First-Place Spartans Hit the Road to Face Indiana
May 13, 2011
The Michigan State baseball team, fresh off back-to-back home sweeps over Penn State and Purdue, heads back on the road this week to face Indiana for a three-game series in Bloomington. The Spartans (31-15, 13-5 Big Ten) have won seven of their last nine games and enter the weekend with a two-game lead in the Big Ten standings with six conference games remaining. MSU is seeking its first Big Ten title since 1979.
The Hoosiers (27-21, 8-10) won a home series over Northwestern last weekend but lost a midweek tilt at Kentucky on Tuesday. MSU split its midweek contests, dropping a 10-4 road game at Western Michigan on Tuesday but bouncing back for a 5-2 win at Central Michigan Wednesday.
More importantly for Michigan State, however, is the goal of chasing a Big Ten regular-season championship, something the program hasn't accomplished in 32 years.
"They're all big weekends at this point in the year," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "We're going to have to play good, solid baseball. We really try to concern ourselves with what we can control. I think it's been like that all year long."
The series gets underway Friday at 3:05 p.m., while Saturday's game at 3 p.m. will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network. The series finale is set for Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
"Indiana is going to be an outstanding ballclub," said Boss. "It's their last home weekend. They have some players returning from a couple of very good teams, including the NCAA Tournament. It's going to be a difficult weekend for us; it's a challenge anywhere you go in the conference."
The top-six teams in the Big Ten standings will advance to the Big Ten Tournament May 25-28 at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio. The Spartans are also looking to secure a spot in the postseason tournament this weekend for the second time in three years after missing out last season.
2) Michigan State ranks first in the Big Ten and seventh in the nation with a .320 team batting average . . . Four of the top 10 hitters in the conference are from MSU (Holm first at .387; Eckerle second at .381; Boss fifth at .362; Jones seventh at .355) . . . Michigan State has hit seven homers in the past five games, but the Spartans also have the ability to play small ball, ranking third in the Big Ten in stolen bases (72) and also second in sacrifice bunts (48) and sacrifice flies (25).
3) Senior first baseman Jeff Holm is in contention to win the Big Ten Triple Crown . . . he currently leads the conference in batting (.387), is tied for first in home runs (9), and is tied for second in RBIs (49) . . . Holm also leads the league in slugging (.635) and ranks among the top 10 leaders in the conference in 11 different statistical categories (batting, slugging, on-base percentage, runs, RBIs, hits, doubles, home runs, total bases, sacrifice flies and stolen bases) . . . Holm nearly won the Triple Crown last summer as he was named the Prospect League Player of the Year; he led the league in homers (11) and RBIs (60) and finished second in batting (.359) . . . Holm was named the National Player of the Week May 9 by Collegiate Baseball and the National Baseball Collegiate Writers Association after batting .538 (7-for-13) in the sweep over the Boilermakers with two doubles, three homers and nine RBIs; he was also named the Big Ten Co-Player of the Week by the conference office.
4) Senior Kurt Wunderlich is off to an 8-1 start on the mound and has won 24 games for his career, which ranks third in Spartan history . . . The eighth wins rank first in the Big Ten . . . Wunderlich also ranks tied for third in innings pitched (77.2) and strikeouts (55) and eighth in ERA (3.13) . . . With Wunderlich on the mound, Michigan State is a perfect 6-0 on Friday games in the Big Ten . . . Overall, the Spartans are 8-0 in the first game of a series this year . . . MSU is 11-1 this season in games Wunderlich has started.
5) 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 hit a team-best .438 (21-for-48), including eight doubles and 14 RBIs . . . Wieber was 2-for-12 in three starts during the first two weekends on the season . . . He is third on the team with a .375 batting average . . . On the mound, Wieber is the team's top reliever with a 5-0 record, seven saves and a 3.58 ERA . . . The seven saves are already tied for fifth most in an MSU season . . . Wieber owns a 9-0 career record as a pitcher.
6) Sophomore third baseman Torsten Boss is having an excellent all-around season at the plate . . . in the past five games, Boss has hit .381 (8-for-21) with three homers and nine RBIs . . . Boss ranks among Big Ten leaders in 10 statistical categories: batting, slugging, on-base percentage, RBIs, hits, home runs, triples, doubles, total bases and sacrifice flies . . . The Lowell, Mich., native will play in the Cape Cod League this summer and was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Big Ten for the 2012 MLB Draft by Perfect Game.
7) Michigan State is tied for Purdue with the most overall wins in the Big Ten (31) . . . MSU won more games (34) than any other Big Ten team in 2010 . . . With 34 wins last season and 31 this season, Michigan State has posted its first back-to-back 30-win seasons since 1992-93 (36 wins in 1992; 31 in 1993) . . . it marks just the third time in school history MSU has posted back-to-back 30-win campaigns (34 wins in 1987; school-record 41 wins in 1988).
8) Sophomore second baseman Ryan Jones had his school-record 33-game hitting streak snapped on May 10 at Western Michigan as he went 0-for-4 with a walk . . . Jones' streak of 33 games tied for the longest hitting streak in the nation this season (Utah's C.J. Cron) . . . It marked the first game without a hit for Jones since March 5 against Bethune-Cookman . . . Jones, who was named the 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, ranks seventh in the Big Ten in batting (.355) and leads the league with 49 runs scored . . . An outstanding defensive player, Jones leads the league in assists with 132 this season.
9) Michigan State is a perfect 9-0 in home Big Ten games this season with sweeps over Minnesota (April 8-10), Penn State (April 29-30, May 2) and Purdue (May 6-8) . . . MSU has four sweeps total on the season, but the sweep at Michigan was a non-conference series.
OFF THE BENCH: QUICK HITTERS
is receiving votes in two national polls: USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Assocation Poll (NWBCA). The Spartans have received votes on three occasions this season.
is the highest ranked Big Ten team in the latest NCAA RPI rankings at No. 66.
owns a 40-13 (.755) record at home under head coach Jake Boss . . . MSU is 10-4 (.714) at home this season, including a perfect 9-0 record in the Big Ten . . . Coach Boss is 32-12 (.727) overall at McLane Baseball Stadium and 8-1 (.889) at Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing.
has protected late-game leads. The Spartans are 29-1 when leading after seven innings and 27-1 when leading after eight innings.
is 21-5 when scoring first.
GET OUT THE BROOMS
MSU 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.
The Spartans swept Minnesota in a series of three games or more for the first time in school history (April 8-10).
In the sweep over Purdue, MSU held the nation's 10th-ranked scoring offense to 12 runs in three games (4.0 pg).
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