Spartans Face Penn State in Final Regular-Season Series
May 16, 2012
Both teams, along with Indiana (13-8) and Nebraska (12-9), are shooting for the critical No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The top-six teams in the regular-season standings advance to the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus May 23-26, with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds receiving byes. No. 13 Purdue (40-10, 16-5) has already clinched a share of the regular-season title. The Spartans are looking to advance to the Big Ten Tournament in back-to-back years for the first time since 1983-84.
The series is also important for Michigan State's NCAA at-large hopes; the Spartans enter the weekend with an RPI of 44 (according to Boyd's World) and are projected to be one of the 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament field by both Baseball America and ESPN. MSU has appeared in the NCAA Tournament four times, with the most recent showing in 1979.
Michigan State has won eight of its last 10 games and is coming off a 5-2 win over Central Michigan in the "Clash at Comerica", which was held Tuesday night at Detroit's Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers.
The series gets underway Thursday at 3:05 p.m. and continues Friday at 3:05 p.m. On Saturday, the Spartan baseball program will recognize the seven seniors on this year's team in a pregame ceremony for Senior Day. The game is being nationally televised on BTN and will begin at 12:05 p.m.
The 2012 senior class has helped Michigan State to a 127-88 record (.591) since 2009, including three straight 30-win seasons and the 2011 Big Ten regular-season title. The 127 wins are the second most by any senior class in the history of Michigan State baseball (record: 128 by Class of 1989 and Class of 1990).
WHO'S HOT FOR THE SPARTANS
At the plate...
Junior catcher/outfielder John Martinez is batting a team-best .444 (12-for-27) in his past 10 games. He also leads the team during that stretch in home runs (2) and RBIs (13).
Senior shortstop Justin Scanlon went 3-for-3 in Tuesday's "Clash at Comerica" and is batting .405 (17-for-42) in his last 10 games.
On the mound...
Senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro is 2-0 in his last two starts (Illinois, Iowa) and was named the Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week after throwing a five-hit, complete game shutout in the win over the Hawkeyes last Friday.
Sophomore left-handed reliever Jeff Kinley has only allowed one run in his last 29 1/3 innings, spanning 13 outings. Kinley is 5-1 with a save during that stretch with 23 strikeouts.
Senior right-hander reliever Bryce Jenney has only allowed two runs in his last 14 1/3 innings (1.26 ERA), including a five-inning save at Western Michigan on May 8.
SPARTANS POST THIRD STRAIGHT 30-WIN SEASON FOR FIRST TIME IN SCHOOL HISTORY
MSU's 34 wins this season currently ties for sixth most in program history.
Michigan State won 34 games in 2010 and 36 in 2011.
The Spartans have posted 30-win seasons 13 times in program history.
Coach Boss ranks tied for second with Danny Litwhiler for the most 30-win seasons (3) in school history; Tom Smith is first with five.
ON THE RADAR FOR FIRST NCAA BID SINCE 1979
MSU appeared as a No. 3 seed in this week's ESPN Bracketology that projected the NCAA Tournament field.
The Spartans were also featured in Baseball America's projected NCAA Tournament field this week.
In the latest NCAA RPI rankings released May 15, MSU came in at No. 48. The Spartans are No. 44 in the latest RPI ratings by Boyd's World (as of May 16).
After starting the season 4-6, MSU has won 30 of its last 41 games (.732).
For the season, Michigan State has outscored its opponents by 124 runs (313-189).
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. 4 Baylor, No. 7 Purdue, No. 13 Texas A&M and No. 38 Louisville.
MSU went 10-1 in midweek games this season.
Michigan State went 15-1 in its last 16 non-conference games.
Since the beginning of the 2010 season, Michigan State has won 104 games, second only to Purdue in the Big Ten Conference (110). The 104 wins are the most in a three-year span in Michigan State history.
SPARTAN PITCHING STAFF LEADS THE WAY
Entering the week, the Spartans ranked among the Top 50 nationally in ERA (22nd), walks allowed (29th) and hits allowed (32nd).
If the season ended today, MSU's team ERA of 3.04 would rank 10th best in school history, and it would be the lowest team ERA for the Spartans since 1972 (2.63).
Michigan State held Big Ten leader and nationally ranked Purdue - which entered the series against the Spartans 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.
Last weekend, the Spartans allowed just five runs and 16 hits in a series win over Iowa.
All three of Michigan State's Big Ten starters - Tony Bucciferro, Andrew Waszak and David Garner - have been named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week this season, a first in school history. Bucciferro has won the award twice (Feb. 20 and May 14), while Waszak (April 16) and Garner (April 30) have each earned it once. The four Spartan selections for Big Ten Pitcher of the Week is also a school record (previous: three in 2011).
QUICK LOOK AT PENN STATE (27-24, 13-8 BIG TEN)
After a slow start, Penn State has been hot down the stretch, winning 20 of its last 26 games, including a home sweep over Illinois last weekend. Following two losses to Purdue in late March, the Nittany Lions were 7-18, but a win in the series finale over the Boilermakers on April 1 has sparked PSU in the second half of the season.
Senior first baseman Jordan Steranka is one of the top hitters in the Big Ten. He leads the conference in doubles (18), total bases (127) and slugging (.617), and ranks among the top 10 leaders in batting (.364), homers (10) and hits (75). Steranka is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week after helping PSU to a sweep over Illinois.
Senior outfielder Sean Deegan is tied for team lead with 10 homers and is first in RBIs with 39, but is only batting .235 with a Big Ten-high 62 strikeouts.
Friday starter Joe Kurrasch, a transfer from California who had to sit out last season, ranks among the Big Ten leaders in opposing batting average (second at .207), ERA (fourth at 2.05) and strikeouts (sixth with 69).
In East Lansing: MSU leads, 19-13
In 2011: MSU won, 3-0
Last 10: MSU leads, 7-3
Coach Boss vs. PSU: 6-3 (6-0 in East Lansing; 0-3 in State College)
The Spartans have swept Penn State in the last two series in East Lansing.
In the sweep last season, the first two wins arrived in walk-off fashion. A Nittany Lion error in the bottom of the 10th in the first game gave MSU the win, while Tony Wieber hit a sacrifice fly for the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth in the second game.
LAST YEAR VS. PENN STATE
Jared Hook led MSU against the Nittany Lions by batting .615 (8-for-13) with a double and three RBIs.
Torsten Boss hit .455 (5-for-11) with four runs and two RBIs. Boss owns a .500 batting average (11-for-22) against Penn State in six previous games.
Justin Scanlon went 5-for-12 (.417).
Tony Wieber pitched two scoreless innings to seal the 10-inning victory in game one, and followed that effort with the game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth in the walk-off win in game two. In the series finale, Wieber had two doubles and a career-high four RBIs. He had six RBIs total in the series.
Tony Bucciferro threw seven strong innings in the second game of the series, striking out nine while allowing three runs on seven hits in the no decision. In three previous starts against the Nittany Lions, Bucciferro is 0-1 with a 6.65 ERA.
Andrew Waszak started in the series finale and allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits in six innings in the no decision.
Penn State starter Steven Hill, who will be throwing on Saturday, pitched in the series opener in 2011 and threw eight innings in the no decision. Hill surrendered 14 hits and four runs with one walk and three strikeouts. Hill also took a no decision in the Friday game in 2010 (6.0, 14 H, 7 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 1 K).
Penn State Sunday starter John Walter took a no decision in the Saturday game last year after giving up nine hits and four runs in seven innings. Walter struck out five and walked five.
at the official