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Spartans Host Minnesota in Key Big Ten Series

David Garner is back in the starting rotation for Michigan State and will get the start on Sunday against Minnesota.

April 20, 2012

Games 37-39: Michigan State (24-12, 5-4) vs. Minnesota (22-17, 6-3)
 Dates Friday, April 20 - Sunday, April 22
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | McLane Baseball Stadium (2,500)
 Tickets $5 | $3 (youth/seniors)
 Statistics Michigan State | Minnesota
 Notes Michigan State | Minnesota
 Social Media @statebaseball | Facebook

Game 1
 Date | Time Friday, April 20 | 3:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Sr. RHP Tony Bucciferro (3-2, 3.08 ERA) vs.
MINN: Jr. RHP TJ Oakes (6-2, 1.41 ERA)
 Media Coverage Live video stream available for purchase at
 Live Stats Gametracker

Game 2
 Date | Time Saturday, April 21 | 1:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Jr. RHP Andrew Waszak (4-2, 1.82 ERA) vs.
MINN: So. LHP DJ Snelton (3-2, 2.19 ERA)
 Media Coverage (Internet) Free live audio broadcast available at
 Media Coverage (Mobile) Broadcast available on Spartan Sports Network Mobile App:
iPhone/iPad | Android
 Live Stats Gametracker

Game 3
 Date | Time Sunday, April 22 | 1:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: So. RHP David Garner (2-3, 4.24 ERA) vs.
MINN: Sr. RHP Austin Lubinsky (2-3, 3.28 ERA)
 Media Coverage (Internet) Free live audio broadcast available at
 Media Coverage (Mobile) Broadcast available on Spartan Sports Network Mobile App:
iPhone/iPad | Android
 Live Stats Gametracker

As the Big Ten race starts to heat up, defending conference champion Michigan State hosts Minnesota this weekend in a key series at McLane Baseball Stadium. The fourth-place Spartans (24-12, 5-4 Big Ten) are riding a four-game winning streak after claiming a series victory at Indiana last weekend along with midweek wins against Western Michigan and Central Michigan.

Minnesota, who is in second place in the league standings at 6-3, is on a hot streak of its own. The Gophers (22-17) swept Northwestern at home last weekend and beat Nebraska-Omaha twice earlier this week in Minneapolis.

The Spartan offense has come alive the past three games, as the Spartans have scored 44 runs (14.7 avg.) on 55 hits (18.3 avg.). MSU crushed Indiana in the series finale last Sunday, collecting season highs in runs (20) and hits (25) in the 20-10 rout. On Tuesday, the Spartans defeated Western Michigan at home, 13-3, before taking care of Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant on Wednesday, 11-1.

Last season in East Lansing, Michigan State swept Minnesota for the first time in school history in a series of three games or more. In a series that dates all the way back to 1925, MSU has defeated Minnesota in a two-game series twice (1954 and 1965). Last year also marked the first time MSU had claimed back-to-back series wins over Minnesota after taking two of three games in Minneapolis in 2010.

Overall, MSU has beaten Minnesota four straight times, as the Spartans topped the Gophers in an elimination game in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament, 6-3. MSU head coach Jake Boss is 6-2 against Minnesota during his tenure in East Lansing.

Game one of the series will feature two of the top pitchers in the Big Ten - senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro vs. junior righty TJ Oakes of Minnesota. Bucciferro leads the conference in strikeouts with 55, while Oakes ranks first in the league in ERA (1.41) and innings pitched (63.2), and tied for first in wins with six.

• Junior outfielder Jordan Keur leads the Big Ten with a .401 batting average and has hit at a .478 clip (22-for-46) the last 10 games. He is batting .526 (10-for-19) during MSU's four-game winning streak.

• Freshman first baseman Ryan Krill leads the team with a .579 average (11-for-19) the past four games. Krill is also batting .476 (20-for-42) over his last 10. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week on April 16 after batting .619 (13-for-21) in five games last week. In the series at Indiana, Krill hit .643 (9-for-14), collecting three hits in each game. Krill collected season highs with four hits and three RBIs in the 11-1 win at Central Michigan on Wednesday.

Jordan Keur leads the Big Ten in batting (.401), hits (61) and on-base percentage (.486).

• Junior second baseman Ryan Jones is batting .391 the last 10 games and became the 15th Spartan to cross the 200-career hit mark during MSU's win at Indiana last Sunday. Jones currently has 208 career hits, which is 10th all-time in MSU history.

• Junior designated hitter Jared Hook is 9-for-21 (.429) with six RBIs in the last 10 games.

Coach Boss has juggled his lineup on a consistent basis all season long, from who's starting to where they're batting in the lineup. During the four-game winning streak, Ryan Jones has batted leadoff, followed by Torsten Boss at No. 2, Jordan Keur at No. 3 and Ryan Krill at cleanup.

Defensively, left-handed Jimmy Pickens and right-handed Tony Wieber have split time at right field, while right-handed John Martinez has seen action at catcher and left field. Jordan Keur has started 30 games in left field, but has started four of the last five games in center field, while freshman lefty Anthony Cheky has 20 starts under his belt at center.

The designated hitter role has also rotated between left-handed Jared Hook and right-handed Blaise Salter.

Michigan State owns an even .300 team batting average this season - but has been on fire lately, scoring 50 runs on 68 hits during its four-game winning streak, good for a .402 average. MSU collected season highs in runs (20) and hits (25) in the 20-10 win at Indiana on April 15 in the second game of a doubleheader. The Spartans lead the Big Ten in conference games with a .326 batting average. Michigan State has outscored its opponents by 93 runs this season (225-132).

Although MSU's bats have been hot as of late, the Spartan pitching staff has been consistent all season long. The Spartans rank third in the Big Ten in ERA (3.01), opposing batting average (.241), walks allowed (107) and strikeouts (242). Entering the week, the Spartans ranked among the top 50 nationally in ERA (31st), hits allowed (38th) and walks allowed (46th). "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 17, MSU came in at No. 68. The Spartans are No. 62 in the latest RPI ratings by Boyd's World (as of April 19).

Junior Jordan Keur, who has started in all 36 games this season (30 in left field, six in center field), has led the Spartans in batting average all season long and is currently first in the Big Ten with his .401 average. He also leads the league in hits (61) and on-base percentage (.486), and ranks among the league leaders in doubles (third with 11), runs scored (fourth with 34) and total bases (tied for sixth with 72). Keur has batted in the No. 3 in the order the past four games.


• Minnesota has won five straight after a sweep over Northwestern and two midweek wins over Nebraska-Omaha

• Although Minnesota ranks near last in the Big Ten in every offensive category, it ranks first in the Big Ten in ERA (2.88), strikeouts (265) and opposing batting average (.239).

• Friday starter TJ Oakes leads the conference in ERA (1.41) and innings pitched (63.2), ranks tied for first in wins (6), and is third in strikeouts (52) and fourth in opposing batting average (.224). Oakes was a third-team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore in 2011.

• Sophomore Dan Olinger leads the team in batting (.340), doubles (9) and RBIs (22).

• John Anderson is in his 31st year as the Golden Gopher head coach and 34th year overall at the University of Minnesota. He currently holds an all-time record of 1,087-716-3 (.603 winning percentage).

• Minnesota went 25-24 overall last season and finished tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings at 13-11.

• Overall: Minnesota leads, 79-36

• In East Lansing: Minnesota leads, 32-22

• Last season: MSU won, 4-0

• Last 10: MSU leads, 6-4

• Coach Boss vs. Minnesota: 6-2 (3-0 home, 2-1 road, 1-1 neutral)

Tony Bucciferro was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after hurling a five-hit, complete game shutout in game two of the series.

David Garner struck out five in six innings of work while taking a no decision in game three of the series. In the Big Ten Tournament, Garner threw 4 1/3 shutout innings out of the bullpen to earn the win. Garner struck out eight batters in 10 1/3 innings against Minnesota last season (1.74 ERA, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB).

• In the first game of the series, Gopher starter TJ Oakes allowed eight hits and four runs in seven innings, but took the loss.

Ryan Jones led the team with a .467 average (7-for-15) against the Gophers, while Torsten Boss hit .385 (5-for-13). In seven career games vs. Minnesota, Jones is batting .407 (11-for-27).

• Closer Tony Wieber made three appearances, recording two saves and allowing just one run and five hits in 5 1/3 innings (1.69 ERA).



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