April 10, 2014
Michigan State enters its weekend series vs. Purdue as winners of eight of its last nine games ... The Spartans have limited their opponents to three runs or fewer in all eight of those victories, including three shutouts.
The Spartan pitching staff leads the Big Ten in in opponent batting average at .240, while the staff's 2.91 ERA is third lowest in the league.
Blaise Salter has been one of the Big Ten's best run-producers this season and enters the weekend second in the league with 28 RBIs ... His 12 doubles lead the league and his .531 slugging percentage ranks fourth.
Led by Salter's Big Ten-high 12 doubles, Michigan State ranks third in the conference in doubles with 51.
The Spartans continue to lead the conference in stolen bases with 55 ... Junior Anthony Cheky has a Big Ten-high 20 stolen bases - four more than anyone else in the league.
All three of the Spartans' weekend starters - Cam Vieaux (fourth, 1.80), Mick VanVossen (eighth, 2.38) and Justin Alleman (ninth, 2.39) - rank in the top 10 in the conference in ERA ... The trio also ranks in the top six in opponent batting average: Alleman (second, .193), VanVossen (third, .195) and Vieaux (sixth, .218).
VanVossen's 40 strikeouts rank third in the Big Ten.
Jimmy Pickens enters the weekend having reached base in 18 consecutive games, while Cheky has reached in 15 straight.
Cam Gibson brings a team-high seven-game hitting streak into play on Friday ... Gibson is hitting .384 (10-for-26) over the seven-game span and currently has a .302 batting average.
The Spartans have thrown out 22 runners stealing bases this season, which is tops in the conference.
MSU is 6-0 when scoring in the first inning and 13-1 when it scores first.
MSU is 6-1 when playing error-free baseball and is 15-0 when carrying a lead into the ninth inning.
Michigan State's bullpen hasn't given up an earned run over the past 11 games, a total of 36.1 innings ... Over that stretch, MSU relievers are 3-0 with one save.
Michigan State is currently hitting .263 as a team, its highest since after the first game of the season.
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.
Purdue enters with a record of 6-22 overall and 2-4 in Big Ten play, having defeated Penn State and Illinois once each ... The Boilermakers have played tough non-conference schedule, including games at Tennessee (three), Rice (three), LSU (three) and San Diego State (four) ... Opponents are hitting .329 off the Purdue pitching staff, which has an ERA of 6.33 ... As a team, Purdue is hitting .220, led by Sean McHugh, who has a .313 batting average ... Conner Hudnall leads the team with 16 RBIs.
Bullpen Closing the Door
The Spartan bullpen has been outstanding as of late as it hasn't given up an earned run over the past 11 games - a total of 36.1 innings. Over that stretch, relievers Anthony Misiewicz (two) and Joe Mockbee have picked up wins, while Jeff Kinley has earned a save. The relievers have 30 strikeouts and just 12 walks over the 11-game span.
Junior pitcher Mick VanVossen continues to impress as MSU's top starter; he is one of four pitchers in the Big Ten with at least five wins. At 5-1 through seven starts, VanVossen ranks third in opponent batting average (.195), second in innings pitched (54.0) and is third in strikeouts (40).
In his last start April 5 vs. Siena, VanVossen tossed his second-career complete game, allowing three hits while striking out 10.
Alleman Adjusts Well to Starter Role
In his first year as a starter, sophomore Justin Alleman is 4-1 with a 2.39 ERA, which ranks ninth in the Big Ten, and is holding opponents to a .193 batting average, which is second best in the league. The Holt native has proved durable as well, ranking fourth in the conference in innings pitched (52.2)
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 and yielded three or fewer runs in five of their eight starts this season. In their 10 combined quality starts, the duo is 8-0 with two no-decisions.
Both of Cam Vieaux's last two outings have been quality starts, going 2-0 and allowing one run in a combined 12.2 innings.
Notes on the Staff
Michigan State has yielded 233 hits this season (7.8 per game), which leads the Big Ten ... The 117 runs and 85 earned runs yielded both rank third in the conference ... The pitching staff has an opponent batting average of .240, ranking first in the conference ... The team ERA, which is currently 2.91, has dropped 0.83 over the past 11 games ... MSU has allowed three runs or fewer in 15 of 30 games this season, going 14-1 in such contests.
Vieaux Solidifies the Rotation
Redshirt freshman Cam Vieaux's last three outings have marked the first three starts of his career. Over the three starts, Vieaux has thrown a total of 17.1 innings, allowing just 11 hits and two runs (one earned), while racking up 10 strikeouts compared to just three walks.
Vieaux's 1.80 ERA is fourth best in the conference, while his .218 opponent batting average ranks sixth.
Pickens Extends On-Base Streak
Junior Jimmy Pickens has reached base in a team-high 18 consecutive games entering play this weekend. The streak is two games shy of his longest on-base stretch from last season.
Pickens has had a hit in 17 of the last 18 games. His current .438 on-base percentage leads the team and ranks seventh in the Big Ten. He also leads MSU in batting average at .327 which is 12th best in the league.
Salter Among the Best in the Conference
Junior Blaise Salter has been the Spartans' most dangerous threat at the plate so far this season, currently ranking second in RBIs with 28. Salter has had a hit in 22 of 30 games this season, which includes a career-long 12-game hitting streak that 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 12 doubles are two more than anyone else in the conference.
Throwing Up Zeroes
The Spartans' five shutouts this season are their most since 1998 when they had six. 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 April 2 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 third 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.
Good in the Close Ones
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 42.0 innings in 32appearances, giving up just 10 earned runs.
Lowery has made 14 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 1.12 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 1-1 and has made three starts.
Mockbee earned his first win vs. Oakland on April 2.
The Spartans have caught a Big Ten-best 22 runners stealing. Catcher Joel Fisher has thrown out 15 runners this season, which is second most in the conference and nine shy of his total from 2013.
MSU has also turned 26 double plays this season, fourth most in the conference.