Spartan Baseball Hosting Ohio State In B1G Weekend Series
MSU Returns To McLane Stadium at Kobs Field After Flooding
|MICHIGAN STATE (18-11, 3-3 B1G) vs OHIO STATE (14-19, 3-6 B1G)|
|Game 1||Friday, April 14 - 3:05 p.m. ET|
|Location||McLane Stadium at Kobs Field | East Lansing, Mich.|
|Game Notes||Michigan State | Ohio State|
|Probable Pitching Matchup||MSU: LHP #32 Alex Troop (SO) (4-2, 1.69 ERA) vs. OSU: RHP #28 Yianni Pavlopoulos (JR) (2-3, 5.46 ERA)|
|Coverage||Live Stats | Watch Live - BTN Plus | Listen Live - Spartan Sports Network|
|Game 2||Saturday, April 15 - 1:05 p.m. ET|
|Probable Pitching Matchup||MSU: RHP #7 Ethan Landon (JR) (2-1, 4.67 ERA) vs. OSU: RHP #10 Jake Post (SR) (1-2, 3.21 ERA)|
|Coverage||Live Stats | Watch Live - BTN Plus | Listen Live - Spartan Sports Network|
|Game 3||Sunday, April 16 - 1:05 p.m. ET|
|Probable Pitching Matchup||MSU: RHP #34 Andrew Gonzalez (JR) (3-1, 4.41 ERA) vs. OSU: RHP #16 Reece Calvert (JR) (1-0, 8.51 ERA)|
|Coverage||Live Stats | Watch Live - BTN Plus | Listen Live - Spartan Sports Network|
Michigan State baseball resumes Big Ten Conference action this weekend by hosting Ohio State in a three-game weekend series at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, returning home after relocating last weekend’s three-game series against Fresno State to Grand Rapids due to wet field conditions after the Red Cedar River overflowed throughout the MSU campus. Friday’s series opener has a 3:05 p.m. first pitch, while Saturday and Sunday are scheduled for 1:05 start times. This weekend is the first time that MSU has hosted Ohio State since 2012.
• Fans can follow this weekend’s games through “Live Stats,” “Listen Live” and “Watch Live” links found at MSUSpartans.com. The battle between the Spartans and Buckeyes 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 18-11 on the season, after falling 2-1 at Notre Dame on Tuesday. The Spartans are coming off a three-game sweep of Fresno State last weekend at Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids after having to relocate due to the Red Cedar River flooding. The Spartans out-scored Fresno State by a total of 27-11 on the weekend after sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader 10-4 and 9-5, then winning Sunday’s series finale, 8-2. MSU rapped out 36 hits in the series.
• MSU’s 2-1 loss at Notre Dame was the Spartans’ third-straight one-run loss in a midweek game, all three on a Tuesday, as five of MSU’s last six losses have each been by one run.
• The Buckeyes bring a 14-19 overall and 3-6 B1G record into this weekend. Ohio State is coming off a pair of midweek losses, falling to Cincinnati, 7-1, on Tuesday and 3-1 to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday. Last weekend, Ohio State took two of three at Penn State, rebounding from losing the opener on April 8, 6-2, to sweep the doubleheader on April 9, 5-2 and 11-2.
Michigan State and Ohio State are meeting for the 231st time in school history. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series, 138-91-1, including 63-47 in East Lansing, with this weekend’s series being OSU’s first visit to East Lansing since 2012. Ohio State has won the last four meetings. MSU and OSU didn’t meet during last year’s regular season but made up for it with two meetings in the Big Ten Tournament, as the Buckeyes eliminated the Spartans, 3-2 and 7-3, as Ohio State went on to win the B1G Tournament title.
Michigan State vs. Ohio State
Overall: 91-138-1 / Home: 47-63 / Away: 31-69 / Neutral: 13-7-1 / Series Streak: OSU W4
First Met: May 5, 1911 - East Lansing, Mich. - MSU W, 6-1
Last Meeting: May 29, 2016 - Omaha, Neb. - OSU W, 7-3
Spartans In The Stats Rankings
The Spartans enter the weekend leading the Big Ten in eight different statistical categories, as well as ranking in the Top 25 of the NCAA in seven categories. MSU hit eight home runs against Illinois on March 26, which is the most in the NCAA so far this season. The Spartans top the B1G and rank 25th in the NCAA in home runs per game with 1.10, while also leading the conference and ranking 26th in the country in scoring with 7.4 runs per game. With 2.41 doubles per game, the Spartans are also tops in the conference and ninth in the country, ranking first in the league and 25th in the nation with 70 total doubles.
Defensively, the Spartans are first in the conference and eighth in the country in double plays per game at 1.10, 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 tops in the B1G and ranks 27th in the NCAA in strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.85. 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. Last 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 307-225 (.577) in his 10 overall years as a collegiate head coach. He has a 282-191 (.596) 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.
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 the Spartans’ home opener on March 21.
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 26th in the NCAA with 7.4 runs scored per game, plating 215 runs through 29 games, ranking second in the conference and 60th in the country in total runs scored.
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 10 of the 29 games, including 10 against Fresno State on April 8, as well as 11 against Central Michigan on March 21. MSU also hung 10+ runs 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’ scoring in double-digits in all three games at Illinois was part of a stretch of scoring 10+ runs in four-straight games and five of six games as part of 10 of the 28 games this season, having been limited to single digit runs in five-straight games before plating 10 against Fresno State on April 8.
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 leads the Big Ten and ranks 40th in the NCAA in ERA at 1.69, allowing just nine earned runs in 48.0 IP in five appearances. Troop also has a 4.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio with 46 strikeouts and 11 walks. With eight starts, Troop is also tied for second in the league and tied for 20th in the NCAA.
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 (two complete games), Jake Meyers of Nebraska, Brian Shaffer of Maryland and Ty Weber of Illinois. Devin Hemmerich of Norfolk State, Ian Miller of Harvard and Gavin Wallace of Fairfield lead the nation with four CGs, while three pitchers have three complete games and nine more have two GGs.
Sophomore Alex Troop is hitting .339 (19-for-56), which would rank 12th in the B1G, but he doesn’t have enough at bats. Troop also has three HRs, six doubles and nine RBI, along with also leading the team with a .643 slugging percentage and a .464 on base percentage, which would also rank third and fourth, 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 16 and 15 appearances, respectively. The 16 appearances rank Mockbee tied for the second-most in the Big Ten, while Borkovich is tied for third-most with 15 appearances. Junior right-hander Jake Lowery has made 14 appearances, good for the fourth-most in the B1G, while sophomore righty Nathan Witt has 13 and sophomore closer Riley McCauley has appeared in 11 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.
Michigan State’s pitchers have combined to post double-digit strikeouts in eight games this season, most recently with 10 vs. Minnesota on April 1.
MSU has lugged the lumber to the plate, hitting .298 so far this season, leading the B1G and ranking 41st in the NCAA.
Individually, six Spartans are hitting over .300, led by sophomore first baseman/designated hitter/pitcher Alex Troop at .339, followed by junior centerfielder Brandon Hughes at .336, then freshmen outfielders Robbie Jones at .333 and Danny Gleaves at .324 and Bryce Kelley at .321. Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina is at .318.
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 five games: at Abilene Christian on Feb. 18 (gm 2), at Abilene Christian on Feb. 19, at UNC-Greensboro on Feb. 25, vs. Central Michigan on March 21 and vs. Fresno State (G1) on April 8. The Spartans have had eight of the nine hitters get a hit in three other games: at South Carolina on March 8, at Richmond on March 18 and vs. Fresno State (G2) on April 8.
Michigan State currently is third in the Big Ten and ninth in the NCAA in stolen bases per game with 1.90, and the Spartans are third in the conference and 22nd in the country with 55 total stolen bases.
Individually, all three of MSU’s outfielders rank in the top 20 of the conference in stolen bases. Junior outfielder Brandon Hughes is fourth in the NCAA in stolen bases per game with 0.62 and seventh in the NCAA in total stolen bases with 18, leading the B1G in stolen bases per game and sharing the lead in total stolen bases. Sophomore outfielder Dan Chmielewski is tied for 14th with eight swipes, while freshman outfielder Danny Gleaves is tied for 20th in the B1G with seven stolen bases.
Big Bat Bechina
Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina has continued his hot start to the season, now batting .318 (35-for-110) on the season. He has tallied 21 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 fifth in the B1G in on base percentage, now at .457.
McCauley-ing It Over
Sophomore reliever Riley McCauley ranks third in the B1G and 35th in the NCAA with six 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.
With his next save, McCauley will join the MSU single season saves list, as five Spartans have the No. 8 mark with seven saves, most recently by Dakota Mekkes last season.
Team captain, senior second baseman Dan Durkin has a .291 average (34-for-117). Durkin also is second on the team with 22 RBI, ranking tied for 13th in the B1G. The Spartan captain is tied for second on the team and tied for ninth in the B1G with nine doubles, along with tied for second on the team with four home runs and third with 34 hits, while also swiping three stolen bases.
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.
Scouting Ohio State
The Buckeyes bring a 14-19 overall and 3-6 B1G record into this weekend. Ohio State is coming off a pair of midweek losses, falling to Cincinnati, 7-1, on Tuesday and 3-1 to Eastern Michigan on Wednesday. Last weekend, Ohio State took two of three at Penn State, rebounding from losing the opener on April 8, 6-2, to sweep the doubleheader on April 9, 5-2 and 11-2.
As a team, the Buckeyes are hitting .233. Freshman outfielder Dominic Canzone leads Ohio State with a .301 average (22-for-73), the only Buckeye hitting over .300, adding 12 RBI. Junior outfielder Tre’ Cantt is second on team in batting, hitting .282 (33-for-117) and adding nine RBI, while leading team with .406 on base percentage. Senior catcher/infielder Jalen Washington leads OSU in RBI and doubles with 21 and eight, respectively, also topping team with eight stolen bases.
Ohio State’s pitching staff has a 4.82 ERA and holding the opposition to a .277 batting average. Friday’s probable starter is junior right-hander Yianni Pavlopoulos, who has 2-3 record with a 5.46 ERA, walking nine while striking out 20 in 28.0 IP. Saturday’s starter is slated to be senior righty Jake Post, who is 1-2 with a 3.21 ERA, tallying 42.0 IP with 18 walks and 37 strikeouts. Sunday’s probable starter is junior right-hander Reece Calvert, who is 1-0 with an 8.51 ERA, posting 12 base on balls and 16 strikeouts in 24.1 IP. Junior righty Seth Kinker had a team-best four saves with a 1-0 record and a 2.33 ERA, pitching 27.0 IP with seven walks and 29 strikeouts.
Ohio State head coach Greg Beals is in his seventh season guiding the Buckeyes’ program. Beals has a 217-164-1 record at OSU and is in his 17th season as a collegiate head coach with a 460-366-1 ledger.
Michigan State has 24 players on its 2017 roster from the state of Michigan, while Ohio State has 21 players on its roster from the state of Ohio. The Spartans have two players from Ohio on the MSU roster in senior relief pitcher Joe Mockbee, who is from Akron, and freshman infielder Justin Antoncic, who is from Columbus. The Buckeyes have one player from Michigan on their roster in sophomore pitcher Thomas Waning from Maple City.
0-4 Against Common Opponents
Michigan State and Ohio State have four total games against two common opponents, Minnesota and Eastern Michigan, and both the Spartans and Buckeyes were 0-4 against the Gophers and Eagles. MSU lost to Minnesota, 3-2, 4-3 and 9-4 on March 31-April 2 and lost at Eastern Michigan, 4-3, on April 4. Ohio State also lost at home to Minnesota, 5-2, 15-5 and 6-5 on March 24-25, while losing to Eastern Michigan at home, 3-1, on April 12.
Michigan State will be on the road for all four games next week, opening with a trip to Ann Arbor to play Michigan on Tuesday, May 18 in a non-conference midweek contest, before resuming B1G action with a trip to College Park, Md., to take on league preseason favorite Maryland in a three-game weekend series April 21-23. MSU returns home to host Toledo on Wednesday, April 26 at 3:05 p.m. 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.
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: Michigan State Dealt 2-1 Defeat At Notre Dame Tuesday
Michigan State baseball was dealt a 2-1 defeat at Notre Dame Tuesday night at Frank Eck Stadium. The loss snapped MSU’s three-game win streak as the Spartans are now 18-11 on the season. Tuesday’s loss was MSU’s third-straight one-run loss in a midweek game, all three on a Tuesday, as five of MSU’s last six losses have each been by one run. With the win, Notre Dame improved to 14-17 and the Irish have now won seven of their last eight home games. Freshman right hander Mike Mokma started Tuesday’s game, going 3.1 innings, then senior relievers Walter Borkovich and Joe Mockbee pitched, with Borkovich throwing 2.1 innings and Mockbee 0.2 innings, before giving way to junior Jake Lowery, who pitched final 1.2 innings. Borkovich and Lowery chalked up two strikeouts apiece, while Mokma and Mockbee logged one strikeout each. The Spartans rapped out eight hits, with junior center fielder Brandon Hughes doing 2-for-2 with a double and a stolen base. Junior first baseman Zack McGuire was 1-for-4 with a double for MSU’s other extra base hit. Sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski was 1-for-2 with a stolen base and a walk, while senior second baseman Dan Durkin was 1-for-3. MSU got on the board early with a run in the top of the first after leadoff hitter freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley singled on the first pitch of the game. Kelley later stole both second and third, and scored on a an RBI single up the middle by Hughes for a 1-0 advantage. The Fighting Irish tied the score at 1-all in the home half of the second on a leadoff home run by Matt Vierling. Notre Dame tried to break the game open in the bottom of the fourth getting one-out single and walk, which chased Mokma. Borkovich came on in relief, and after a walk, got out of the bases loaded jam with a pair of groundouts to keep the score 1-1. The Irish took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the sixth, taking advantage of a hit and an error, then a double steal to score an unearned run. MSU got out of another bases loaded jam in the bottom of the seventh in thrilling fashion. Notre Dame’s Ryan Lidge hit a line drive up the middle that Lowery was able to knock down and slow its progress up the middle and sophomore shortstop Royce Ando came charging in scooped it up with his bare hand and gunned it to first, where McGuire stretched and they got Lidge by a step to end the inning and keep the score 2-1. The Spartans got the leadoff hitters on in both the eighth and ninth innings, but the rallies fizzled and MSU was unable to push across the tying run.
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.
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.
Michigan State opened the season with its first 17 games away from home, including 11 true road games to go with six neutral games.
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.