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Spartan Baseball Squaring Off With Fresno State This Weekend In Grand Rapids

April 6, 2017


MICHIGAN STATE (15-10, 3-3 B1G) vs FRESNO STATE (16-12, 6-6 MWC)
Game 1 Saturday, April 8 - 1 p.m. ET
Location Fifth Third Ballpark | Grand Rapids, Mich.
Game Notes Michigan State | Fresno State
Probable Pitching Matchup MSU: LHP #32 Alex Troop (SO) (3-2, 1.80 ERA) vs. FS: RHP #30 Ricky Ramirez (JR) (2-3, 5.40 ERA)
Coverage Live StatsWatch Live | Listen Live - Spartan Sports Network









Game 2 Saturday, April 8 - Approx 4:30 p.m. ET
Probable Pitching Matchup MSU: RHP #7 Ethan Landon (JR) (1-1, 4.28 ERA) vs. FS: LHP #7 Ricky Tyler Thomas (JR) (2-2, 2.78 ERA)
Coverage Live StatsWatch Live | Listen Live - Spartan Sports Network
Game 3 Sunday, April 9 - 2 p.m. ET
Probable Pitching Matchup MSU: RHP #34 Andrew Gonzalez (2-1, 4.74 ERA) vs. FS: RHP #31 Dominic Topoozian (SR) (3-2, 7.34 ERA)
Coverage Live StatsWatch Live | Listen Live - Spartan Sports Network

The Last Meeting
Fresno State (NCAA Regional)8
Michigan State2
June 2, 2012
Palo Alto, Calif.
Spartans Close Season With 8-2 Loss to Fresno State
A historic season for the Michigan State baseball team ended Saturday afternoon as the Spartans were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament with an 8-2 loss to Fresno State in the Stanford Regional at Sunken Diamond. The Spartans finish the year with a 37-23 record, marking the third-most wins in program history.





Leading Off

Michigan State baseball continues its break from Big Ten Conference action this week by hosting Fresno State. Due to weather and wet field conditions at MSU's McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, the weekend series will be played at Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The series will now open on Saturday, April 8 with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m., with the second game slated for approximately 4:30 p.m. Sunday's series finale has a 2 p.m. first pitch start time. The Spartans and Bulldogs have one previous meeting in school history, facing off in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, with Fresno State winning, 8-2.

• Fans can follow the weekend's games through "Live Stats," "Listen Live" and "Watch Live" links found at MSUSpartans.com. The clash between the Spartans and Bulldogs will be video streamed on BTN2Go, and will also be carried on the Spartan Sports Network live audio stream. The broadcast will be available exclusively at SpartanSportsNetwork.com and on the network's 24/7 app for mobile devices (available on iTunes and Google Play). Broadcast veteran Scott Moore calls the action alongside Jake Boss Sr. in select games.

• Michigan State is 15-10 on the season, having lost its last five outings, including four of those five losses by one run. In its most recent loss, MSU was edged by Eastern Michigan, 4-3, on Tuesday, which came after losing three hard-fought Big Ten Conference games to Minnesota. MSU dropped a pair of one-run losses in Saturday's doubleheader, 3-2 in the opener and 4-3 in the second game, then lost, 9-4, in Sunday's series finale.

• Fresno State is 16-12 overall after a 9-0 win at Sacramento State on Tuesday, and is 6-6 in Mountain West Conference action so far this season, currently in third place after being picked second in the MWC Preseason Poll. The Bulldogs are the defending regular-season MWC champions. Last weekend, Fresno State dropped two of three to MWC-leading New Mexico, handing the Lobos their first league loss with a 2-1 extra-inning victory in 11 innings on Saturday. That win came on the heels of a 24-4 loss on Friday, before dropping the series finale on Sunday, 6-2. Fresno State won the 2008 National Championship and has four College World Series appearances.

Home Staters
Michigan State has 24 players on its 2017 roster from the state of Michigan, while all 32 players on Fresno State's roster are from California. The Spartans have one player from California in senior outfielder Taylor Grace, who is from Rancho Cucamonga, California, same hometown as Fresno State relief pitcher Davis Moore, but they went to different high schools, with Grace going to Rancho Cucamonga High School, while Moore went to Los Osos High School.

Strikeouts Galore
Michigan State and Fresno State's pitching staffs have two of the top six-most strikeouts in a game this season. Fresno State has the most strikeouts in a game so far with 29 vs. UC Riverside on Feb. 24. Michigan State is tied for the sixth-most after combining to fire 19 strikeouts in the Spartans' 3-1 win over Campbell on March 17.

Series History
Michigan State is meeting Fresno State for just the second time ever, as the Spartans and Bulldogs only have one meeting in the series, facing off in the 2012 NCAA Tournament in the Stanford Regional in Palo Alto, California, with the Bulldogs winning, 8-2, eliminating MSU.

Michigan State vs. Fresno State
Overall: 0-1 / Home: 0-0 / Away: 0-0 / Neutral: 0-1 / Series Streak: FS W1
First Met: June 2, 2012 - Palo Alto, Calif. (NCAA) - FS W, 8-2
Last Meeting: June 2, 2012 - Palo Alto, Calif. (NCAA) - FS W, 8-2

Limited Series History Between Spartans And Bulldogs Across The Board
Michigan State and Fresno State's limited competition against each other isn't limited to just the baseball diamond, as the Spartans and Bulldogs' athletics teams have a small series history across the board, playing a total of 13 times, with MSU holding an 8-5 advantage.

Spartans At Old Kent Park/Fifth Third Ballpark
MSU has played a neutral site game at Old Kent Park/Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids two previous occasions, and the Spartans are 2-0. This weekend is the first against a team from outside the state of Michigan:

April 11, 2001 - vs. Grand Valley State - W, 6-4
April 12, 2006 - vs. Western Michigan - W, 7-5

Spartans In The Stats Rankings
The Spartans enter the weekend leading the Big Ten in six different statistical categories, as well as ranking in the Top 25 of the NCAA in four categories. MSU hit eight home runs against Illinois on March 26, which is the most in the NCAA so far this season. The Spartans lead the B1G and rank 27th in the NCAA in scoring with 7.5 runs per game. MSU is second in the B1G and 25th in the NCAA in home runs per game with 1.12, ranking third in the league and 37th in the nation with 28 home runs. With 2.52 doubles per game, the Spartans are also tops in the conference and sixth in the country, ranking first in the league and 24th in the nation with 63 total doubles.

Defensively Speaking
Defensively,the Spartans are first in the conference and 15th in the country in double plays per game at 1.08, boosted by turning six double plays against Abilene Christian in the first game of the doubleheader on Feb. 18. The six double plays are tied for the most in the country this season, and was the earliest in the season by date and games, as it was the second game of MSU's season. The six twin killings is tied with Columbia turning two six times against Southern Miss on March 14.

Pitching Stat Rankings
The Spartan pitching staff is second in the B1G and ranks 36th in the NCAA in strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.71. MSU's pitchers combined to fire 19 strikeouts in the Spartans' 3-1 win over Campbell on March 17, which are the most in a game by MSU pitchers since at least 2006, according to available records. The 19 strikeouts are tied for the sixth-most in a game in the NCAA this season. This weekend's opponent, Fresno State, has the most in the country with 29 vs. UC Riverside on Feb. 24.

Head Coach Jake Boss, Jr.,Hits 300 Career Wins, Closing In On Another 300
MSU head coach Jake Boss, Jr., won his 300th career game as a collegiate head coach with the 13-4 victory for MSU over Richmond on March 18. Boss is in the early going of his ninth season as head coach of the Spartans and he now has an overall record of 304-224 (.576) in his 10 overall years as a collegiate head coach. He has a 279-190 (.595) record at the helm of the MSU program, meaning that if the Spartans equal last year's win total of 36 wins, Boss will reach the 300-win plateau mark as the Spartan head coach.

Hello Home
Michigan State opened the season with its first 16 games away from home, including 10 true road games to go with six neutral games, before last week's home opener.

One Of 32 With 2,300
Michigan State picked up its 2,300th all-time win in the season-opener on Feb. 17, becoming just the fifth team in the Big Ten Conference and the 32nd team in the country with 2,300 wins.

Racking Up The Runs
MSU leads the B1G and ranks 27th in the NCAA with 7.5 runs scored per game, plating 187 runs through 25 games, ranking second in the conference and 59th in the country in total runs scored.

Hanging 22
MSU's 22 runs against UNC Greensboro is eighth-most in game in the NCAA this season. The Citadel currently has the most with 34 runs against Winthrop on March 14. Michigan State's 22 runs are the most scored in a game by a Big Ten team this season.

Lighting Up The Scoreboard With Double Digits
The Spartans have scored double-digits in nine of the 25 games, including 11 against Central Michigan on March 21 and in all three games at Illinois, March 24-26, plating a total of 41 runs in the three games, sweeping the three games by a combined score of 41-11, an average of nearly 14-4. The Spartans scored in double-digits in all three games as part of a stretch of scoring 10+ runs in four-straight games and five of six games as part of nine of the 25 games this season, having been limited to single digit runs in each of the last five games.

MSU opened the season by scoring 19 and 14 runs in two of the four games at Abilene Christian on Feb. 18 and 19, respectively, and just missing double-digits in the other two games, hanging nine on the board in the first two games of the series, finishing with 51 runs in the four games (12.8 rpg). Michigan State racked up 28 runs in the three-game series at UNC-Greensboro, averaging 9.3 runs per game, boosted by the 22 runs in the 22-16 win over UNCG on Feb. 25. The Spartans also plated 10 against Presbyterian on March 4, finishing with a total of 19 runs in the three games of the First Pitch Invitational.

The Scoop On Troop
MSU sophomore left-hander Alex Troop ranks second in the Big Ten and 54th in the NCAA in ERA at 1.80, allowing just eight earned runs in 40.0 IP in five appearances. Troop also has a 3.9 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 39 strikeouts and 10 walks. With seven starts, Troop is also tied for the league-lead and tied for 25th in the NCAA.

Complete Troop
MSU sophomore lefty Alex Troop pitched a complete game on March 10 at No. 10 South Carolina for his first career complete game. Troop was the first pitcher in the Big Ten with a complete game this season, and is now one of five pitchers in the Big Ten with a complete game, joined by Tanner Andrews of Purdue, Hank Christie of Northwestern, Brian Hobbie of Indiana and Jake Meyers of Nebraska. Devin Hemmerich of Norfolk State leads the nation with four CGs, while three pitchers have three complete games and nine more have two GGs.

Two-Way Troop-er
Sophomore Alex Troop is hitting .356 (16-for-45), which would rank seventh in the B1G, but he doesn't have enough at bats. Troop also has two HRs, six doubles and six RBI, along with also leading the team with a .622 slugging percentage and a .482 on base percentage, which would also rank third and second, respectively, in the B1G if Troop had enough at bats to reach the minimum requirement.

Now Pitching For The Spartans...
Michigan State has utilized 14 different pitchers, with 11 of them with five or more appearances, including five with 10 or more, led by senior relievers Joe Mockbee and Walter Borkovich with 14 and 13 appearances, respectively. The 14 appearances rank Mockbee tied for the second-most in the Big Ten, while Borkovich is tied for third-most with 13 appearances. Junior right-hander Jake Lowery and sophomore righty Nathan Witt have each made 12 appearances, good for the fourth-most in the B1G, while sophomore closer Riley McCauley has appeared in 10 games.

Chalking Up The K's
MSU's pitchers combined to fire 19 strikeouts in the Spartans' 3-1 win over Campbell on March 17, which are the most in a game by MSU pitchers since at least 2006, according to available records. Sophomore starting pitcher Alex Troop fired a career-high 10 strikeouts in five innings, while junior reliever Jake Lowery also struck out a career high with eight Ks in four innings of relief, including striking out the side in the eighth and getting all three outs via strikeouts in the seventh. Sophomore closer Riley McCauley got the final out on a strikeout in the bottom of the ninth after senior reliever Joe Mockbee got the first two key outs in lefty-lefty match-ups.

The 19 strikeouts is tied for the sixth-most in a game in the NCAA this season. Fresno State (MSU opponent April 7-9) has the most in the country with 29 vs. UC Riverside on Feb. 24.

Turning Two
The Spartans turned six double plays against Abilene Christian in the first game of the doubleheader on Feb. 18. The six double plays are tied for the most in the country this season, and was the earliest in the season by date and games, as it was the second game of MSU's season. The six twin killings is tied with Columbia turning two six times against Southern Miss on March 14.

MSU's six double plays is the most in a game since at least 2006 according to available records, bettering the previous mark of four turned in a game, done five times, most recently in 2014.

Lumber-Toting Spartans
MSU has lugged the lumber to the plate, hitting .294 so far this season, leading the B1G and ranking 52nd in the NCAA.

Individually, seven Spartans are hitting over .300, led by sophomore first baseman/designated hitter/pitcher Alex Troop at .356, followed by freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley at .333, then freshmen outfielders Robbie Jones at .333 and Danny Gleaves at .324. Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina is hitting .323, while sophomore shortstop Royce Ando is hitting .310 and junior centerfielder Brandon Hughes is hitting .302.

You Get A Hit And You Get A Hit, Hits For Everybody
MSU has had all nine starters in the batting order get at least one hit in four games: at Abilene Christian on Feb. 18 (gm 2), at Abilene Christian on Feb. 19, at UNC-Greensboro on Feb. 25 and vs. Central Michigan on March 21. The Spartans have had eight of the nine hitters get a hit in two other games: at South Carolina on March 8 and at Richmond on March 18.

Swiping Spartans
Michigan State currently is third in the Big Ten and 12th in the NCAA in stolen bases per game with 1.92, and the Spartans are third in the conference and 22nd in the country with 48 total stolen bases.

Fast Outfielders
Individually, all three of MSU's outfielders ranked in the top 12 of the conference in stolen bases. Junior outfielder Brandon Hughes is third in the NCAA in stolen bases per game with 0.64 and fifth in the NCAA in total stolen bases with 16, leading the B1G in both. Freshman outfielder Danny Gleaves and sophomore outfielder Dan Chmielewski are tied for 16th in the B1G with seven stolen bases apiece.

Big Bat Bechina
Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina has continued his hot start to the season, now batting .323 (30-for-93) on the season. He has tallied 17 RBI and six home runs. The six homers is tied for fifth in the Big Ten and 90th in the NCAA. Bechina's six home runs has already exceeded last year's total of two round-trippers.

Bechina also is second in the B1G in on base percentage, now at .471.

Gleaves Leaves Immediate Mark
Freshman outfielder Danny Gleaves had a breakout debut in a Spartan uniform to the tune of .524 (11-for-21) with five RBI, knocking two doubles as part of his 11 hits in the opening weekend. Gleaves also had three putouts in left field in his first MSU action.

On the season, Gleaves is now hitting .324 (22-for-68) with 12 RBI, five doubles and one home run.

Captain Dan
Team captain, senior second baseman Dan Durkin has a .295 average (31-for-105). Durkin also shares the team lead with 21 RBI, ranking tied for 11th in the B1G. The Spartan captain is tied for second on the team and tied for eighth in the B1G with eight doubles, along with tied for second on the team with four home runs and second with 31 hits, while also swiping three stolen bases.

McCauley-ing It Over
Sophomore reliever Riley McCauley ranks third in the B1G and ranks 49th in the NCAA with five saves. McCauley picked up his first career save on Feb. 18 in MSU's 9-7 win at Abilene Christian. McCauley also collected a pair of saves in as many outings at UNC-Greensboro, in the 5-4 win on Feb. 24 and the 22-16 victory on Feb. 25.

Michigan State Series History vs. Fresno State
Overall: 0-1 / Home: 0-0 / Away: 0-0 / Neutral: 0-1 / Series Streak: FS W1
First Met: June 2, 2012 - Palo Alto, Calif. (NCAA) - FS W, 8-2
Last Meeting: June 2, 2012 - Palo Alto, Calif. (NCAA) - FS W, 8-2

Scouting Fresno State
The Bulldogs are 16-12 overall after a 9-0 win at Sacramento State on Tuesday. Fresno State is 6-6 in Mountain West Conference action so far this season, currently in third place after being picked second in the MWC Preseason Poll. Last weekend, Fresno State dropped two of three to MWC-leading New Mexico, handing the Lobos their first league loss with a 2-1 extra-inning victory in 11 innings on Saturday. That win came on the heels of a 24-4 loss on Friday, before dropping the series finale on Sunday, 6-2. Fresno State is in the midst of a seven-game road swing, as the Bulldogs' previous four games have been on the road.

Junior infielder Aaron Arruda leads Fresno State with a .345 batting average, also topping the team with 41 hits, five HR and 26 RBI. Sophomore outfielder Zach Ashford is hitting .333 with 13 RBI, while senior infielder Jesse Medrano and junior outfielder Jared Akins are both hitting .330 and share the team lead with 12 doubles apiece. Medrano has 22 RBI, while Akins has 17.

Fresno State's pitching staff has a 5.15 ERA and holding the opposition to a .262 batting average. The Bulldogs' probable starter for game one of Saturday's doubleheader is junior right-hander Ricky Ramirez, who has a 2-3 record with a 5.40 ERA with 16 walks and 35 strikeouts in 45.0 IP. Saturday's game two starter is slated to be junior lefty Ricky Tyler Thomas, who is 2-2 with a 2.78 ERA with 22 BB and 56 strikeouts in 45.1 IP. The 56 Ks is tied for 22nd in the NCAA. Senior righty Dominic Topoozian is Sunday's probable starter and he is 3-2 with a 7.34 ERA with six walks and 18 strikeouts in 23.1 IP.

Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole is in his 15th season at the leash of the Bulldogs' program. Batesole has been named National Coach of the Year in 1998 and 2008. He has a 494-388 record at Fresno State and he's in his 22nd season as a collegiate head coach, posting a 750-546-1 mark.

Common Opponents
Michigan State is Fresno State's second opponent from the state of Michigan, as the Bulldogs hosted Eastern Michigan in a three-game series March 10-12. Fresno State took two of three, dropping the opener 15-11, then bouncing back to win the second game, 10-2, then took the series with a 6-3 win in the rubber match.

Up Next
Michigan State will travel to Notre Dame on Tuesday, April 11 in South Bend, Indiana in MSU's lone midweek game next week, concluding a five-game non-conference stretch. The Spartans will then return to Big Ten Conference action by hosting Ohio State next weekend, Friday-Sunday, April 14-16, the third and final of three-straight home weekends at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field.

9-1 For Second-Straight Season Under Boss
Michigan State opened the season 9-1 for the second-straight year and tied for the second-best start to a season through 10 games. In addition to this season and last year, MSU was also 9-1 through 10 games in 1971, while the best mark in school history was the 1946 squad that went undefeated through its first 10 games.

Milestone Victories
Michigan State's 2,300th win came on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017, becoming just the fifth team in the Big Ten Conference and the 32nd team in the country with 2,300 wins. Here's a closer look of MSU's milestone wins:

1st Win May 19, 1884
100th Win May 26, 1905
500th Win April 25, 1945
1,000th Win May 13, 1972
1,500th Win April 27, 1991
2,000th Win April 6, 2010
2,300th Win Feb. 17, 2017

Last Time Out Recap: Spartans Edged By Eagles, 4-3, Tuesday
Michigan State baseball was edged by Eastern Michigan, 4-3, Tuesday night at EMU's Oestrike Stadium. The Spartans slide to 15-10 on the season, while EMU improved to 10-18. Michigan State was limited to just six hits, but held Eastern Michigan to only four hits. The Spartans left eight runners on base Tuesday, compared to six for the Eagles. Tuesday was MSU's fifth-straight loss, with four of those five being by one run. Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando was 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI triple, the Spartans' first triple of the season. Fellow sophomore, third baseman Marty Bechina was 1-for-2 with two walks. EMU scored a run in each of the third and fourth innings for a 2-0 lead. MSU countered with two of its own in the fifth frame. Senior catcher Matt Byars led off with a double to right center and Ando followed with a triple to the wall in right center, plating Byars for MSU's first run of the evening. two batters later, junior centerfielder Brandon Hughes hit a sacrifice fly to center to drive in Ando and tie the score at 2-all. The Eagles retook the lead in the bottom of the sixth on a solo home run by Mike Mioduszewski. EMU added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases and then drawing a walk to plate a run and take a 4-2 lead. In the ninth, the Spartans got their first two batters on after sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski and Byars both drew walks. After a sac bunt by junior pinch hitter Kory Young moved them up a base, freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley grounded out to second but was enough to plate Chmielewski and advance Byars to third, but the rally fizzed with a strikeout to end the game. The Spartan pitching staff yielded only four hits and chalked up eight strikeouts, with junior reliever Nate Lowery taking the loss, sliding to 2-1 on the season. Tuesday's game was a reunion of sorts for three members of the MSU coaching staff, as Coach Boss was head coach at Eastern Michigan in 2008 before becoming the Spartans head coach the next season. Boss was also an assistant coach at EMU from 1997-2004. Eastern Michigan head coach Mark Van Ameyde was a pitching coach under Boss for six seasons at MSU (2009-14). Van Ameyde was an assistant on the Spartan staff that won the 2011 Big Ten Championship.MSU student assistant coach Jonathan Roof is in his first season on the Spartan staff and was a Spartan alum (2008-10). Roof's brother, Eric, is in his third season as an assistant coach at Eastern Michigan, after serving as a volunteer assistant under Coach Boss for two seasons (2013-14), and was a three-year letterwinner at Michigan State (2007-09). Spartans' volunteer assistant coach Jordan Keur, who is also a former Spartan player, was also an assistant coach at EMU before joining the MSU staff.

Hughes Collects Pair of National Honors
Michigan State baseball's Brandon Hughes was recognized on March 27 with a pair of national awards for his performance in the previous week in MSU's four wins, which including smacking three home runs in a game.

Hughes was named one of Collegiate Baseball's National Players Of The Week as well as a USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Gold Standard Performance of the Week.

Hughes, a junior outfielder from Sterling Heights, Michigan (Stevenson High School) entered last weekend without any home runs and just 12 RBI for the season, then proceeded to smash three home runs in the March 26 game alone as part of his four home runs in two games.

The Spartan outfielder belted three home runs in consecutive at bats in the first five innings of MSU's 17-6 win at Illinois on March 26, hitting two of them left-handed and one right-handed. He finished the weekend with 12 RBI, including seven on Sunday. After a fly out to lead off the game, Hughes smashed a three-run home run to right center in the second inning batting left handed. Again batting left handed in the fourth, Hughes hit a two-run round-tripper to right. In the fifth, Hughes batted right handed and smashed a two-run shot to left field that bounced once and then into the street behind Illinois Field. Hughes walked on four pitches in the seventh and grounded out in the ninth. He finished the game 3-for-5 with seven RBI and three runs scored.

In the doubleheader on March 24, Hughes was a combined 4-for-11, going 1-for-5 with two RBI, one run scored and one walk in the opener and then going 3-for-6 with three RBI and one run scored, belting his first home run of the season.

Hughes started the week going 2-for-4 with a double and sac bunt with three runs scored in MSU's 11-2 win over Central Michigan on March 21 in MSU's home opener. For the week, Hughes hit .450 (9-for-20) with 12 RBI, four HR, two doubles, two walks and one sac bunt, as well as making 16 putouts in the outfield.

Kelley Tabbed B1G Baseball Freshman of the Week
Michigan State baseball's Bryce Kelley was named the Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Week for his performance last week in MSU's four wins.

Kelley, a freshman outfielder from Rockford, Michigan (Rockford High School) had a smashing Big Ten Conference debut, hitting .400 (4-for-10) in MSU's three games at Illinois over the weekend to open B1G action. For the week, Kelley hit .462 (6-for-13) for the week.

This is MSU's second B1G award this season as senior second baseman Dan Durkin was the B1G Player of the Week on Feb. 20. Kelley is MSU's first Freshman of the Week accolade recipient since third baseman Marty Bechina earned the honor last season on Feb. 22, 2016.

In the second game of the doubleheader at Illinois on March 24, Kelley was 3-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored with a two-run double, adding a stolen base in the Spartans' 12-1 win at Illinois.

He started the week 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI in MSU's 11-2 win over Central Michigan on March 21.

Kelley and the Spartans won all four games last week, scoring double-digits in all four, out-scoring the opposition 53-13, an average of 13-4.

Durkin Earns Big Ten Conference Player of the Week Plaudits
Michigan State baseball's Dan Durkin was named the Big Ten Conference Baseball Player of the Week, announced by the conference office on Monday, Feb. 20.

A senior second baseman from Tinley Park, Illinois, Durkin helped the Spartans to a 4-0 mark with a four-game series sweep at Abilene Christian.

The B1G Player of the Week is Durkin's first weekly conference honor of his career. He is the first Spartan to earn B1G Player of the Week accolades since Zack McGuire earned the weekly plaudits last season on May 2, 2016. It also marks the second year in a row that MSU has earned a league honor in the opening weekend, as Marty Bechina earned Freshman of the Week honors last season in the first weekend.

Durkin had a smashing debut as the Spartans' captain, going 9-for-18, hitting .500, with 11 RBI with four extra-base hits, and scoring six runs in the four-game series. With the 11 RBI and six runs scored, Durkin accounted for 33.3 percent of MSU's scoring as Michigan State plated 51 runs with 63 hits on the weekend, including 22 extra-base hits.

He opened by going 3-for-6 in season-opener, driving in two on a single in the sixth and later scored as part of MSU's six-run inning to break open a 1-1 game and make it a 6-1 lead. In the eighth, laced a double and later came around to score insurance run.

Durkin hit 2-for-3 with two RBI in the first game of the doubleheader, driving in both runs on a single in the fourth for MSU's first two of three runs in the frame as they turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 lead, a lead they never relinquished. In the nightcap, he went 3-for-5 with five RBI and two runs scored. Durkin drove in MSU's first run of the night with a double and scored the second run, both in the first inning. In the second inning, Durkin blasted a three-run home run to right as MSU broke open a 4-1 lead with five runs. In the fifth, he had a sac fly to center for an RBI, his fifth of the day.

Sunday's series finale saw Durkin go 1-for-4 with two RBI and two runs scored. He started his day by drawing a walk in the first inning, later coming around to score as part of MSU's four-run first inning. In the fifth, he drew another walk and scored again, before belting a two-run double in the ninth as the Spartans blew the game open with a six runs, turning an 8-5 close game into a 14-5 rout.

Standout Debuts In Green & White
Gleaves wasn't the only Spartan newcomer to have a standout debut, as freshman outfielder Bryce Kelley blasted an RBI triple in his first collegiate at bat. On the mound, freshman right-handed reliever Sam Benschoter threw two scoreless innings of work, chalking up his first two strikeouts as a collegiate pitcher. Redshirt-sophomore Nathan Witt made his debut on the mound after missing the first two seasons due to injury, and made two appearances on the weekend with an inning and a third worth of work without allowing any hits. Freshman righty Mike Mokma threw one complete inning without a hit and right-handed starter Mason Erla was MSU's starter on Feb. 19, spraying eight hits in four innings of work.

Preseason B1G
MSU was tabbed fifth in the 2017 Big Ten Preseason Poll released by the conference office on Wednesday, Feb. 15. The league's coaches voted on the top six teams and also selected three student-athletes from their own squads to a Preseason Honors list. MSU's Preseason Honorees included senior catcher Matt Byars, junior outfielder Brandon Hughes and sophomore pitcher/first baseman/outfielder Alex Troop.

Byars was selected in the 24th round and No. 723 overall by the Minnesota Twins in the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft, but opted to return to Michigan State for his senior season. Behind the plate defensively, Byars threw out 12 potential base stealers and picked off two more. At the plate offensively, Byars hit .284 with 26 RBI with 16 doubles, which tied for 11th in the league, adding two triples and four home runs, and was a perfect 3-for-3 swiping bases. He appeared in 55 of the 56 games last season.

Hughes is one of two returning All-Big Ten honorees, as the center fielder earned third team accolades last season. He is one of three returning Spartans to hit over .300 as he hit .303 with 31 RBI, 11 doubles and two round-trippers. Hughes also led the team and was 11th in the Big Ten with 17 stolen bases.

Troop had a stellar first 12 games of the season a year ago before suffering a season-ending injury. At the plate he hit .372 with 13 RBI (1.1 pg), six doubles and one home run, to go with two stolen bases. Troop is also a weapon on the mound for the Spartans. Last season the southpaw posted a 3-0 mark with a 1.64 ERA with 14 strikeouts in just four appearances with 11.0 IP (11.5 strikeouts per nine innings) before his injury.

Returning All-Big Ten Honorees
Infielder Dan Durkin played in all 56 games last season as a junior and hit .324 with 32 RBIs and a .402 on-base percentage to earn First Team All-Big Ten honors. Brandon Hughes was a member of the Third Team, hitting .303 with 31 RBI, 11 doubles and two round-trippers. Hughes also led the team and was 11th in the Big Ten with 17 stolen bases. Marty Bechina started in all but one game during his first season in the Green and White and was selected to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

Spartan Roster Breakdown
Michigan State's roster consists of seven seniors, 10 juniors, seven sophomores and 11 freshmen. The senior class includes Preseason B1G Honoree catcher Matt Byars, who was drafted in the MLB Draft last season (Minnesota, 24th round), but opted to return to Michigan State, as well as infielder Dan Durkin, who was named team captain. Senior relief pitchers Joe Mockbee and Walter Borkovich will anchor the Spartans' bullpen.

Highlighting the juniors is starting pitchers Ethan Landon and Andrew Gonzalez, who will make up two-thirds of MSU's weekend rotation on the mound. Another junior standout is outfielder Brandon Hughes, who is a Preseason B1G Honoree.

The sophomore group includes Preseason B1G Honoree P/1B/OF Alex Troop, who played in only 12 games last season before a season-ending injury. It also includes Marty Bechina, who split time between outfield and infield last season, but will be the Spartans' starter at third base, and was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team last season.

Road Ready
Michigan State opened the season with its first 17 games away from home, including 11 true road games to go with six neutral games.

Returning Numbers
MSU returns six starters and three starting pitchers from last season's squad that advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, posting a 36-20 overall record and was 13-11 in Big Ten action.

Immediate Impact In Big Ten
In Ethan Landon's first season at MSU, the right-hander picked up six wins in Big Ten play as a redshirt sophomore, which is the most by any pitcher in school history.

Notes From 2016
Michigan State wrapped up the 2016 season with a 36-20 overall record and 13-11 mark in Big Ten play to finish tied for sixth before advancing to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The 36 wins tied the fourth most victories in school history with the 1971, 1992 and 2011 clubs.

• MSU got off to a hot start and its 14-1 record was the best start in school history through 15 games.

• Michigan State pitchers combined for a school record 466 strikeouts - 57 more than the 2015 club, which previously held the record.

• All season long, the Spartans' ERA ranked among the top five in the country and finished at a 2.75 mark, that is the fifth lowest ever by an MSU pitching staff.

 

 

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