Spartans Set for Road Test at No. 13 Purdue
April 26, 2012
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 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
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
SPARTAN PITCHING STAFF LEADS THE WAY
ON THE RADAR FOR FIRST NCAA BID SINCE 1979
KEUR LEADS BIG TEN IN HITTING
Tony Bucciferro MOVING UP IN RECORD BOOK
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
SOLID AT SECOND
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
LAST YEAR VS. PURDUE
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.
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