Spartans Hit the Road Again to Take on Illinois
April 22, 2011
SPARTANS HIT THE ROAD AGAIN TO TAKE ON ILLINOIS
The series gets underway Friday night at 7:05 p.m. ET and will be televised on the Big Ten Network. Saturday's game starts at 4:05 p.m. ET and the series finale on Sunday is set for 2:05 p.m.
MSU dropped two of three games on the road last weekend at Ohio State, but the Spartans are still tied for first in the Big Ten along with Indiana at 6-3 in league play. Purdue, Penn State and Ohio State are all at 5-4.
Michigan State is coming off a 3-1 victory over Central Michigan Wednesday night in the "Clash at Comerica", which was the first-ever college baseball game played at Comerica Park, the 11-year home of the Detroit Tigers. The Spartans scored all three of their runs in the first inning and starter Andrew Waszak did the rest, striking out a season-high six in seven innings to pick up his third win of the season. Senior first baseman Jeff Holm hit two doubles, scored a run and had one RBI to lead the team at the plate.
Illinois stands at 12-20 after falling 10-2 to Eastern Illinois at home on Wednesday. The Fighting Illini have lost five of their last six games after taking two of three games from Iowa in a home series April 8-10. UI lost a series at Penn State to open Big Ten play and also lost a road series at Michigan last weekend in Ann Arbor. The Illini are 4-4 at home this season.
In non-conference games, MSU and Illinois have played three common opponents: Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Central Michigan. The Spartans are 3-1 in those games, while the Illini are 1-2.
Last season in East Lansing, Michigan State took two of three games from the Illini. After losing game one 4-3, the Spartans responded with wins of 10-2 and 16-1 to claim the series.
2) Michigan State owns the highest winning percentage of any Big Ten team at 69.7 percent . . . The Spartans are third in the conference overall with 23 wins (Indiana, Purdue: 25) . . . 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 (3.23) and second in walks allowed (89) . . . The Spartans have allowed just 131 runs, seven fewer than any other team in the conference.
4) Senior center fielder Brandon Eckerle is off to a torrid start at the plate, as he leads the Big Ten in batting (.414) . . . He has led the conference in batting since the first weekend of the season . . . Eckerle also leads the team with 18 multi-hit games . . . He has at least one hit in 28 of MSU's 33 games this season . . . Eckerle recorded his 200th career hit in the Evansville series, and is currently tied for sixth in MSU history with 223 career hits (MSU career record: 245) . . . The Durand, Mich., native was recently named one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award; to be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.
5) Senior first baseman Jeff Holm is making the most of his senior season, currently ranking second in the Big Ten in batting (.400) and first in slugging (.608) . . . In fact, he ranks among the top 10 leaders in the Big Ten in nine different statistical categories (batting, slugging, on-base percentage, RBIs, hits, home runs, total bases, walks, stolen bases) . . . 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) Sophomore third baseman Torsten Boss is having an excellent all-around season at the plate . . . Boss ranks among Big Ten leaders in six statistical categories: batting (ninth at .358), slugging (tied for fourth at .561), RBIs (sixth with 32), doubles (tied for second with 12), sac flies (first with 6), and total bases (ninth with 69).
7) Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten with a .313 team batting average . . . MSU entered the week ranked 13th nationally in batting . . . Three of the top nine hitters in the conference are from MSU (Eckerle first at .414; Holm second at .400; Boss ninth at .358) . . . the Spartans also have the ability to play small ball, ranking first in the Big Ten and 30th in the country in stolen bases (59) and also second in sacrifice bunts (37) and third in sacrifice flies (17).
8) Sophomore second baseman Ryan Jones enters this weekend's series with a career-high 22-game hitting streak . . . His last game without a hit came on March 5 against Bethune-Cookman . . . It's the longest hitting streak for a Spartan since Troy Krider hit safely in 25 consecutive games in 2005.
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 strikeouts (46), fourth in innings pitches (59.0) and seventh in ERA (2.59).
OFF THE BENCH: QUICK HITTERS
has received votes in the national polls on two occasions this season in both the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Assocation Poll (NWBCA).
owns a .756 winning percentage (34-11) in home games under head coach Jake Boss.
is 15-1 when scoring first.
has protected late-game leads. The Spartans are 22-0 when leading after seven innings and 20-0 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.
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