Baseball Travels to First-Place Indiana
Spartans and Hoosiers will begin the series at 7:05 p.m. Friday.
April 17, 2014
Michigan State travels to nationally-ranked Indiana to meet the Hoosiers in a three-game series ... The Hoosiers are 10-1 over their last 11 games, while the Spartans have an 8-3 mark over their last 11.
This weekend's series features the top-two pitching staffs in the conference as the Hoosiers rank first in team ERA at 2.71 and MSU second at 2.88 ... MSU leads the conference in opponent batting average at .244, while IU is third at .257.
The Spartan bullpen has been outstanding so far this season and enters Friday's having allowed just one earned run over the past 14 games - a span of 48.0 innings ... On the season, the MSU bullpen has a 2.02 ERA in 116.0 total innings.
In recording at least 10 hits in six of the last seven games, the Spartans have raised their team batting average to a season-high .268 ... The Spartans rank fourth in the conference in triples (nine) and fourth in home runs (13).
Jimmy Pickens enters the weekend having reached base in a career-high 22 consecutive games ... The 22-game streak is the longest since Torsten Boss reached base safely in 24 consecutive contests during the 2012 season.
MSU is 7-0 when scoring in the first inning and 14-1 when it scores first.
Blaise Salter has been one of the Big Ten's best run-producers this season and enters the weekend second in the league with 32 RBIs ... His 14 doubles lead the league, and rank 25th nationally, while his .551 slugging percentage ranks fourth.
The Spartans continue to lead the conference in stolen bases with 55 ... Junior Anthony Cheky has a Big Ten-high 20 stolen bases, which ranks ninth in the nation.
All three of the Spartans' weekend starters - Cam Vieaux (.206, third), Mick VanVossen (.210, fourth) and Justin Alleman (.213, fifth) - rank in the top five in the conference in opponent batting average ... Vieaux's 1.62 ERA is the lowest of any starter in the league, and second-lowest overall, while VanVossen's 2.55 ERA is ninth best in the league.
VanVossen's 50 strikeouts rank second in the Big Ten ... Anthony Misiewicz leads the MSU bullpen with 40 Ks, which is tied for sixth in the league.
After going 12-3 in one-run games last season, MSU has been good again in close games in 2014, going 7-1 in one-run affairs.
The Spartans have thrown out 25 runners stealing bases this season, which is tops in the conference.
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.
MSU is 8-1 when playing error-free baseball and is 17-0 when carrying a lead into the ninth inning.
Indiana is ranked in three of the four national polls, including 26th in the NCBWA poll, 18th in Collegiate Baseball poll and 21st in Baseball America ... The Hoosiers are 22-11 overall, including 10-1 in their last 11 games ... IU leads the Big Ten with an 8-1 mark in conference play ... With the help of a Big Ten best 24 home runs, Indiana leads the conference in slugging percentage at .411 ... As a team, IU is hitting .283, which is third highest in the league ... Junior infielder Sam Travis leads the conference in both RBIs with 35 and hits with 50 ... Junior Kyle Schwarber is the conference leader in runs scored (34), total bases (80) and home runs (six) ... The Hoosier pitching staff has the Big Ten's best ERA at 2.71 and its opponent batting average of .257 is third best ... Game one starting pitcher Joey DeNato leads the league with a 7-1 record and is tops on the team with 41 strikeouts ... Reliever Scott Effross has a 1.57 ERA and five saves in 20 appearances.
Bullpen Slamming the Door
The Spartan bullpen has been outstanding as of late as it has given up just one earned run over the past 14 games - a total of 48.0 innings. The Spartans have used eight different pitchers over the 14-game stretch, with relievers Anthony Misiewicz (two), Jeff Kinley and Joe Mockbee having picked up wins. Kinley also has a save over the span.
Quality Starts = Wins
Starting pitchers Mick VanVossen, Justin Alleman and Cam Vieaux have all demonstrated the ability to put together quality starts this season. The trio has combined for 14 quality starts, going 11-0 with three no-decisions. VanVossen has six quality starts, including each of his last two, where he has gone at least six-complete innings and yielded three or fewer runs. Vieaux's last three starts have all met the quality start threshold, including his last outing where he tossed his first-career complete game vs. Purdue (9.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 6K). Alleman has four quality starts to his credit this season.
Junior pitcher Mick VanVossen continues to impress as MSU's top starter; he is the only pitcher in the conference with five wins (5-1) and at least 60 innings pitched (60.0). Through nine starts, VanVossen ranks fourth in opponent batting average (.210), second in innings pitched (60.0), second in strikeouts (50) and ninth in ERA (2.55).
He struck out a career-best 10 batters in each of his last two starts, allowing just one earned run over 16.0 combined innings.
Alleman Adjusts Well to Starter Role
In his first year as a starter, sophomore Justin Alleman is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA and is holding opponents to a .213 batting average, which is fifth best in the league. The Holt native has proved durable as well, ranking in a tie for third in the conference in innings pitched (59.0)
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.
Notes on the Staff
Michigan State has yielded 272 hits this season (8.0 per game), which is the fewest of any staff in the Big Ten ... The 136 runs and 96 earned runs yielded rank third and second in the conference, respectively ... The pitching staff has an opponent batting average of .244, ranking first in the conference ... MSU has allowed three runs or fewer in 16 of 34 games this season, going 15-1 in such contests ... Over the last nine games, MSU has allowed just six extra-base hits, has 68 strikeouts and 22 walks and has lowered its ERA by 0.48 to 2.88, which ranks second in the league.
Vieaux Solidifies the Rotation
Redshirt freshman Cam Vieaux's last four outings have marked the first four starts of his career. Over the four starts, Vieaux is 3-1 and has thrown a total of 26.1 innings, allowing just 16 hits and three runs (two earned), while racking up 16 strikeouts compared to just three walks.
Vieaux, a walk-on, has an ERA of just 1.62 - the lowest of any starting pitcher in the conference and second lowest of any pitcher. His .206 opponent batting average ranks third in the Big Ten.
Pickens Extends On-Base Streak
Junior Jimmy Pickens has a team-high eight-game hitting streak entering this weekend and has reached base in 22 consecutive. The 22-game streak is the longest of his career and longest by a Spartan since Torsten Boss reached in 24 straight in 2012.
Pickens has had a hit in 21 of the last 22 games. His current .443 on-base percentage leads the team and ranks seventh in the Big Ten. His .339 batting average ranks second on the team and is 11th 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 the Big Ten in RBIs with 32. Salter has had a hit in each of the last five games and in 26 of 34 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 14 doubles lead the conference.
Putting 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 third 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 six saves, the Spartan bullpen has combined for eight saves this season, which is tied for fourth 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.
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 46.1 innings in 35 appearances, giving up just 11 earned runs.
Lowery has made a team-high 16 appearances and 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. Currently, Lowery has a 1.50 ERA in 18.0 innings.
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 and is 1-0 in six appearances.
Since Jake Boss took over the Spartan program in 2009, the Spartans have a 45-34 record in one-run games, including 7-1 this season. The Spartans were outstanding in one-run games last season, going 12-3.
Spartans Lead the Big Ten in Wins Over The Last Four Years
Michigan State posted its fourth consecutive 30-win season last year, going 33-17. The Spartans entered the 2014 campaign with a total of 140 wins over the past four years - more than any other team in the conference. Indiana ranked second with 139, while Purdue was third with 132.
130 Years of Spartan Baseball
The 2014 season marks the 130th year of baseball at Michigan State. The MSU baseball program has an all-time record of 2,216-1,789-30 (.553).
Michigan State will host Toledo on Tuesday, March 22 before hosting Northwestern for a three-game set next weekend.