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Spartans Continue Big Ten Play at Indiana

Jordan Keur ranks second in the Big Ten with his .388 batting average.

April 13, 2012

Games 32-34: Michigan State (20-11, 3-3) at Indiana (15-18, 5-4)
 Dates Friday, April 13 - Sunday, April 15
 Location Bloomington, Ind. | Sembower Field
 Audio Coverage Free live broadcast of all three games at
 Statistics Michigan State | Indiana
 Notes Michigan State | Indiana
 Social Media @statebaseball | Facebook

Game 1
 Date | Time Friday, April 13 | 3:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Sr. RHP Tony Bucciferro (3-2, 3.15 ERA) vs.
IU: So. LHP Joey DeNato (5-1, 2.54 ERA)
 Live Stats Gametracker

Game 2
 Date | Time Saturday, April 14 | 1:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Jr. RHP Andrew Waszak (3-2, 2.06 ERA) vs.
IU: Fr. LHP Kyle Hart (1-3, 3.53 ERA)
 Live Stats Gametracker

Game 3
 Date | Time Sunday, April 15 | 1:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: TBA vs.
 Media Coverage Live video stream available for purchase at
 Live Stats Gametracker

Michigan State resumes Big Ten Conference play with a road series at Indiana this weekend in Bloomington, Ind., at Sembower Field. The series gets underway Friday at 3:05 p.m., and continues Saturday and Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

The Spartans are 20-11 overall after splitting a pair of midweek games; MSU took care of Notre Dame on Tuesday, 8-2, but fell to Eastern Michigan, 13-5, on Wednesday.

Indiana defeated Indiana State, who was receiving votes in the national polls, on a walk-off bunt single Wednesday in Bloomington, 8-7. The Hoosiers are 15-18 overall.

MSU and Indiana are both battling for position near the top of the league standings. The Hoosiers are tied for second at 5-4 after winning their first two series vs. Penn State and Iowa before falling in a series at Illinois last weekend. The Spartans (3-3) opened Big Ten play with a home series win over Ohio State, but fell in two of three games against Michigan.

Indiana swept Michigan State in Bloomington last season, including a 13-12, 15-inning victory in game two of the series that was played on both Saturday and Sunday in a total time of four hours and 46 minutes. MSU head coach Jake Boss is 3-6 against the Hoosiers. The Spartans are searching for their first series victory in Bloomington since taking three of four games in 2007.

Game one will feature two first-team All-Big Ten pitchers, as Spartan senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro (3-2, 3.15 ERA) matches up against Hoosier sophomore southpaw Joey DeNato (5-1, 2.54 ERA). Bucciferro leads the conference with 48 strikeouts, while DeNato ranks tied for first with five wins. DeNato was the only freshman to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors last season and was named a Freshman All-American after going 7-3 with a 2.80 ERA.

MSU has won four Big Ten regular-season titles in school history (1954, 1971, 1979, 2011) but has never repeated as conference champs. The Spartans won their fourth Big Ten title and first since 1979 with a 15-9 record in 2011, sharing the regular-season crown with Illinois. MSU was in first place wire-to-wire in the Big Ten standings. In a vote by the conference coaches, Michigan State was selected as the 2012 preseason favorite in the Big Ten, followed by Purdue and Minnesota.

Michigan State's pitching staff leads the Big Ten in ERA (3.01) and opposing batting average (.240), and entering the week, MSU was ranked No. 17 in the nation in ERA, 25th in hits allowed and 39th in walks allowed. MSU also has a strikeout/walk ratio of 2.18 (207 strikeouts/95 walks). In the series win over Ohio State, MSU allowed just seven runs and 14 hits against the Buckeyes. "Mark Van Ameyde is doing a great job," said Boss. "I've said on more than one occasion that I think he's the best pitching coach in this conference. You see the results that he's getting with our guys."

Michigan State won its first regular-season conference title in 32 years last spring, but it's still looking for its first bid to the NCAA Tournament since 1979. In the first projected 64-team NCAA Tournament field released the first week of April by Perfect Game USA and Baseball America, the Spartans made the field as a No. 3 seed and No. 4 seed, respectively. In this week's projection according to Perfect Game USA, Michigan State is one of the last 10 teams out. In the latest NCAA RPI rankings released April 10, MSU came in at No. 57.

Senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro continues to climb up the ladder in Michigan State's record book. He's second in innings pitched (315.1) and strikeouts (227) and tied fourth in wins (23).

Bucciferro currently leads the Big Ten with 48 strikeouts and ranks third in innings pitched (54.1) and 10th in ERA (3.15).

Junior right-hander Andrew Waszak, MSU's No. 3 starter last season, has moved up into the No. 2 spot in convincing fashion. Seven of his eight starts this season has been a quality start (at least six innings pitched; three earned runs or less), and he has given up just 12 earned runs in 52 1/3 innings this season. Waszak (3-2) ranks among the Big Ten leaders in opposing batting average (first at .199), ERA (second at 2.06), and innings pitched (tied for seventh with 52.1).

Junior Ryan Jones is in his third season as the starting second baseman for the Spartans. Last season, Jones became the first Spartan to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors at second base in 36 years as he hit .344 and led the team with a .442 on-base percentage.

Jones, who currently has 197 hits, enters the Indiana series looking to become just the 15th Spartan to record 200 career hits. He ranks second on the team this season with 49 hits, which is also tied for third in the conference.

Jones leads MSU with 24 RBIs and ranks second on the team in batting (.360) and slugging (.478). After batting in all four spots in the order for half of the season, Jones has batted in the No. 2 hole in the past three games. Also an excellent defensive player, Jones ranks third in the Big Ten with 102 assists.

Junior Jordan Keur, who has started in all 31 games this season (29 in left field, two in center field), has led the Spartans in batting average all season long and is currently second in the Big Ten with his .388 average. He also ranks among the league leaders in hits (tied for first with 50), on-base percentage (second at .474), and runs scored (tied for seventh with 30). Keur has batted in the leadoff spot in the order the past three games.

Junior third baseman Torsten Boss supplies the power for the Spartans in the No. 3 spot in the order. The Lowell, Mich., native leads the team in home runs (4) and slugging (.512) and ranks second in RBIs (23) and doubles (7).

Named a third-team preseason Louisville Slugger All-American, Boss has a career average of .349 with 17 homers and 123 RBIs. He was a second-team All-Big Ten choice in 2010 and a first-team all-league selection in 2011 as a third baseman.

Boss began the season by starting 10 games in center field, but is now back at third base to solidify the Spartan infield defensively. Freshman Anthony Cheky has started the 19 of the last 21 games for the Spartans in center field.

Boss, who is ranked the No. 10 prospect in the Big Ten according to Baseball America, has hit two of his team-leading four home runs this season against preseason All-Americans. In front of numerous scouts against St. John's, Boss delivered a solo homer in his first at-bat of 2012 off of preseason All-American Kyle Hansen, hitting a 94-mph fastball over the left-center field wall. In his first at-bat in College Station, Texas, Boss hit another solo blast, this time against preseason Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Michael Wacha. An All-American last season, Wacha is ranked the No. 10 junior in the nation by Baseball America.

Michigan State has played 31 games to date this season - and 15 of them have been decided by one or two runs. The Spartans are 6-6 in one-run games and 2-1 in two-run games. After beginning the year 0-4 in one-run games, with losses to South Florida (2-1), Louisville (7-6), Miami-Ohio (1-0) and Texas A&M (9-8), the Spartans have won six of their last eight games decided by one run.

Michigan State is 4-0 in extra-inning games this season. The Spartans scored four runs in the top of the 11th to defeat Furman on Feb. 25, 6-2, in Greenville, S.C. On March 10 against Seton Hall, the Spartans gave up three runs in the top of the 15th in a scoreless game, but rallied to score four runs against the Pirates to win in the bottom of the 15th, 4-3. At Cincinnati on March 17, the Spartans squandered a 4-2 lead as the Bearcats scored two in the bottom of the ninth, but MSU eventually held off UC in 14 innings, 5-4. Playing rival Michigan in the series finale on April 8, the Spartans scored a run in the top of the ninth inning to tie it at 8 and send the game into extras, where MSU scored twice in the top of the 13th to record a 10-8 victory over the Wolverines.

Junior right-hander Tony Wieber was named to the Stopper of the Year Award Preseason Watch List, as announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association of America. The award has been given annually since 2005 to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.

Thus far in 2012, Wieber has backed up the preseason accolades, as he leads the Big Ten with six saves (6-for-7 in save opportunities). He has struck out 16 batters in his 15 1/3 innings and opponents are hitting just .182 against him.

Wieber became MSU's all-time saves leader on April 1 as he recorded his 15th career save in the 2-1 win over Ohio State. Wieber also delivered the game-winning hit with an RBI single in the seventh inning against the Buckeyes. Not only does Wieber own the all-time saves record at Michigan State, he has collected a 10-0 career record on the mound. In the 13-inning win over Michigan on April 8, Wieber finished the game by pitching 3 2/3 shutout innings to earn his first win of the season.

A third-team All-Big Ten selection as a relief pitcher in 2011, Wieber led the team and ranked fourth in the Big Ten with eight saves last season; that total tied for third most in an MSU single-season. He also compiled a perfect 5-0 record with a 3.64 ERA and struck out 38 batters in 42.0 innings. In addition, Wieber ranked second on the team with 23 appearances.

Senior shortstop Justin Scanlon has started every game at shortstop for MSU the past two seasons - 88 straight - since transferring from Madison Junior College. For the season, he is eighth on the team with a .264 batting average. Scanlon, who was voted a captain by his teammates prior to the season, was named the Big Ten's "best defensive fielder" in a survery of conference coaches conducted by College Baseball Insider. Scanlon played for the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League last summer.

Michigan State has used three different starting catchers this season: junior John Martinez (17 games), sophomore Joel Fisher (9) and senior Andy Johnson (5).

Fisher entered the year as the starter after earning All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors in 2011, but he injured his leg in the second game of the season Feb. 18 vs. South Florida. He returned to the starting lineup at catcher against Bowling Green and has started all six Big Ten games.

Martinez, who was the primary catcher in Fisher's absence, has started a career-high 17 games at catcher this season. He is batting .296 with 12 RBIs, including two game-winning RBIs in the sweep over Cincinnati. Martinez also has started three games at first base and one in left field.



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