Spartans Host Minnesota in Key Big Ten Series
April 20, 2012
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.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE SPARTANS
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.
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.
MIX & MATCH
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.
HEATING UP AT THE PLATE
SPARTAN PITCHING STAFF LEADS THE WAY
ON THE RADAR FOR FIRST NCAA BID SINCE 1979
KEUR LEADS BIG TEN IN HITTING
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT: MINNESOTA (22-17, 6-3)
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.
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)
LAST YEAR VS. MINNESOTA
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.
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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