Baseball Hosts Minnesota in Big Ten Home-Opening Series
April 8, 2011
SPARTANS FACE MINNESOTA IN BIG TEN HOME-OPENING SERIES
The Spartans and Gophers are both 2-1 in the Big Ten standings, as MSU defeated Iowa in two of three games at Iowa City last weekend, while Minnesota (10-9) claimed a series win over Purdue at Target Field in Minneapolis. MSU and Minnesota are part of a five-way tie atop the Big Ten standings after one weekend of play.
"Our guys work hard all year for opportunities like this weekend," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "To get an outstanding opponent and the defending conference champions at our park this weekend, we're looking forward to competing - they're going to be very good. We're going to have to play well to beat them."
Michigan State topped the Lansing Lugnuts, 2-1, in Tuesday's Crosstown Showdown exhibition before a crowd of 7,212 at Cooley Law School Stadium. It marked MSU's second victory in the five-year event as the Spartans also won 12-2 in 2009. A total of 41 players saw action in the game, including 13 pitchers. The Spartans used eight different pitchers, while the Lugnuts sent five to the mound. Each team collected five hits and committed two errors. Seven of MSU's eight pitchers in the exhibition contest have not seen game action in 2011, yet allowed just one run.
"I think you saw the first year that we beat the Lugnuts (in 2009) it kind of relaxed everybody for the next series which was Michigan coming in, and we were fortunate to take that series," said Boss. "It's a fun night and it refocuses everybody. It gets everybody ready to go for an important conference weekend."
The Crosstown Showdown was MSU's only midweek action, as Wednesday's home game against Eastern Michigan was postponed to Tuesday, April 26 due to rain.
Minnesota has only played 19 games thus far and has lost five games already due to weather. In addition, the Gophers lost seven games when it had to change its schedule following the collapse of the Metrodome roof. Minnesota will play its Big Ten series at Target Field this season, home of the Minnesota Twins. In the Big Ten Preseason Poll conducted by the coaches, Minnesota was picked to repeat as conference champions.
2) Michigan State owns the highest winning percentage of any Big Ten team at 70.8 percent. The Spartans are tied for third in the conference overall with 17 wins.
3) The Spartans own a 75.0 winning percentage (30-10) in home games under head coach Jake Boss.
4) Senior center fielder Brandon Eckerle is off to a torrid start at the plate. He leads the Big Ten in batting (.431), on-base percentage (.487) and ranks second in hits (44). He also the leads the team with 14 multi-hit games. Eckerle recorded his 200th career hit in the Evansville series, and is currently eighth in MSU history with 209 career hits. The Durand, Mich., native was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week Feb. 28 after hitting 8-for-11 at the plate (.727) at the First Pitch Invitational, and was named the Big East/Big Ten Challenge Tournament MVP for his .667 batting average (8-for-12) at the event.
5) Senior first baseman Jeff Holm is making the most of his senior season, currently ranking second in the Big Ten in batting (.396) and on-base percentage (.497) and fifth in slugging (.571). He was named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week for the first time in his career on March 14 after hitting .500 (8-for-16) with eight RBIs in leading MSU to a 4-0 record that week during spring break. Holm is also tied for third in the Big Ten in stolen bases (12), tied for fourth in RBIs (23), and ninth in hits (36).
6) Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten with a .320 team batting average. Three of the top five hitters in the conference are from MSU (Eckerle first at .431; Holm second at .396; Boss fifth at .385).
7) Sophomore third baseman/right fielder Torsten Boss is having an excellent all-around season at the plate. Boss ranks among Big Ten leaders in six statistical categories: batting (fourth at .385), slugging (third at .604), on-base percentage (ninth at .434), RBIs (tied for sixth with 21), doubles (third with 10) and total bases (sixth with 55).
8) On the mound, the Spartan pitching staff ranks first in the Big Ten in ERA (2.83) and fewest walks allowed (61). The Spartans have allowed just 91 runs, 14 fewer than any other team in the conference. The 2.83 team ERA ranks 21st in the nation.
9) Senior Kurt Wunderlich is off to a 5-1 start on the mound and has won 21 games for his career, which ranks tied for fifth in Spartan history. The five wins are tied for the most in the Big Ten this season along with teammate Tony Bucciferro and Penn State's Dave Walkling. Wunderlich also ranks second in the Big Ten in ERA (2.23) and third in innings pitches (44.1) and strikeouts (35).
SPARTANSPORTSNETWORK.COM TO AIR SELECTED BASEBALL GAMES:
In addition to the free audio stream on spartansportsnetwork.com, the games will also be available on the free Spartan Sports Network Mobile App. In the fall, Spartan Sports Network teamed up with JacAPPS to have the app available for the iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The application features live streaming of Michigan State broadcasts, along with coaches shows, feature programming, highlights, archives, social connectivity and more.
To listen to the games on spartansportsnetwork.com, simply click on the appropriate game link on the main page in the "Spartan Sports 24/7 Box", located on the right-side of the page, or click on the "Spartan Sports 24/7" link at the top of the site.
A link will also be provided on msuspartans.com.
Fans can also follow the baseball and softball games live through Gametracker on msuspartans.com.
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