Spartans Back on the Road to Face Illinois
May 3, 2012
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
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 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
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
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
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).
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
LAST YEAR VS. ILLINOIS
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.
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