Baseball Opens Big Ten Slate at Home This Weekend
Three-game set with Iowa begins at 3:05 p.m. on Friday.
April 1, 2010
Iowa (9-13) vs. Michigan State (17-4)
McLane Baseball Stadium East Lansing, Mich.
Gametracker Available For All Games at MSUSpartans.com
Friday, April 2 3:05 p.m.
So. LHP Jarred Hippen (1-2, 2.54) vs. Jr. RHP AJ Achter (3-0, 1.52)
Saturday, April 3 1:05 p.m.
Jr. RHP Zach Kenyon (1-1, 4.62) vs. Jr. RHP Kurt Wunderlich (4-1, 3.44)
Sunday, April 4 1:05 p.m.
So. RHP Phil Schreiber (2-2, 5.22) vs. So. RHP Tony Bucciferro (3-2, 4.33)
Pitching matchups probable and subject to change
Spartans Ride Winning Streak Into Conference Opener
Michigan State enters this weekend's Big Ten opener with Iowa as the hottest team in the conference. At 17-4 and winners of their last 11 games, the Spartans are off their best start since 1992 when they started with an identical record. MSU's 11-game winning streak is the longest since 2004 when it won 12 straight.
Note that this weekend is fan appreciation weekend at McLane Baseball Stadium - fans can attend all three games free of charge.
The Spartans entered this week as the nation's top defensive team, ranked No. 1 in fielding percentage at .987 when the NCAA statistics were released on Tuesday. Currently, the Green and White have committed just 12 errors this season, seven less than the next closest team in the conference (Michigan, 19).
One of the Best Starts in School History
At 17-4, the Spartans are off to one of the best starts in school history through 21 games. The last MSU team to start 17-4 was the 1992 team. The 1971 team that captured the Big Ten title started 23-4.
More About the Streak
Needless to say the Spartans have put up some impressive stats over their 11-game winning streak, here are a few numbers that stand out: As a team MSU has hit .339 while Spartan pitching has held opponents to a .243 average...Six starters have hit above .300 during the streak, including four with over a .415 average...MSU has swiped 33 of their 53 bases this season durring the streak while defensively, it has committed just six errors...The Spartan pitching staff has posted an ERA of just 2.64, having given up just 33 runs.
One of they keys to the Spartans' winning streak has been their ability to score early. In each of their last six games, the Spartans have put up runs in the first inning while holding their opponents scoreless. Over their 11-game winning streak, MSU has outscored opponents, 21-5, in the first inning; on the season, they hold a 30-10 advantage in the first frame.
Michigan State got its second consecutive sweep last weekend, taking all four games from Oakland. The Spartans previously took a three-game set from Notre Dame March 20-22, in South Bend, Ind. It's the second season in a row that MSU has swept teams consecutively: Last season, it had back-to-back series sweeps over Iowa (April 24-26) and Penn State (May 1-3). Prior to that, the Spartans' last consecutive series sweeps came against Charleston Southern and Eastern Kentucky in March 2002.
The Spartans' have three shutouts in their last eight games and a total of four this season. The last time the Spartans blanked four opponents in a season was 2002, when they also had four shutouts. MSU's two shutouts in its three-game series with Notre Dame marked the first time they blanked an opponent twice in a series (also since 2002).
Junior Brandon Eckerle enters this weekend's series with a team season-high 10-game hitting streak. The hot-hitting Eckerle is currently hitting .391 and has an on-base percentage of .476. He has also swipped 14 bases - second most on the team. His 29 runs scored leads the Big Ten.
Offensive Power and Balance
The Spartans have received production up and down the lineup this season, combining to rank third in the Big Ten in batting average (.326), first in on-base percentage (.420) and second in runs (178) and RBI (159). MSU currently has seven players (Chris Roberts, Bo Felt, Eli Boike, Jeff Holm, Andrew Carpenter, Ryan Jones and Brandon Eckerle) with at least 15 RBI.
Patience at the Place
The Spartans have demonstrated a high degree of patience at the plate this season, as they lead the Big Ten in walks with 101 and rank in the bottom half of the league (seventh) in strikeouts with 121. MSU's .420 on-base percentage leads the conference.
Off and Running
The Spartans lead the Big Ten in stolen bases with 53 - 10 more than second-place Purdue. At the time NCAA statistics were released on Tuesday, MSU ranked 16th nationally with an average of 2.4 stolen bases per game and ranked 22nd in total stolen bases, then 48. With 53 stolen bags already, the Spartans are on pace to smash last season's mark of 71. The school record is 98, set in 2005.
Jeff Holm and Brandon Eckerle have been the most active on the basepaths, as each is perfect in stolen-base attempts. Holm is a perfect 16-for-16, which is tied for the best in the conference, while Eckerle is 14-for-14, which is fifth-best in the Big Ten.
Achter Leads Pitching Staff
A.J. Achter enters Friday's start a perfect 3-0 with an ERA of 1.52 which is second-best in the conference. Achter has settled into the role of No. 1 starter quite well so far this season: through six starts, his 38 strikeouts and .216 opponent batting average both rank in the top three in the conference.
Achter became the second Spartan to earn Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors this season after garnering the honor March 29 after throwing his first career complete-game shutout in a 13-0 win over Notre Dame. The righty struck out a career-high nine batters while scattering seven hits and allowing just three walks in the win.
Despite solid performances in his first three starts, it took Achter until his fourth game of the year to get his first victory: Achter got plenty of run support as he went seven complete innings in the Spartans' 17-2 romp over Jacksonville State on March 11.
Fourth Annual Crosstown Showdown On Tap Next Week
The Spartans and Toronto Blue Jays Class-A affiliate Lansing Lugnuts will square off in the fourth annual Crosstown Showdown this Wednesday (April 7) at 7:05 p.m. at Cooley Law School Stadium (formerly Oldsmobile Park).
Last season, the Spartans and Lugnuts agreed to extend the Crosstown Showdown through 2012. MSU picked up its first win in the series in 2009 with a 12-2 win before a record crowd of 12,922. The past two events have drawn the two largest crowds in Cooley Stadium history.