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Baseball Takes on Iowa in Final B1G Road Series

May 12, 2016

Michigan State (32-13, 11-7 B1G) vs. Iowa (22-23, 8-10 B1G)
Game 1 Friday, May 13 7:05 p.m. ET
Location Duane Banks Field | Iowa City, Iowa
Game Notes Michigan State
Probable Pitching Matchup Iowa: RHP C.J. Eldred (2-7, 3.36 ERA) vs. MSU: RHP Ethan Landon (6-2, 2.69 ERA)
Coverage Live Stats | Listen - Spartan Sports Network | Stream - BTN-Plus

Game 2 Saturday, May 14- 3:05 p.m. ET
Probable Pitching Matchup Iowa: RHP Tyler Peyton (2-5, 5.80 ERA) vs. MSU: LHP Joe Mockbee (2-0, 2.70 ERA)
Coverage Live Stats | Listen - Spartan Sports Network | Stream - BTN-Plus

Game 3 Sunday, May 15 - 2:05 p.m. ET
Probable Pitching Matchup Iowa: RHP Calvin Mathews (0-4, 7.04 ERA) vs. MSU: TBD
Coverage Live Stats | Listen - Spartan Sports Network | Stream - BTN-Plus

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- The Michigan State baseball team heads to Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes in the final regular season road series for the Spartans. Friday's opener will take place at 7:05 p.m. ET, with Saturday's game at 3:05 p.m. before the finale on Sunday at 2:05 p.m. MSU enters the weekend with a 32-13 record and sits fourth in the B1G at 11-7, while Iowa is 22-23 overall and 8-10 in league play.

Season for the Record Books
At 32-13 heading into the weekend, this is MSU's best record this late into the season since the 1971 team finished 36-10. Previous to this season, Michigan State's best start under head coach Jake Boss through 45 games was in 2011 when they started 30-15. The 2016 Spartans are in good company, as both the '71 and '11 clubs went on to win the Big Ten title.

Only six teams in school history have recorded 35-plus wins in a single season, with the record being set in 1988 when the team finished 41-20.

Making Them Earn It
MSU enters the weekend boasting a 2.20 ERA that is the fourth best in the country. Staff ace Cam Vieaux leads the way 2.20 ERA that ranks third in the Big Ten. Saturday starter Ethan Landon is sixth in the Big Ten with a 2.69 ERA while the bullpen as a group owns a 2.38 ERA.

The Spartan pitching staff has 25 games this season in which they've held opponents to two or fewer earned runs. Because of the shutdown staff, Michigan State is 32-6 this season when scoring more than two runs in a game.

Spartan Strikeouts
The Spartan pitching staff ranks third in the conference with 376 strikeouts and MSU has posted 10 or more strikeouts in 14 games this season to average 8.4 per game. The 2016 Spartans are chasing the 2015 club that set the school record for most strikeouts in a season with 409. For comparison, that team recorded 328 through 45 games.

Reliever Dakota Mekkes leads the way for the Spartans and ranks third in the Big Ten with 79 strikeouts in just 43.2 innings of work. The righty owns a 16.3 strikeouts per nine innings ratio that would be the best in the NCAA, but he needs 1.1 more innings to qualify. 24 of the last 32 outs he's recorded have come via strikeout.

Cam Vieaux is seventh in the Big Ten with 67 strikeouts -- just four fewer than his career-high of 71 in 2015.

MSU has sent down 115 batters looking to rank third in the Big Ten. Vieaux paces the team with 21 and is eighth in the conference, while Mekkes and Ethan Landon have 19 backwards K's to rank 9th.

Zimmerman Does It All
Junior Jordan Zimmerman ranks in the top five of the Big Ten in several offensive categories, as he leads the league in total bases (110), while ranking third in batting average (.392) and hits (69), and fourth in on-base percentage (.476) and runs (45). With eight home runs and 15 doubles, Zimmerman's .625 slugging percentage is the second best in the Big Ten.

The transfer from Mesa, Arizona, began the year at second base before moving to first base where he's started the last 29 games.

Earlier this season, Zimmerman put together a 21-game hitting streak, which tied the third longest in school history. During that span, he hit .494 with four homers, 21 runs and 16 RBIs.

Zimmerman has been kept off base in only three games this season and held hitless just five times. He has 22 multiple hit games and eight multiple RBI games.

About Iowa
Series Record: MSU leads, 78-68-1
Last Series: May, 2013, Iowa City, Iowa -- Iowa won two of three (L, 2-6; L, 1-2; W, 4-2)

The Hawkeyes enter the weekend 22-23 and 8-10 to sit 10th in the Big Ten standings. Iowa is led by Joel Booker who has started in all 45 games and is 12th in the Big Ten with a .339 batting average. The senior outfielder leads the team in every major category, including hits, runs, extra base hits and RBIs.

MSU is 10-5 vs. Iowa under Jake Boss, including 6-3 in Iowa City.

Bats Off the Bench
Designated hitter Zack McGuire was reinserted into the Spartan lineup vs. Toledo (4/27) after not starting a game in over a month and has since started in eight straight games. McGuire has been on a tear, hitting .357 with eight RBIs and two home runs during that span, including being named Big Ten Player of the Week (5/2). The sophomore has reached base in nine consecutive games and has multiple RBIs in three of those contests.

After having just one plate appearance through the first 38 games, Dan Chmielewski has appeared in seven consecutive games and has started the last five. The redshirt freshman has taken advantage of his opportunity, hitting .409 (9-for-22) with five runs, including two hits in each of the last three games.

Lineup Production
With 462 hits on the season, Michigan State ranks fourth in the Big Ten and is averaging 10.3 hits per game. The Spartans have 22 games of double digit hits and MSU is 24-3 when outhitting its opponent this season, as opposed to just 6-9 when being outhit.

The Spartans average 5.7 runs per game and are outscoring opponents by a total of 257-149 on the year, good for a +108 run differential.

Dan Durkin has joined Jordan Zimmerman on the Big Ten offensive leaderboards all season. The second baseman, Durkin, is 10th in the league with a .345 batting average and 12th with a .445 on-base percentage.

Seven everyday players for the Spartans bat better than .275, while six players have 20-plus RBIs.

Reliable Relievers
If MSU holds a lead late in games, it's meant good things for the club, as the Spartans are 27-0 when leading after six innings. Michigan State has allowed only 22 runs all season in the eighth and ninth innings and MSU is outscoring its opponents 138-56 after the fifth inning.

The lockdown bullpen has allowed just two earned runs in the last 17 innings of work, spanning four games. For the season, the `pen has allowed 42 earned runs in 159 innings of work, good for a 2.38 ERA.

Spartan relievers have struck out 194 batters to only 76 walks this season and the group has combined for an 11-4 record to go along with 14 saves, which is tied for the second most in the Big Ten.

After eight appearances as the team's Sunday starter, Walter Borkovich has returned to the bullpen where he's allowed just one run on six hits in 12 innings of work.

Freshman Riley McCauley picked up his second win of the season in Wednesday's win over EMU and is now 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA. The only run the righty has allowed this season in 12.2 innings of work came in his first collegiate appearance vs. Furman (2/20).

Shutout Streak
Michigan State has tossed six shutouts this season, which is tied for the 10th most in the country and are the most by a MSU team since the 1998 team also had six. With one more shutout, it would be the most since the 1979 team recorded nine shutouts in a season.

In wins over Auburn, Troy and Illinois State earlier this season, Michigan State recorded three consecutive shutouts for the first time in the program's history since 1979. It wasn't until the seventh inning of the following game against Florida Gulf Coast that MSU gave up a run to end the streak of 33 straight innings without giving up a run.

Byars' Hot Streak
Matt Byars had a streak of 21 consecutive games reaching base come to an end on Wednesday vs. EMU (5/11), but the junior has had a hot bat as of late. During his 16-game hitting streak embedded in the reached base streak, Byars hit .365 with 13 extra base hits and eight RBIs to raise his batting average 40 points from .272 to .312. Byars's hitting streak is the second longest streak by an MSU player this season to Jordan Zimmerman's 21-game hitting streak.

In addition to owning the fourth best batting average on the team, Byars has caught in every game but one for the Spartans. He's fourth in the Big Ten in both chances and putouts and has thrown out nine base runners this season.

New Look Spartans
The Michigan State roster consists of three seniors, eight juniors, 14 sophomores and nine freshmen. Highlighting the sophomore-heavy roster is 2015 All-Big Ten Freshmen team members OF Brandon Hughes, C Chad Roskelly and RHP Andrew Gonzalez.

After going 34-23 during the 2015 campaign and finishing tied for third in the Big Ten with a 14-10 mark in conference play, the 2016 Spartans are a new-look team. Spartan returners account for just 27% of the team's RBI total and 24% of the team's hit total in 2015 with Brandon Hughes being the only returning every day starter in centerfield.

Freshman Marty Bechina has started in all 45 games for the Spartans as a dynamic puzzle piece, seeing action at third base, left field, center field and designated hitter. Fellow freshman Royce Ando has started 37 games at shortstop, while three other starting spots in the field are currently filled by transfers. Matt Byars has started in 44 games behind the plate, Jordan Zimmerman has started in every game for MSU and Kris Simonton has seen consistent play in right field as a transfer from Akron.

Saturday starter Ethan Landon is also a transfer from Kansas State in his first year in the Green and White and is 6-2 with a 2.69 ERA.

Continued Success Under Head Coach Jake Boss
In his eighth season as head coach, Jake Boss Jr. has now led MSU to seven straight 30-win seasons on top of winning his 200th game in the Green and White last season. A win over Michigan earlier this year secured the seventh 30-win season for the Spartans under Boss, coming a day after the head coach's 100th Big Ten win.

Draft Prospects
Junior right-hander Walter Borkovich was picked as the sixth-best prospect in the Big Ten by D-1 Baseball while Cam Vieaux was selected ninth. In addition to having prospects for the 2016 draft, sophomores Alex Troop (5th), Jake Lowery (9th) and Ethan Landon (10th) were listed as top prospect for the 2017 draft. Freshman infielder Marty Bechina was also ranked No. 8 on the list of Impact Freshman in the Big Ten.

Spartans Drafted
MSU had eight players drafted in the 2015 MLB Draft, the most in school history. The previous high for Spartans selected in one MLB Draft was five, which last happened in 2002.

Up Next
Michigan State will travel to Mount Pleasant to take on Central Michigan in the last non-conference game of the season on Tuesday. The Spartans close out Big Ten play next weekend at home vs. Maryland. Because of the Big Ten Tournament the following week, the series will take place Thursday-Saturday.



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