April 8, 2010
Michigan State (20-5, 2-1) vs. Minnesota (12-17, 2-1)
HHH Metrodome Minneapolis, Minn.
Friday, April 9 7:35 p.m. EDT
Jr. RHP A.J. Achter (3-1, 2.19) vs. Jr. RHP Seth Rosin (2-2, 3.61)
Saturday, April 10 3:05 p.m. EDT
Jr. RHP Kurt Wunderlich (5-1, 3.29) vs. Fr. RHP T.J. Oakes (2-1, 2.91)
Sunday, April 11 2:05 p.m. EDT
So. RHP Tony Bucciferro (4-2, 4.14) vs. Jr. LHP Phil Isaksson (2-0, 4.70)
Pitching matchups probable and subject to change
Spartans Head to Minnesota
Michigan State travels to Minnesota for its first Big Ten road series of the year. Both teams enter the series 2-1 in the league after last weekend's conference openers. MSU has won 13 of its last 14 games while the Gophers enter the series as winners of their last three contests.
The Spartans trail the all-time series with Minnesota, 32-81. The two teams last met in 2009 in a non-conference matchup at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge, a game the Gophers won, 7-2. The last time the two schools met in a conference series was 2007 when Minnesota swept all four games in Minneapolis.
For the second consecutive week, the Spartans rank as the nation's top defensive team. When NCAA statistics were released on Tuesday, the Spartans' .986 fielding percentage led the country. Currently, the Green and White have committed just 15 errors this season.
Best Start Since `71
At 20-5, the Spartans have posted their best 25-game start since the 1971 team that went 21-4. MSU's 11-game winning streak earlier this season was their longest since 2004 when it won 12 in row.
Offense Piles Up The Runs
The Spartans' 45-run outburst in last weekend's three-game series with Iowa matched its largest run total for a three-game series since also tallying 45 against Charlotte in 2002. MSU's 26 runs in Sunday's win were the most ever scored by a Spartan team against a Division I opponent and the most since March 28, 1991, when they defeated Siena Heights, 26-1.
The Spartans' high run totals last weekend vaulted them into eighth in the nation in scoring at 9.3 runs-per-game.
The Spartans' hot start has begun to attract some national attention. For consecutive weeks now MSU received votes in both the USA Today/ESPN Coaches and NCBWA polls.
Improvement All Around
Having won 12 more games at this point in the season compared to last season, it's needless to say the Spartans have improved in nearly every facet of the game. Here is a look at some of the more impressive comparisons between the Spartans first 25 games of this season and all 54 games last season:
MSU has scored 228 runs this season, just 89 less than it scored in all of 2009.
The Spartans have 50 doubles and 17 triples this season, compared to 77 and 8, respectively, all of last season.
The pitching staff has 175 strikeouts and just 73 walks this year - last year it had a total of 302 strikeouts and 244 walks.
Individually, MSU currently has five players - Chris Roberts (30), Eli Boike (25), Jeff Holm (25), Bo Felt (23) and Brandon Eckerle (20) - with at least 20 RBI. Through 25 games, Roberts' 30 RBI are just one less than his total of 31 for all of last season. Eckerle's 20 RBI eclipsed his total of 17 from last season.
Of the five Spartans that have started all 25 games this season, four have reached base safely in at least 22 games. Jeff Holm has reached safely in all 25 games, Eli Boike and Bradon Eckerle have both gotten on base in 24 games and Jonathan Roof has reached safely in 22 games.
Offensive Power and Balance
The Spartans have received production up and down the lineup this season, combining to rank second in the Big Ten in batting average (.341), first in on-base percentage (.422) and first in runs (228).
Michigan State swept consecutive series earlier this season against Oakland (March 26-28) in East Lansing and 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).
Eckerle's Streak Snapped
Junior Brandon Eckerle had his team-high 13-game hitting streak snapped in Tuesday's win over Bowling Green as he went 0-for-2 with a walk.
Patience at the Place
The Spartans have demonstrated a high degree of patience at the plate this season, as they rank second in the Big Ten in walks with 107 and rank in the bottom half of the league (seventh) in strikeouts with 134. MSU's .422 on-base percentage leads the conference.
Off and Running
The Spartans lead the Big Ten in stolen bases with 59. At the time NCAA statistics were released on Tuesday, MSU ranked 12th nationally with an average of 2.46 stolen bases per game and ranked 19th in total stolen bases. With 59 stolen bags through 25 games, 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 Holm is a perfect 18-for-18, which is tied for first in the conference, while Eckerle is 14-for-15, which ranks in a tie for sixth in the Big Ten.