Spartans Back on the Road to Face Illinois
Three-game series begins Friday at 7:05 p.m. in Champaign, Ill.
May 3, 2012
|Games 43-45: Michigan State (27-15, 8-7) at Illinois (25-19, 8-7)|
|Dates||Friday, May 4 - Sunday, May 6|
|Location||Champaign, Ill. | Illinois Field|
|Media Coverage||Games on Friday and Saturday available for purchase on BTN.com|
|Statistics||Michigan State | Illinois|
|Notes||Michigan State | Illinois|
|Social Media||@statebaseball | Facebook|
|Date | Time||Friday, May 4 | 7:05 p.m. ET|
|Pitching Matchup||MSU: Sr. RHP Tony Bucciferro (3-3, 3.20 ERA) vs.
ILL: Jr. RHP Kevin Johnson (7-3, 3.15 ERA)
|Date | Time||Saturday, May 5 | 4:05 p.m. ET|
|Pitching Matchup||MSU: Jr. RHP Andrew Waszak (4-3, 2.13 ERA) vs.
ILL: Fr. RHP John Kravetz (7-3, 4.79 ERA)
|Date | Time||Sunday, May 6 | 2:05 p.m. ET|
|Pitching Matchup||MSU: So. RHP David Garner (3-3, 3.40 ERA) vs.
ILL: R-Fr. RHP Drasen Johnson (1-0, 6.29 ERA)
The Michigan State baseball team (27-15) continues its seven-game road swing with a three-game series at Illinois (25-19) this weekend in Champaign, Ill. The Spartans and Fighting Illini, along with Nebraska and Penn State, are all tied for fourth in the Big Ten standings with an 8-7 conference record. The top-six teams in the regular-season standings will advance to the Big Ten Tournament, which begins May 23 in Columbus, Ohio.
MSU and Illinois tied for the Big Ten regular-season title last year, but the Illini defeated the Spartans twice in the Big Ten Tournament, including a 9-1 victory in the championship game, to earn the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Illinois won the season series, 4-1, as it also won a home series over the Spartans in late April.
"They're all big weekends at this point in the season," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "Illinois is a very good ballclub. They're very aggressive on the bases - they're going to force us to make plays. We're going to have to do a good job of holding the running game. They also have some young guys that are pitching well for them right now. We're going to have to take advantage of our opportunities and play good baseball in order to win."
Michigan State lost a road series at then-No. 13 Purdue last weekend, but did take the series finale on Sunday, 5-0, behind a complete game, five-hit shutout from sophomore right-hander David Garner. Illinois swept Northwestern on the road last weekend before falling in a midweek game to Southern Illinois on Tuesday.
"We played well on Sunday (at Purdue)," said Boss on his team's momentum heading into Champaign. "And without any midweek games, it's been good to get a little bit of a break. We played a lot of baseball in a short amount of time, and our guys were starting to get worn down a little bit. Finals are over now, so guys can concentrate on baseball the rest of the way. It will be good for our guys to relax a little bit and not have anything else to worry about."
The series opens Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET, while first pitch on Saturday is at 4:05 p.m. ET. The series concludes Sunday at 2:05 p.m. ET. The first two games of the series will be available for purchase at BTN.com.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE SPARTANS
At the plate...
Junior outfielder Jordan Keur is tied for first in the Big Ten with a .394 batting average and has hit at a .426 clip (20-for-47) the last 10 games.
Junior second baseman Ryan Jones is batting .422 (19-for-45) the last 10 games and is riding a 14-game hitting streak. He became the 15th Spartan to cross the 200-career hit mark during MSU's win at Indiana on April 15 and currently has 217 career hits, which is ninth all-time in MSU history.
Junior designated hitter Jared Hook leads MSU in Big Ten games with a .393 batting average. He is hitting .406 (13-for-32) in his last 10 games.
Junior third baseman Torsten Boss leads the team with five doubles and 12 RBIs in the past 10 games. He has reached base in 19 consecutive games.
On the mound...
Sophomore right-hander David Garner is 2-0 with 21 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings since moving to the Big Ten rotation the last three weeks (vs. Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue). Garner was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after throwing a complete game, five-hit shutout in MSU's 5-0 win at No. 13 Purdue last Sunday. He was also named the CollegeBaseballInsider.com Central Region Pitcher of the Week.
Sophomore left-handed reliever Jeff Kinley has not allowed a run in his last 22 1/3 innings, spanning nine outings. Kinley is 4-0 during that stretch with 20 strikeouts.
HEATING UP AT THE PLATE
Michigan State owns a .297 team batting average this season - but has hit .333 during the last 10 games (7-3 record) while outscoring its opponents by 36 runs (70-34).
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.
For the season, Michigan State has outscored its opponents by 93 runs (245-152).
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 ERA (2.87) and opposing batting average (.239) and third in walks allowed (118).
Entering the week, the Spartans ranked among the Top 50 nationally in ERA (11th), walks allowed (19th) and hits allowed (22nd).
In the last three Big Ten series against Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue, MSU has struck out 64 batters against just 15 walks.
Michigan State held Purdue - which entered the series No. 3 in the nation in hitting and 15th in scoring - to just 10 runs all weekend, a season low for the Boilermakers in a weekend series. Purdue hit just .221 and MSU posted a 1.50 team ERA.
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.
MSU appeared as a No. 3 seed in last week's ESPN Bracketology that projected the NCAA Tournament field.
MSU was listed as a No. 4 seed in this week's projected field by CollegeBaseballDaily.com.
In the latest NCAA RPI rankings released May 1, MSU came in at No. 51. The Spartans are No. 52 in the latest RPI ratings by Boyd's World (as of May 3).
MSU has played nine games against ranked teams, with a 3-6 record in those contests (1-0 vs. No. 11 St. John's; 0-1 vs. No. 15 Louisville; 0-3 vs. No. 5 Texas A&M; 1-0 vs. No. 25 Baylor; 1-2 vs. No. 13 Purdue - rankings at date of game).
The Spartans have played four Top 50 RPI teams (Boyd's World): No. 3 Baylor, No. 6 Purdue, No. 17 Texas A&M and No. 41 Louisville.
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.
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).
KEUR LEADS BIG TEN IN HITTING
Junior Jordan Keur, who has started in all 42 games this season (31 in left field, 11 in center field), has led the Spartans in batting average all season long and is currently tied for first in the Big Ten and 20th in the nation with his .394 average.
Keur also leads the league in hits (71), which ranks 11th in the country.
In addition, Keur ranks among the league leaders in on-base percentage (.460), doubles (tied for sixth with 12) and total bases (10th with 83). Keur has batted No. 3 in the order the past 10 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 (337.0) and strikeouts (241) and tied fourth in wins (23).
Bucciferro ranks second in the Big Ten in strikeouts (62) and fourth in innings pitched (76.0).
He was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the second time in his career after allowing only one hit in six shutout innings in the win over No. 11 St. John's on Opening Day.
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.
Although he took a no decision vs. Ohio State on March 31 in the Big Ten opener, he threw eight scoreless innings, scattered just two hits, and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
Was named a Cape Cod League All-Star last summer and also was a 2011 first-team All-Big Ten selection.
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. Nine of his 11 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 (fourth at .214), ERA (fifth at 2.13), and innings pitched (ninth with 71.2).
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 ninth in MSU history with 217 career hits, is one of just 15 Spartans to collect at least 200 hits. He ranks second in the Big Ten and 20th in the nation this season with 69 hits, just two behind teammate Jordan Keur. Jones is currently riding a 14-game hitting streak.
Jones is also tied for sixth in program history with 39 doubles.
Jones ranks second on the team in batting (.386), RBIs (29), slugging (.476), runs (34) and walks (22).
After batting in all four spots in the order for half of the season, Jones has batted leadoff the past 10 games (MSU: 7-3).
Also an excellent defensive player, Jones ranks third in the Big Ten with 135 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, as he leads the team in RBIs (35), slugging (.509) and OPS (.951), and is tied for first with 12 doubles. He also leads the team with 10 stolen bases (10-for-10) and 30 walks.
Named a third-team preseason Louisville Slugger All-American, Boss has a career average of .349 with 17 homers and 135 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, who has 192 career hits, needs just eight more to become the 16th Spartan in school history to record at least 200 hits.
Began the season by starting 10 games in center field, but is now back at third base to solidify the Spartan infield defensively.
WIEBER BECOMES MSU'S ALL-TIME SAVES LEADER
Junior right-hander Tony 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.
Wieber ranks fifth in the Big Ten with six saves (6-for-8 in save opportunities). He has struck out 20 batters in his 20 innings and opponents are hitting just .200 against him.
Wieber also sees time in right field (nine starts) and as a designated hitter (seven starts) for the Spartans. He enters the Illinois series with a .294 average with 10 RBIs.
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.
Senior shortstop Justin Scanlon has started every game at shortstop for MSU the past two seasons - 99 straight - since transferring from Madison Junior College.
Voted a captain by his teammates prior to the season, Scanlon was named the Big Ten's "best defensive fielder" in a survery of conference coaches conducted by College Baseball Insider.
Scanlon 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 13 of MSU's 15 Big Ten games.
Martinez, who was the primary catcher in Fisher's absence, has started a career-high 20 games at catcher this season. He is batting .282 with 15 RBIs, including two game-winning RBIs in the sweep over Cincinnati. Martinez also has started nine games in left field and three games at first base.
QUICK LOOK AT THE FIGHTING ILLINI (25-19, 8-7 BIG TEN)
The Fighting Illini enter the weekend in a four-way tie for fourth place in the conference standings, along with Michigan State, Nebraska and Penn State.
Illinois swept Northwestern last weekend in Evanston, Ill., but fell in a midweek contest to Southern Illinois on Tuesday.
Illinois is ranked No. 57 in the latest NCAA RPI rankings. Its marquee win this season came at Pac-12 leader Oregon on March 12.
Illinois has team speed - it leads the Big Ten in stolen bases with 71 and triples with 18.
Defensively, the Fighting Illini lead the nation with 54 double plays.
Illinois shared the 2011 Big Ten regular-season title with Michigan State and defeated the Spartans in the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. As a No. 4 seed in the Fullerton Regional, Illinois eliminated host and top-seeded Cal State Fullerton before bowing out to Stanford in the regional finals.
Junior Jordan Parr is the team's top offensive threat; he leads the team in batting (.360) and doubles (11), is tied for the team lead in RBIs (35), and ranks second in homers (4).
Friday starter Kevin Johnson and Saturday starter John Kravetz are tied for second in the Big Ten with seven wins apiece.
Overall: Illinois leads, 68-59
In Champaign: Illinois leads, 39-25
Last season: Illinois won, 4-1
Last 10: Illinois leads, 7-3
Coach Boss vs. Illinois: 3-9 (2-1 home, 1-5 road, 0-3 neutral)
LAST YEAR VS. ILLINOIS
Illinois won the season series over the Spartans last year, 4-1. The Illini took two of three games from the Spartans in Champaign (April 23-24) and defeated MSU twice at the Big Ten Tournament, including a 9-1 victory in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
Friday starter Kevin Johnson took the loss against MSU last season after allowing seven runs on 12 hits in six innings of work in the Spartans' 8-5 win on April 23.
In two starts against Illinois last season, Tony Bucciferro went 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA.