Spartans Host Penn State in Battle of First-Place Teams
April 29, 2011
SPARTANS HOST PENN STATE IN BATTLE OF FIRST-PLACE TEAMS
The top-six teams will advance to the Big Ten Tournament May 25-28 at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, home of the Triple A Columbus Clippers.
Michigan State is looking to break a season-long three-game losing streak after it fell to Eastern Michigan in 12 innings, 17-15, on Tuesday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium. The Spartans dropped two out of three on the road at Illinois last weekend.
The series begins Friday at 3:05 p.m., while Saturday's game at 3:05 p.m. will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network. The series finale is set for 1:05 p.m. on Sunday. Audio of Friday and Sunday's games will be available for free at spartansportsnetwork.com.
"Penn State is going to be very good," said Spartan head coach Jake Boss. "They've played well and have put up some pretty good numbers. It's going to be a very competitive series. I'm glad that we're at home, it's always nice to play in your own backyard. The weather looks like it's going to be good and hopefully we get some big crowds to support our guys, so it should be a fun weekend."
Penn State enters the weekend series at 25-13 following its 7-3 win over Bucknell over Wednesday night. The Nittany Lions are coming off a home series win against Ohio State.
"We need to get good starting pitching and we need to play good defense," said Boss. "Offensively, we need to take advantage of opportunities when we're given them. Penn State pitches it very well. I wouldn't expect three high-scoring games this weekend. When we get a chance to score or move runners and make productive outs, we have to take those opportunities."
The Spartans were swept in State College, Pa., last season and outscored in the three games, 49-13. Coach Boss is 3-3 in his career at MSU against the Nittany Lions, as the Spartans swept PSU in East Lansing in 2009.
2) Sophomore Tony Wieber re-entered the starting lineup on April 20 in right field for the "Clash at Comerica" against Central Michigan and responded by getting a double in three at-bats. Since that point, he has led the Spartans in batting over the last five games with a .524 average (11-for-21), including six doubles and four RBIs. He collected career highs in hits (four), doubles (three) and RBIs (three) against Eastern Michigan on April 26. Wieber was 2-for-12 in three starts during the first two weekends on the season. On the mound, Wieber is the team's top reliever with a 4-0 record, four saves and a 4.13 ERA. He owns an 8-0 career record as a pitcher.
3) Senior Kurt Wunderlich is off to a 7-1 start on the mound and has won 23 games for his career, which ranks third in Spartan history . . . The seven wins rank first in the Big Ten . . . Wunderlich also ranks tied for second in strikeouts (50), third in innings pitches (66.0) and seventh in ERA (3.00).
4) Senior center fielder Brandon Eckerle is off to a torrid start at the plate, as he leads the Big Ten in batting (.391) . . . He has led the conference in batting since the first weekend of the season . . . Eckerle also leads the team with 20 multi-hit games . . . He has at least one hit in 31 of MSU's 37 games this season . . . Eckerle recorded his 200th career hit in the Evansville series, and is currently fifth in MSU history with 228 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 (.389), tied for first in homers (six) and tied for second in RBIs (38) . . . The six homers are already a career high . . . He's also first in slugging (.618) . . . In fact, he ranks among the top 10 leaders in the Big Ten in eight different statistical categories (batting, slugging, on-base percentage, RBIs, hits, home runs, total bases and stolen bases).
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 (eighth at .362), slugging (third at .567), RBIs (fourth with 37), doubles (second with 14), sac flies (tied for first with 6), and total bases (fifth with 80).
7) Michigan State ranks second in the Big Ten with a .313 team batting average . . . MSU entered the week ranked 28th nationally in batting . . . Three of the top eight hitters in the conference are from MSU (Eckerle first at .391; Holm second at .389; Boss eighth at .362) . . . the Spartans also have the ability to play small ball, tying for first in the Big Ten and 60th in the country in stolen bases (62) and also second in sacrifice bunts (39) and third in sacrifice flies (19).
8) Michigan State is fourth in the Big Ten with 24 overall victories (Purdue: 27; Penn State, Indiana: 25) . . . MSU won more games (34) than any other Big Ten team in 2010.
9) With Kurt Wunderlich on the mound, Michigan State is a perfect 4-0 on Friday games in the Big Ten. Overall, the Spartans are 6-0 in the first game of a series this year. MSU is 9-1 this season in games Wunderlich has started.
OFF THE BENCH: QUICK HITTERS
has posted its best back-to-back 25-game starts in school history after going 20-5 to start last season and 18-7 this season (38 wins total) . . . The previous best 25-game starts came when the Spartans won 37 games in 1946-47 (21-4 in 1946; 16-8 in 1947), in 1970-71 (16-7-1 in 1970; 21-4 in 1971) and in 1971-72 (21-4 in 1971; 16-8 in 1972) . . . it also marks the second-best back-to-back 30-game starts in program history . . . MSU has started out 22-8 the last two seasons (44 wins); the school record is 45 wins (25-5 to start in 1971; 20-9-1 start in 1972).
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 73.9 winning percentage (34-12) in home games under head coach Jake Boss.
has protected late-game leads. The Spartans are 23-1 when leading after seven innings and 21-1 when leading after eight innings.
is 16-4 when scoring first.
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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