First-Place Spartans Head to Ohio State This Weekend
April 14, 2011
FIRST-PLACE SPARTANS TAKE ON OHIO STATE IN COLUMBUS THIS WEEKEND
Last weekend, the Spartans (21-8 overall) took all three games from Minnesota at McLane Baseball Stadium in East Lansing, marking the first time in school history MSU has swept the Gophers in a series of three games or more. Michigan State split a Tuesday doubleheader to Oakland at Lansing's Cooley Law School Stadium, winning game one, 7-1, but falling in game two, 9-7.
Ohio State enters the series at 13-14 overall after sweeping Akron in a doubleheader on Wednesday. The Buckeyes dropped two of three games at Indiana last weekend after opening conference play by taking a home series against Northwestern to sit at 3-3 in the Big Ten standings.
"It's a big series on the road - Ohio State has traditionally been one of the top teams in this conference for a long time," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "Columbus is a tough place to play. They have a beautiful ball park and an outstanding fan base, so we expect to have good crowds down there. They're a talented group; they got a lot of young guys that are getting a lot of playing time. Coach (Greg) Beals is an outstanding coach and is going to do a great job with that program. It's going to be a challenge."
The Buckeyes beat Michigan State in two of three games in East Lansing last season. MSU's last series win against Ohio State arrived in 2007, as the Spartans claimed three of four games at Bill Davis Stadium.
Penn State and Indiana are tied for second in the Big Ten with a 4-2 league record.
"Our guys are really focused to play conference games," said Boss. "That's why they come to Michigan State, to play in big series like this. Hopefully we're successful and put ourselves in good position within the conference standings. There's a long way to go, and guys know we're going to have to play good baseball against a good opponent to win."
2) Michigan State owns the highest winning percentage of any Big Ten team at 72 percent . . . The Spartans are tied for second in the conference overall with 21 wins (Purdue: 22) . . . MSU won more games (34) than any other Big Ten team in 2010.
3) On the mound, the Spartan pitching staff ranks first in the Big Ten in ERA (2.82) and second in walks allowed (78) . . . The Spartans have allowed just 107 runs, 14 fewer than any other team in the conference . . . The 2.83 team ERA ranks 17th in the nation.
4) Senior center fielder Brandon Eckerle is off to a torrid start at the plate, as he leads the Big Ten in batting (.438), on-base percentage (.500) and hits (53) . . . His .438 average is sixth best in the nation, and he also leads the team with 17 multi-hit games . . . He has at least one hit in 25 of MSU's 29 games this season . . . Eckerle recorded his 200th career hit in the Evansville series, and is currently seventh in MSU history with 218 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 (.398), on-base percentage (.465) and slugging (.611) . . . In fact, he ranks among the top 10 leaders in the Big Ten in eight different statistical categories . . . 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 . . . In the Minnesota series April 8-10, Holm hit .417 with two homers and six RBIs, and was instrumental in the Spartan sweep over the Gophers; he hit the game-winning, two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh in the series finale to break a 4-4 tie and give MSU the 6-4 win.
6) Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten with a .315 team batting average . . . Three of the top seven hitters in the conference are from MSU (Eckerle first at .438; Holm second at .398; Boss seventh at .376).
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 (seventh at .376), slugging (fourth at .578), RBIs (tied for fifth with 28), doubles (second with 12), sac flies (first with 6), and total bases (eighth with 63).
8) Sophomore second baseman Ryan Jones enters the Ohio State series with a career-high 18-game hitting streak . . . His last game without a hit came on March 5 against Bethune-Cookman . . . Jones is batting .367 (22-for-60) during that span.
9) Senior Kurt Wunderlich is off to a 6-1 start on the mound and has won 22 games for his career, which ranks fifth in Spartan history . . . The six wins are tied for the most in the Big Ten this season along with teammate Tony Bucciferro . . . Wunderlich also ranks third in the Big Ten in innings pitches (51.0) and strikeouts (41) and fourth in ERA (2.29).
OFF THE BENCH: QUICK HITTERS
owns a .756 winning percentage (34-11) in home games under head coach Jake Boss.
is 14-0 when scoring first.
has protected late-game leads. The Spartans are 20-0 when leading after seven innings and 19-0 when leading after eight innings.
swept Michigan in a three-game series on March 25 and 27 to give the Spartans their first sweep over the Wolverines in a series (three games or more) since 1955 and only the second ever in program history.
got off to its best 15-start (12-3) since 2002, when the Spartans started out 13-2.
swept Minnesota in a series of three games or more for the first time in school history (April 8-10).
won its first five games of the season for the first time since 1964 (7-0). It marked just the seventh time in program history Michigan State has started the season 5-0.
went 3-0 at the Big East/Big Ten Challenge for the first time in the event's three-year history.
won 34 games last season, the most of any team in the Big Ten; the 34 wins tied for the fifth-most in program history.
"CLASH AT COMERICA" SET FOR NEXT WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20
The Chippewas and Spartans will square off at the home of the Detroit Tigers at 6:35 p.m.
The two schools made the formal announcement at a press conference Feb. 9 inside the Tiger Den at Comerica Park.
The 2011 season marks the 100th anniversary of the first meeting between the two programs in a series dating back to 1911.
General admission tickets for the event are $8 for adults, $6 for youths/seniors and $5 for CMU students. Groups of 10 or more will also be able to purchase tickets for $5. Tickets may be purchased from CMU's Ticket Central or the Comerica Park box office.
Fans will be able to access the park through the main gates, located off Witherell Street, starting at 5:30 p.m.
Previous highlights of events hosted at Comerica Park include the 76th Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 2005 and the first two games of the 2006 World Series.
"We're extremely excited about the opportunity to play at Comerica Park, one of the best the baseball stadiums in the country, against Central Michigan," said Michigan State head coach Jake Boss. "It will be an absolute thrill for our players to compete in a major league facility. A few of our players had the opportunity to play at Comerica Park during their high school careers, but to play in the first collegiate game in the ballpark's history is truly special. We're looking forward to a great night of baseball in the Motor City."
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