May 14, 2014
The Spartans enter the final weekend of the regular season in a tie for seventh place with Iowa ... Both teams are 8-13 in league play - one game behind Ohio State, which hosts Northwestern this weekend ... The Spartans need one win to clinch a spot in the eight-team Big Ten Tournament, which begins May 21 in Omaha, Nebraska.
Blaise Salter's 20 doubles are the third most in a season in Spartan history and he needs just two to tie Chris McCuiston (2002) for first place ... His 20 doubles rank eighth in the country and lead the Big Ten.
Joel Fisher has thrown out 28 runners on attempted stolen bases this season which is four more than any other catcher in the conference.
Ryan Richardson brings a team-high six-game hitting streak into play this weekend ... He is 9-for-23 (.391) over the six-game streak and brings a .271 average into Thursday's game.
MSU is 20-4 when scoring first and 9-1 when scoring in the first inning.
Anthony Cheky is tied for the Big Ten lead and ranks 23rd in the nation in stolen bases with 24.
The Spartans have 72 stolen bases this season which is the eighth most in program history and the most since the 2011 team had 77.
Jimmy Pickens has been one of the Big Ten's best offensive players this season, currently ranking in the top 10 of several different categories: ninth in total bases (85), sixth in slugging percentage (.480), sixth in on-base percentage (.426), tied for ninth in RBIs (33) and tied for third in stolen bases (19).
The Spartans have 305 strikeouts through 50 games this season - four more than their 2013 total (50 games).
With a team-high 63 hits, Salter has recorded his second consecutive 60-plus hit season (62 in 2013) ... He is the sixth player in the Jake Boss-era to record at least 60 hits in two consecutive seasons.
Sophomore starter Justin Alleman leads the conference in innings pitched (88.0) and opponent batting average (.212).
About Penn State
Penn State enters the series at 18-29 overall and is ninth in the Big Ten at 5-15 ... The Nittany Lions snapped their 15-game losing streak on Tuesday with a 5-4 win over Villanova ... As a team, PSU is hitting .255, led by Steve Snyder's team-high .328 batting average ... Greg Guers leads the team in RBIs with 25 ... The pitching staff owns a 4.89 ERA and a .293 opponent batting average ... Thursday's schedule starter Tim Dunn owns the lowest ERA - 2.68 - of any starter ... Jack Anderson has a team-high 24 appearances and five saves ... T.J. Jann leads the team in strikeouts with 37.
The Spartans Against Penn State
MSU holds the all-time series lead, 45-33, including a 21-18 mark on the road. Head coach Jake Boss is 9-6 against the Nittany Lions.
The Spartans are making their second consecutive trip to University Park as they won two of three games from the Nittany Lions on the final weekend of the 2013 regular season. Cam Gibson hit .444 with three RBIs in the three games against the Nittany Lions last season while Ryan Richardson posted a .429 batting average and Jimmy Pickens drove in five runs.
In Big Ten Play
Jimmy Pickens leads MSU with a .377 batting average, followed by Blaise Salter at .338 ... Salter's 21 RBIs in conference games are tied for second in the league ... The Spartans remain atop the league in fielding percentage in Big Ten games with a .982 percentage ... Nine of Salter's 20 doubles have come in conference play ... The Spartan pitching staff has the fourth-lowest opponent batting average in league play at .252 and the fourth-most strikeouts with 132 ... Justin Alleman has thrown more innings (50.1) than any other pitcher in Big Ten play ... Mick VanVossen and Cam Vieaux have both struck out 36 batters, which ranks third.
Cheky Leads The League in Swipes
Junior Anthony Cheky is tied for the Big Ten lead in stolen bases with 24. The 24 steals are one more than Cheky's total from last season and rank as the second-highest single-season total in program history. Cheky is three shy of tying Steve Preston's single-season stolen base record that was set in 1988.
Salter Among the Best in the Conference
Junior Blaise Salter has been one of the Big Ten's most dangerous hitters this season and currently ranks in the top 10 in the league in seven offensive categories: first in doubles (20), third in RBIs (46), tied for seventh in hits (63), third in total bases (98), fourth in slugging percentage (.513), tied for sixth in home runs (five) and eighth in batting average (.330).
Salter has had a hit in 39 of 50 games this season, which includes a career-long 12-game hitting streak that came to an end March 9 vs. TCU. The day prior, Salter belted a go-ahead, two-run homer in the ninth inning of the first game of the series to lift MSU to a 2-1 victory over No. 21 TCU.
Quality Starts = Wins
Starting pitchers Mick VanVossen, Justin Alleman and Cam Vieaux have all demonstrated the ability to put together quality starts this season. The trio has combined for 21 quality starts, going 14-2 with five no-decisions in outings where they have gone at least six-complete innings and yielded three or fewer earned runs.
Five of Vieaux's last six starts have all met the quality start threshold. Alleman has eight quality starts to his credit this season while VanVossen has seven.
Four Spartans - Blaise Salter, Anthony Cheky, Ryan Richardson and Cam Gibson - have appeared in all 50 games this season. For Richardson, it marks the second consecutive year he has started and played in every game as in 2013 he was one of two Spartans to play in all 50 games. The last time MSU had four players play in every game of the season was 2012 when Jordan Keur, Ryan Jones, Torsten Boss and Justin Scanlon appeared in all 60 contests.
Fisher Solid Behind the Dish
Senior catcher Joel Fisher continues to lead the Big Ten in runners caught stealing with 28 - four more than his total from last season. The four-year starter is hitting .258 and is tied for the team lead in home runs with five. He is under consideration for the Johnny Bench Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top catcher.
In four years wearing the Green and White, Fisher has appeared in 180 games, making 171 starts. During the Jake Boss-era, only Brandon Eckerle (2008-11) has appeared in more games with 207. Eckerle and Jeff Holm (2008-11) lead in starts during the Boss-era with 198 and 177, respectively.
Gibson A Catalyst
Sophomore left fielder Cam Gibson has reached base safely in 26 of the last 27 games, having picked up a hit in 24 of those contests.
Since returning to the leadoff spot in the lineup on April 22 vs. Toledo, Gibson has hit .320 and has reached base in 12 of the 13 games. On the season, Gibson has been the Spartans' leadoff hitter in 37 of 50 games.
Thank You, Seniors
The Spartans honored the class of 2014 last weekend as they made their final appearances at McLane Baseball Stadium. Joel Fisher, Chase Rihtarchik and Mike Theodore has been a part of over 130 wins in their four years and helped lead the Spartans to the 2011 Big Ten title and an appearance in the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
Kinley Creeps Up Saves List
Redshirt junior closer Jeff Kinley picked up his ninth save of the season in MSU's 5-4 win over Western Michigan on May 6, giving him a total of 14 for his career, which puts him in a tie with Brad Lamont (1987-90) for second place on MSU's all-time list. Kinley's nine saves this season put him in a tie with Tony Wieber (2012) and Domanick Squires (2001) for second place on the Spartans' single-season saves list. The MSU record for saves in a season is 11, set by Mike Ericson in 1990.
Kinley saw action in just nine games last season after discovering a blood clot in mid-March that forced him to miss the remainder of the season. In 2012, his last full season, Kinley posted a 2.47 ERA in 47.1 innings of work. He had a 6-5 record with two saves and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of nearly 4-to-1.
Bullpen Puts Together a Remarkable Streak
The Spartan bullpen has been strong this season, but its best stretch came over an 11-game, 36.1-inning span from March 22 - April 9 where it did not allow an earned run. Eight pitchers combined to go 3-0 with a save, holding opponents to just 17 hits, while striking out 30 batters and walking 12 over the 11-game span.
VanVossen as the No. 1
MSU's top starter, junior Mick VanVossen, continues to rank in the top four in the conference in strikeouts (68, first), opponent batting average (.227, fourth) and innings pitched (85.0, third).
Alleman Adjusts Well to Starter Role
In his first year as a starter, sophomore Justin Alleman is 5-2 with a 2.89 ERA and is holding opponents to a league-best .212 batting average. The Holt native has proved durable as well as he leads the conference in innings pitched at 88.0.
After making 22 appearances all out of the bullpen last season, Alleman won his first-career start on Feb. 16 in MSU's 2-1 victory over Wright State. Alleman threw six-complete scoreless innings and surrendered just four hits to earn in the victory.
Vieaux Solidifies the Rotation
In starting each of the Spartans' eight conference series finales, redshirt freshman walk-on Cam Vieaux has cemented his role as the Spartans' third starter. Vieaux ranks third in the league in opponent batting average at .223 and his 2.60 ERA ranks seventh in the Big Ten.
Notes on the Pitching Staff
Team ERA of 3.15 ranks second in the Big Ten.
Michigan State has yielded 405 hits this season (8.1 per game) - the third fewest of any staff in the Big Ten.
The 154 earned runs and 205 runs yielded rank third and fourth, respectively, in the conference.
Opponent batting average of .247 ranks third the conference.
MSU has allowed three runs or fewer in 23 of 50 games this season, going 19-4 in such contests.