April 4, 2014
With a 5-3 win over Oakland in its home opener on Wednesday, MSU pushed its winning streak to a season-high four games ... MSU has outscored its opponents by a combined 30-6 over the stretch.
This weekend will mark the first meetings in program history between MSU and Siena ... The last time MSU played an opponent from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference was 2008 when it took two of three games from Quinnipiac, March 14-16 in Greenville, S.C.
Jimmy Pickens extended his career-long hitting streak to 13 games on Wednesday, going 1-for-3 ... Pickens is 19-for-43 (.442) over the 13-game stretch, which is the longest hitting streak by a Spartan this season, topping Blaise Salter's 12-game run (Feb. 16-March 8).
Blaise Salter leads the Big Ten in RBIs (25) and doubles (11) ... The junior ranks second on the team in batting average at .319.
Salter leads MSU with nine multi-hit games and seven multi-RBI games.
MSU is 5-0 when scoring in the first inning and 9-1 when it scores first.
MSU is 6-1 when playing error-free baseball and is 11-0 when carrying a lead into the ninth inning.
The Spartan pitching staff has given up just two extra-base hits over the last three games (26.0 innings) ... MSU pitching ranks third in the conference in both ERA (3.22) and opponent batting average (.260).
Michigan State's bullpen hasn't given up a run over the past seven games, a total of 23.1 innings ... Over that stretch, MSU relievers are 2-0 with one save.
The Spartans lead the conference in stolen bases with 41 ... Junior Anthony Cheky is tied for the Big Ten lead in stolen bases with 15.
Cheky has reached base in 10 consecutive games.
Michigan State is currently hitting .253 as a team, its highest since hitting .258 after the fifth game of the season - an 8-7 win over No. 1 Oregon State.
After going 12-3 in one-run games last season, MSU is off to another good start in 2014, going 5-1 in one-run games.
The Spartans won at least 30 games for the fourth consecutive season last year ... Entering the season, MSU had more wins (140) than any other Big Ten team over the last four seasons.
The Saints are 5-20 on the season and 5-1 in the MAAC ... Prior to falling in both games of a doubleheader vs. Brown on Thursday, Siena had won five of its last six games ... Siena is led offensively by senior infielder Vincent Citro, who is hitting .363, and senior outfieler Andres Ortiz, who has a team-best 15 RBIs ... As a team, Siena is hitting .262 and has a total of 22 stolen bases ... Opponents are hitting .348 off the pitching staff, which has a 7.79 ERA ... Last season, Siena was 27-30 overall, 14-9 in MAAC play and lost in the conference's tournament championship game.
Pickens Continues Roll
Junior Jimmy Pickens brings a team and career-high 13-game hitting streak into this weekend. Pickens is hitting .442 (19-for-43) over the 13-game span, raising his batting average by .098 to .329, which leads the team. Pickens' 10 extra-base hits (seven doubles, two triples, one home run) are the second most on the team behind Blaise Salter.
Junior pitcher Mick VanVossen is off to a strong start as MSU's top starter as he is one of five pitchers in the Big Ten with at least four wins. At 4-1 through seven starts, VanVossen ranks sixth in opponent batting average (.211), sixth in innings pitched (44.0) and is tied for ninth in strikeouts (30).
Alleman Adjusts Well to Starter Role
Sophomore Justin Alleman is emerging as one of the Big Ten's best pitchers in his first year as a starter. With a 3-1 record in seven starts, Alleman has a 2.60 ERA, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten, and is holding opponents to a .208 batting average, which is fifth best in the league. The Holt native has proved durable as well, ranking fourth in the conference in innings pitched (45.0)
After making 22 appearances all out of the bullpen last season, Alleman won his first-career start on Feb. 16 in MSU's 2-1 victory over Wright State. Alleman threw six-complete scoreless innings and surrendered just four hits to earn in the victory.
Quality Starts = Wins
Starting pitchers Mick VanVossen and Justin Alleman have both gone at least six-complete innings in five of their seven starts this season. In their 10 combined starts that have lasted at least six innings, the duo is 6-2 with two no-decisions.
Salter Among the Best in the Conference
With a Big Ten-leading 25 RBIs, junior Blaise Salter has been the Spartans' most dangerous threat at the plate so far this season. Salter has had a hit in 19 of 25 games this season, which included a career-long 12-game hitting came to an end March 9 vs. TCU. The day prior, Salter belted a go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth inning of the first game of the series to lift MSU to a 2-1 victory over No. 21 TCU.
Salter's 11 doubles are two more than anyone else in the conference.
Notes on the Staff
Michigan State has yielded 211 hits this season (8.4 per game), which is second in the Big Ten. The 102 runs and 78 earned runs yielded both rank third in the conference. The pitching staff has an opponent batting average of .260, ranking third in the conference.
Bullpen Closes the Door
The Spartan bullpen has been outstanding as of late as it hasn't given up a run over the past seven games - a total of 23.1 innings. Over that stretch, relievers Anthony Misiewicz and Joe Mockbee have picked up wins, while Jeff Kinley has earned a save. The relievers have 15 strikeouts and just four walks over the seven-game span.
Spartans Blank Minnesota and Harvard in Doubleheaders
MSU posted back-to-back shutouts twice this season, in blanking Harvard 1-0 and 4-0 (March 15) and Minnesota 15-0 and 5-0 (March 30), for the first time since 1979. In MSU's Big Ten championship season of 1979, the Spartans shut out Morningside by identical 12-0 scores in a doubleheader and later in the season beat Albion 4-0 and 7-0 in a twin bill before topping Aquinas 3-0 for three straight shutouts.
Spartans Impressive at Minnesota
Michigan State posted shutouts in both games of a doubleheader on March 30 at Minnesota, winning 15-0 and 5-0. It was the first time MSU blanked a Big Ten opponent in both games of a twin bill since May 18, 2002, when it topped Penn State, 16-0 and 14-0.
The 20-run margin of victory in the two games was MSU's largest in consecutive Big Ten games since topping Illinois 10-2 and 16-1 on April 23-24, 2010.
Kinley Back Healthy
Redshirt junior closer Jeff Kinley is back healthy after a blood clot forced him to miss nearly the entire 2013 season. Kinley's six saves so far in 2014 rank in a tie for first in the conference. He picked up his last save on Wednesday in MSU's 5-3 win over Oakland, giving up one hit over the final two innings.
Led by Kinley's Big Ten-best six saves, the Spartan bullpen has combined for eight saves this season, which is tied for second most in the conference. MSU had a total of 12 in 2013.
Kinley saw action in just nine games last season after discovering the blood clot in mid-March, he was unable to pitch the remainder of the season. In 2012, his last full season, Kinley posted a 2.47 ERA in 47.1 innings of work. He had a 6-5 record with two saves and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 4-to-1.
Since Jake Boss took over the Spartan program in 2009, the Spartans have a 43-34 record in one-run games, including 5-1 this season. The Spartans were outstanding in one-run games last season, going 12-3.
Young Arms in the `Pen
Four freshmen relievers - Jake Lowery, Walter Borkovich, Joe Mockbee and Josh Buchalski - have played big roles for the Spartans so far in 2014. The four have combined to pitch 31.2 innings in 27 appearances, giving up just seven earned runs.
Lowery has made 12 appearances, which ranks second on the team. Lowery earned his first collegiate win by pitching a scoreless final 1.1 innings against No. 1 Oregon State. He has two saves and is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA.
Borkovich was named the Big Ten Rookie of the Week on March 3 after tossing 4.2 innings of scoreless relief in the 18-13 win over Eastern Illinois. On the season, Borkovich is 1-0 and has made one start.
Mockbee earned his first win vs. Oakland on April 2.
Michigan State will continue its homestand with a pair of games against MAC opponents this coming week. On Tuesday, MSU will host Central Michigan, while on Wednesday it will welcome Western Michigan to McLane Baseball Stadium. Both games will begin at 3:05 p.m.