Spartans Set for Road Test at No. 13 Purdue
Top two teams in the Big Ten meet this weekend in West Lafayette, Ind.
April 26, 2012
|Games 40-42: Michigan State (26-13, 7-5) at No. 13 Purdue (32-6, 12-3)|
|Dates||Friday, April 27 - Sunday, April 29|
|Location||West Lafayette, Ind. | Lambert Field|
|Audio Coverage||Free live broadcast of all three games at PurdueSports.com|
|Statistics||Michigan State | Purdue|
|Notes||Michigan State | Purdue|
|Social Media||@statebaseball | Facebook|
|Date | Time||Friday, April 27 | 4 p.m.|
|Pitching Matchup||MSU: Sr. RHP Tony Bucciferro (3-2, 3.04 ERA) vs.
PUR: Sr. RHP Joe Haase (6-0, 3.62 ERA)
|Date | Time||Saturday, April 28 | 2 p.m.|
|Pitching Matchup||MSU: Jr. RHP Andrew Waszak (4-3, 2.23 ERA) vs.
PUR: Sr. RHP Lance Breedlove (6-3, 2.74 ERA)
|Date | Time||Sunday, April 29 | 1 p.m.|
|Pitching Matchup||MSU: So. RHP David Garner (2-3, 4.14 ERA) vs.
PUR: Fr. RHP Connor Podkul (2-0, 2.76 ERA)
In the showcase series of the weekend in the Big Ten, the Michigan State baseball team (26-13, 7-5) travels to No. 13 Purdue to take on the first-place Boilermakers (32-6, 12-3) in West Lafayette, Ind. The defending Big Ten Champion Spartans, currently tied for second in the conference along with Minnesota, are looking to make up ground in the league race as they enter the weekend 3.5 games back of Purdue.
Michigan State is riding a five-game winning streak over the Boilermakers, including a 4-0 record last season. MSU swept Purdue in East Lansing in early May and claimed a 7-1 decision in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Spartans are coming off a home series win over Minnesota last weekend. Both wins over the Gophers came in extra innings, as the Green and White took game one of a doubleheader on Saturday in 11 innings, 3-2, and won the series finale on Sunday in 10 innings, 5-4. MSU has won six of its last seven games and 19 of its last 25.
Purdue, which won a road series at Nebraska last weekend and beat Illinois State on Tuesday, 3-2, ranks tied for seventh in the nation with 32 wins already this season. The Boilermakers are ranked in all five polls, including as high as eighth by Perfect Game. Purdue is also ranked 13th by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Baseball Poll, 15th by Baseball America, and 17th by Collegiate Baseball. Not only ranked high in the polls, Purdue is also listed at No. 8 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA on April 24.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE SPARTANS
Junior outfielder Jordan Keur leads the Big Ten with a .404 batting average and has hit at a .478 clip (22-for-46) the last 10 games.
Junior second baseman Ryan Jones is batting .452 (19-for-42) the last 10 games and became the 15th Spartan to cross the 200-career hit mark during MSU's win at Indiana on April 15. Jones currently has 214 career hits, which is 10th all-time in MSU history.
Junior designated hitter Jared Hook leads MSU the past 10 games with a .481 batting average (13-for-27).
Sophomore left-handed reliever Jeff Kinley has not allowed a run in his last 21 1/3 innings, spanning eight outings. Kinley is 4-0 during that stretch with 20 strikeouts and opponents are just hitting .173 against him.
MIX & MATCH
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 last seven games, in which MSU is 6-1, 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 seven of the last eight games in center field, while freshman lefty Anthony Cheky has 20 starts under his belt at center.
HEATING UP AT THE PLATE
Michigan State owns a .298 team batting average this season - but has hit .352 during the last seven games (6-1 record) while outscoring its opponents by 36 runs (60-24). 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 .314 batting average. For the season, Michigan State has outscored its opponents by 93 runs (235-142).
SPARTAN PITCHING STAFF LEADS THE WAY
Although MSU's bats have been hot as of late, the Spartan pitching staff has been consistent all season long. The Spartans rank first in the Big Ten in opposing batting average (.241), second in ERA (2.98), tied for second in walks allowed (111), and fourth in strikeouts (266). Entering the week, the Spartans ranked among the Top 50 nationally in ERA (19th), walks allowed (26th) and hits allowed (27th). In the last two Big Ten series against Indiana and Minnesota, MSU has struck out 52 batters against just eight walks. "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."
ON THE RADAR FOR FIRST NCAA BID SINCE 1979
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 24, MSU came in at No. 61. The Spartans are No. 60 in the latest RPI ratings by Boyd's World (as of April 26).
KEUR LEADS BIG TEN IN HITTING
Junior Jordan Keur, who has started in all 39 games this season (30 in left field, nine in center field), has led the Spartans in batting average all season long and is currently first in the Big Ten and 23rd in the nation with his .404 average. He also leads the league in hits (67) and on-base percentage (.482), and ranks among the league leaders in doubles (tied for fifth with 12), runs scored (tied for seventh with 35) and total bases (tied for eighth with 79). Keur has batted in the No. 3 in the order the past seven games.
Tony Bucciferro MOVING UP IN RECORD BOOK
Senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro continues to climb up the ladder in Michigan State's record book. He's second in innings pitched (329.0) and strikeouts (239) and tied fourth in wins (23).
Bucciferro has put together several impressive performances on the mound during his career at Michigan State - add Opening Day 2012 to that list. He allowed only one hit through six innings against No. 11 St. John's and retired his first 13 batters. Bucciferro, a 2011 Cape Cod League All-Star and first-team All-Big Ten selection, gathered some national attention for his start, as Perfect Game USA columnist Kendall Rogers tabbed him as "one of the nation's best pitchers." It was good enough for Bucciferro to earn Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week accolades, marking the second time in his career he has won the weekly award.
In the 4-3 victory over Cincinnati on March 16, Bucciferro won his third game of the season and struck out a career-high 10 batters. He took a no decision vs. Ohio State on March 31 in the Big Ten opener, even though he threw eight scoreless innings, scattered just two hits, and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Bucciferro currently leads the Big Ten with 60 strikeouts and ranks fifth in innings pitched (68.0) and eighth in walks allowed (13).
COMFORTABLE AT NO. 2
Junior right-hander Andrew Waszak, MSU's No. 3 starter last season, has moved up into the No. 2 spot in the rotation in convincing fashion. Eight of his 10 starts this season has been a quality start (at least six innings pitched; three earned runs or less), and he ranks among the Big Ten leaders in opposing batting average (second at .208), ERA (sixth at 2.23), and innings pitched (eighth with 64.2). Waszak was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career following his performance at Indiana on April 15 in which he threw seven shutout innings against the Hoosiers and allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out a season-high five.
SOLID AT SECOND
Junior Ryan Jones is in his third season as the starting second baseman for the Spartans. Last season, Jones became the first Spartan to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors at second base in 36 years as he hit .344 and led the team with a .442 on-base percentage.
Jones, who currently ranks 10th in MSU history with 214 career hits, is one of just 15 Spartans to collect at least 200 hits. He ranks second in the Big Ten and 10th in the nation this season with 66 hits, just one behind teammate Jordan Keur. Jones is also tied for sixth in program history with 39 doubles.
Jones also ranks second on the team in batting (.386), RBIs (28), slugging (.497), runs (34) and walks (21). His .386 average is good for third in the conference. After batting in all four spots in the order for half of the season, Jones has batted leadoff the past seven games. Also an excellent defensive player, Jones ranks fourth in the Big Ten with 122 assists.
Last summer, Jones was named to the Cape Cod League All-Star Team while playing for the Brewster Whitecaps. He finished 17th in the CCL with a .283 average during the 44-game regular season, and had a hit and a run in the CCL All-Star Game at Fenway Park on July 29. During his All-Big Ten campaign as a sophomore, Jones collected a school-record 33-game hitting streak from March 6 to May 8. It tied for the longest hitting streak in the nation in 2011.
Junior third baseman Torsten Boss supplies the power for the Spartans in the No. 2 spot in the order. The Lowell, Mich., native leads the team in RBIs (31), slugging (.513) and OPS (.961), and is tied for first with 12 doubles. He also leads the team with nine stolen bases (9-for-9).
Named a third-team preseason Louisville Slugger All-American, Boss has a career average of .350 with 17 homers and 131 RBIs, and ranks tied for sixth in MSU history with 39 doubles. He was a second-team All-Big Ten choice in 2010 and a first-team all-league selection in 2011 as a third baseman.
Boss began the season by starting 10 games in center field, but is now back at third base to solidify the Spartan infield defensively.
Boss, who is ranked the No. 10 prospect in the Big Ten according to Baseball America, has hit two of his four home runs this season against preseason All-Americans. In front of numerous scouts against St. John's, Boss delivered a solo homer in his first at-bat of 2012 off of preseason All-American Kyle Hansen, hitting a 94-mph fastball over the left-center field wall. In his first at-bat in College Station, Texas, Boss hit another solo blast, this time against preseason Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Michael Wacha. An All-American last season, Wacha is ranked the No. 10 junior in the nation by Baseball America.
WIEBER BECOMES MSU'S ALL-TIME SAVES LEADER
Junior right-hander Tony Wieber was named to the Stopper of the Year Award Preseason Watch List, as announced by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association of America. The award has been given annually since 2005 to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball.
Thus far in 2012, Wieber has backed up the preseason accolades, as he ranks tied for fourth in the Big Ten with six saves (6-for-7 in save opportunities). He has struck out 20 batters in his 19 innings and opponents are hitting just .188 against him.
Wieber became MSU's all-time saves leader on April 1 as he recorded his 15th career save in the 2-1 win over Ohio State. Wieber also delivered the game-winning hit with an RBI single in the seventh inning against the Buckeyes. Not only does Wieber own the all-time saves record at Michigan State, he has collected an 11-0 career record on the mound. In the 13-inning win over Michigan on April 8, Wieber finished the game by pitching 3 2/3 shutout innings to earn his first win of the season.
A third-team All-Big Ten selection as a relief pitcher in 2011, Wieber led the team and ranked fourth in the Big Ten with eight saves last season; that total tied for third most in an MSU single-season. He also compiled a perfect 5-0 record with a 3.64 ERA and struck out 38 batters in 42.0 innings. In addition, Wieber ranked second on the team with 23 appearances.
Wieber also sees time in right field (nine starts) and as a designated hitter (seven starts) for the Spartans. He enters the Purdue series with a .299 average with 10 RBIs.
Senior shortstop Justin Scanlon has started every game at shortstop for MSU the past two seasons - 96 straight - since transferring from Madison Junior College. Scanlon, who was voted a captain by his teammates prior to the season, was named the Big Ten's "best defensive fielder" in a survery of conference coaches conducted by College Baseball Insider. He played for the Madison Mallards in the Northwoods League last summer.
Fisher entered the year as the starter after earning All-Big Ten Freshman Team honors in 2011, but he injured his leg in the second game of the season Feb. 18 vs. South Florida. He returned to the starting lineup at catcher against Bowling Green and has started 11 of MSU's 12 Big Ten games.
Martinez, who was the primary catcher in Fisher's absence, has started a career-high 19 games at catcher this season. He is batting .269 with 15 RBIs, including two game-winning RBIs in the sweep over Cincinnati. Martinez also has started seven games in left field and three games at first base.
Michigan State owns an RPI of 60 according to Boyd's World (as of April 26).
MSU has played six games against ranked teams, with a 2-4 record in those contests (1-0 vs. No. 11 St. John's; 0-1 vs. No. 15 Louisville; 0-3 vs. Texas A&M; 1-0 vs. No. 25 Baylor).
The Spartans have played three Top 50 RPI teams (Boyd's World): No. 5 Baylor, No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 36 Louisville.
Michigan State has won 70 games the past two seasons (2010, 2011), tying for most in the Big Ten with Purdue; the 70 wins are the second most in consecutive years in program history (75 wins in 1987-88).
MSU is coming off its first back-to-back 30-win seasons since 1992-93. The Spartans are looking to win 30 games for the third straight year for the first time in program history.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENT: PURDUE (32-6, 12-3)
Purdue is one of the top offensive teams in the nation, as it leads the Big Ten and ranks third in the nation with a .326 team batting average.
The Boilermakers also rank among the top 20 in the NCAA in scoring (7.3 runs per game) and hits (446).
Purdue ranks tied for seventh in the nation with 32 wins already this season.
The Boilermakers are ranked in all five polls, including as high as eighth by Perfect Game. Purdue is also ranked 13th by the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Baseball Poll, 15th by Baseball America, and 17th by Collegiate Baseball.
Not only ranked high in the polls, Purdue is also listed at No. 8 in the latest RPI rankings released by the NCAA on April 24.
Purdue has not lost a Big Ten series this season; it has swept Illinois and Northwestern and has series wins over Penn State, Nebraska and Ohio State.
The Boilermakers own RPI Top 50 wins over East Carolina (No. 22), Missouri State (No. 39) and Louisville (No. 40).
Overall: Michigan State leads, 73-66
In West Lafayette: Purdue leads, 37-36
Last season: MSU won, 4-0
Last 10: Tied, 5-5
Coach Boss vs. Purdue: 6-5 (4-2 home, 1-2 road, 1-1 neutral)
LAST YEAR VS. PURDUE
Michigan State went 4-0 over the Boilermakers, batting .379 as a team and outscoring Purdue, 29-13 (+16).
Torsten Boss drove in seven runs, hit two homers and compiled a .389 average (7-for-18) in four games.
2011 Big Ten Player of the Year Jeff Holm was named the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week after hitting three homers in the sweep May 6-8 at McLane Baseball Stadium.
In the final game of the three-game set in East Lansing, with MSU clinging to a 6-5 lead, Purdue catcher Kevin Plawecki was thrown out at the plate for the last out of the game on a relay from Spartan center fielder Brandon Eckerle to first baseman Jeff Holm to catcher Joel Fisher. The starting pitching matchup in that game featured Joe Haase, who is now Purdue's Friday starter, against Andrew Waszak. Waszak picked up the win in pitching 6 1/3 innings while giving up five runs and eight hits. MSU tagged Haase for six runs and 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings as he suffered the loss.
Tony Bucciferro recorded a win in the second game of the series by allowing just two runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings.