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Spartans Looking to Win Big Ten Title on Last Weekend of Regular Season

Senior Kurt Wunderlich will take the mound for the final time in his career at home on Thursday as the Spartans host Northwestern.

May 19, 2011

Games 51-53: Michigan State (32-18, 13-8) vs. Northwestern (19-27, 9-11)
 Dates Thursday, May 19 - Saturday, May 21
 Location East Lansing, Mich. | McLane Baseball Stadium
 Tickets $5/$3 (youth/seniors) | Thursday: Free Admission
 Notes Michigan State | Northwestern
 Statistics Michigan State | Northwestern
 Multimedia Weekend Preview

Media Coverage
 Audio (Internet) Live broadcasts of all three games available for free at
 Audio (Mobile) Broadcast available on Spartan Sports Network Mobile App:
iPhone/iPad | Android
 Live Stats Gametracker of all three games at
 Social Media @statebaseball | Facebook
 TV Saturday's game will be broadcast nationally on the Big Ten Network (Announcers: Matt Shepard, Scott Pose)

Game 1
 Date | Time Thursday, May 19 | 3:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Sr. RH Kurt Wunderlich (8-2, 3.72 ERA) vs.
NU: So. RH Luke Farrell (6-2, 3.58 ERA)

Game 2
 Date | Time Friday, May 20 | 3:05 p.m.
 Pitching Matchup MSU: Jr. RH Tony Bucciferro (7-2, 3.56 ERA) vs.
NU: Jr. Michael Jahns (2-4, 3.68 ERA) OR Sr. LH Matt Gailey (2-4, 4.50 ERA)

Game 3
 Date | Time Saturday, May 21 | 1:05 p.m. (Senior Day | Big Ten Network)
 Pitching Matchup MSU: So. RH Andrew Waszak (4-3, 4.56 ERA) vs.
NU: Jr. Michael Jahns (2-4, 3.68 ERA) OR Sr. LH Matt Gailey (2-4, 4.50 ERA)

The Michigan State baseball team, which enters the final series of the regular season against Northwestern with a one-game lead in the Big Ten standings, is looking to win its first Big Ten title in 32 years this weekend. MSU is 13-8 in conference play, one game ahead of both Minnesota and Illinois.

The Spartans will host the Wildcats for a three-game series at McLane Baseball Stadium, beginning Thursday at 3:05 p.m. The series continues Friday at 3:05 p.m. and concludes Saturday on Senior Day at 1:05 p.m. Michigan State is 9-0 at home against Big Ten opponents this season with sweeps over Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue.

"We've put ourselves in a position to play for a championship, which is a goal we put before our guys at the beginning of the year," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "I feel good that we're at home - it's a fun atmosphere to play in. It should be a fun weekend of baseball."

MSU improved to 32-18 overall after crushing Notre Dame, 20-3, Tuesday evening at Frank Eck Stadium on the campus of Notre Dame. The 20 runs were not only a season high for Michigan State, but also a school record against the Fighting Irish. The win snapped a three-game slide as the Spartans were swept at Indiana last weekend in Bloomington.

Northwestern did not play a midweek game after playing just twice last weekend - both wins - against Michigan in Evanston, Ill. The Wildcats, who have won four in a row and five of their last six, are 19-27 overall and 9-11 in Big Ten play. Last year on the final weekend of the regular season, Northwestern took the series from MSU, two games to one, preventing the Spartans from making the Big Ten Tournament.

Michigan State has won three Big Ten titles in program history, the last one arriving in 1979. The Spartans also claimed Big Ten titles in 1954 and 1971.

"There would be no better way to go out," said senior center fielder Brandon Eckerle, who became the program's all-time hits leader over weekend. "It would be pretty special to win a Big Ten Championship."

The Spartans will honor the six members of the 2011 senior class (Stephen Doty, Eckerle, Jeff Holm, Andrew Webb, Seth Williams, Kurt Wunderlich) with a pre-game ceremony on Saturday. The class has helped MSU to a combined 113-68 (.624) record over the past four seasons.

1) Michigan State is seeking its first Big Ten title since 1979 this weekend . . . With a one-game lead in the standings, the Spartans can control their own destiny - two wins will assure them at least a share of the Big Ten title, while a sweep would give MSU the outright Big Ten Championship . . . the Spartans have won three Big Ten titles in program history (1954, 1971, 1979).

2) Senior center fielder Brandon Eckerle became the program's all-time hits leader with his 246th career hit over the weekend at Indiana . . . Eckerle passed Bob Malek, who played just three years from 2000-02 and held the record for nine years with 245 hits . . . The record hit was a single in the third inning on May 14 in the second game of the series at Indiana . . . Eckerle also has a chance at the single-season MSU record for hits; he currently leads the Big Ten and ranks sixth in the nation with 87 hits, just six shy of Chris McCuiston's record of 93 hits, which was set in 2002 . . . Eckerle has hit at a torrid pace all season long, as he led the conference in batting average every week this season until May 9 . . . Eckerle also leads the team with 27 multi-hit games, including five games with four hits . . . He has at least one hit in 42 of MSU's 50 games this season . . . The Durand, Mich., native was named the Michigan Male Collegiate Athlete of the Year at the Detroit Athletic Club Awards on May 9 . . . He also was recently named one of 10 finalists for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award; to be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

3) Michigan State ranks first in the Big Ten with a .324 team batting average . . . Four of the top nine hitters in the conference are from MSU (Holm first at .390; Eckerle second at .387; Boss fourth at .366; Hook ninth at .356) . . . the Spartans entered the week ranked 10th in the nation in batting average . . . Michigan State is fourth in the Big Ten with 24 homers, but the Spartans also have the ability to play small ball, ranking third in the Big Ten in stolen bases (74) and also second in sacrifice bunts (51) and sacrifice flies (27).

4) Senior first baseman Jeff Holm is in contention to win the Big Ten Triple Crown . . . He currently leads the conference in batting (.390) and RBIs (59), and is tied for second in homers (9) . . . The 59 RBIs are tied for fifth most in an MSU season . . . Holm is second in the league in slugging (.620) 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.

Jeff Holm leads the Big Ten in batting (.390) and RBIs (59).

5) Senior Kurt Wunderlich is 8-2 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 . . . With Wunderlich on the mound, Michigan State is 6-1 in Big Ten play in the first game of the series . . . Overall, the Spartans are 8-1 in the first game of a series this year . . . MSU is 11-2 this season in games Wunderlich has started.

6) Sophomore third baseman Torsten Boss is having an excellent all-around season at the plate . . . 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 second in the Big Ten with 32 overall wins (Purdue: 33) . . . MSU won more games (34) than any other Big Ten team in 2010 . . . With 34 wins last season and 32 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' hitting streak of 18 straight in Big Ten games was the longest this season in conference play . . . Jones, who was named the 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, leads the league with 55 runs scored . . . An outstanding defensive player, Jones leads the league in assists with 144 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) . . . Jeff Holm is .417 (15-for-36) with five homers and 17 RBIs in those nine games . . . MSU has four sweeps total on the season, but the sweep at Michigan was a non-conference series.

• In just three seasons, MSU head coach Jake Boss has collected 10 series sweeps (three games or more), the most of any Spartan coach in school history (Tom Smith second with nine series sweeps from 1983-95). Six of those sweeps have arrived in Big Ten play.

• Michigan State has four sweeps this season (Michigan, Minnesota, Penn State, Purdue). It marks just the third time in school history MSU has posted four series sweeps in one season (2009, 2002).

• The three sweeps in Big Ten play this season ties the school record set in 2009 (Northwestern, Iowa, Penn State). It also marks the first time MSU has had three sweeps at home during Big Ten action.

• 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). It marked MSU's first sweep over Purdue since 1983.

* Please note: The Big Ten format was a two-game series from 1951-80 and a four-game format from 1981-2008; the conference began its current three-game format in 2009. A majority of MSU's non-conference series were also less than three games prior to 1981.

Michigan State...
• leads the Big Ten with a .975 fielding percentage. The Spartans led the Big Ten and ranked 19th in the nation in fielding last season.

Justin Scanlon leads the team with a .432 batting average (19-for-44) the past 10 games.

• The Spartans have received votes on three occasions this season in two of the national polls: USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Assocation Poll (NWBCA).

• is the highest ranked Big Ten team in the latest NCAA RPI rankings at No. 76.

• 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 30-1 when leading after seven innings and 28-1 when leading after eight innings.

• is 22-8 when scoring first.

• The Spartans are seeking their fourth Big Ten title in school history.

• MSU joined the Big Ten in baseball in 1951 and won its first Big Ten Championship in 1954 with an 11-2 league record. That season also marked MSU's first and only appearance in the College World Series.

• The Spartans won their second Big Ten title in 1971 with a 13-3 conference record.

• MSU's last Big Ten Championship arrived in 1979, as the Spartans went 11-4 in league play.

Sophomore Tony Wieber is one of the top dual threats in the Big Ten . . . He leads the team in saves with seven and owns a perfect 5-0 record on the mound . . . Wieber has also started 16 games in right field and is batting .325 on the season . . . 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 .359 (23-for-65), including eight doubles and 16 RBIs . . . Wieber was 2-for-12 in three starts during the first two weekends on the season . . . Wieber's seven saves are already tied for fifth most in an MSU season . . . He owns a 9-0 career record as a pitcher.



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