CLOSE ONES
WIEBER NAMED TO PRESEASON STOPPER OF THE YEAR WATCH LIST
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.
MEET ME IN EXTRA INNINGS
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.
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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