Spartans Open Big Ten Tournament Against Nebraska
May 22, 2012
"Playing in a beautiful ballpark and a good atmosphere is something that's a lot of fun for our guys," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "Huntington Park is a destination point at the end of the year, and we're there with a chance to compete for a championship, so it's going to be fun."
MSU enters the tournament at 35-19 overall following a 9-2 victory over Penn State in the regular-season finale on Senior Day last Saturday. The Spartans placed fifth in the Big Ten standings at 13-11. Last season, Michigan State won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title and reached the championship game in the Big Ten Tournament before falling to Illinois.
The Spartans and Huskers will be meeting for the first time this season and only the fourth time in series history, with the last game arriving 30 years ago in 1982. Nebraska closed its regular season with a road series win at Michigan and placed fourth in its inaugural year in the Big Ten at 14-10.
One of the top offenses in the nation, the Huskers rank among the NCAA Division I Top 10 in hits (11.1 per game), runs (390), batting (.314) and scoring (7.1 runs per game). Nebraska also leads the Big Ten in homers (46) and slugging (.447). Sophomore Michael Pritchard is first in the conference with a .379 batting average, while junior Josh Scheffert is batting .349 with eight homers and 39 RBIs.
Wednesday's pitching matchup features two of the top pitchers in the conference, as MSU senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro goes against Husker southpaw Kyle Kubat. Bucciferro (5-3) leads the Big Ten in strikeouts with 85, while Kubat is 5-0 on the season, including a 4-0 record and 1.57 ERA in league games.
The winner of the Big Ten Tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, but the Spartans, with an RPI of 47, are also in contention for an at-large berth. In the latest ESPN Bracketology released this week, MSU is projected as a No. 3 seed. Michigan State has made four previous appearances in the NCAA Tournament, most recently in 1979.
Regular-season champion Purdue (41-12, 17-7) earned the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament, while Indiana (30-26, 16-8) also earned a bye as the No. 2 seed. In Wednesday's other first-round matchup, third-seeded Penn State (29-25, 15-9) will take on sixth-seeded Ohio State (31-25, 11-13) at 3:35 p.m.
WHO'S HOT FOR THE SPARTANS
Junior catcher/outfielder John Martinez is batting a team-best .500 (14-for-28) in his past 10 games. He also leads the team during that stretch in home runs (2) and RBIs (14). Martinez went 5-for-9 in the Penn State series.
Junior left fielder Jordan Keur went 6-for-13 (.462) against Penn State with two multi-hit games. He leads the team with 29 multi-hit games and ranks second in the Big Ten in hits (83) and fourth in batting (.362).
On the mound...
Senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro is 2-0 in his last three starts (Illinois, Iowa, Penn State) 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 on May 11. He has allowed just one run in his last 15 2/3 innings.
Senior right-hander reliever Bryce Jenney has not allowed a run in his last nine innings (spanning five outings).
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT HISTORY
MSU is making its third appearance in four years at the Big Ten Tournament, all under MSU head coach Jake Boss. Boss owns a record of 2-4 at the event (0-2 in 2009; 2-2 in 2011).
This marks the first time since 1983-84 the Spartans have made the Big Ten Tournament in consecutive seasons.
As a No. 2 seed last season - the highest in program history - MSU went 2-2 in the Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans advanced to the championship game for the third time in school history, but fell to Illinois.
BIG TEN HONORS
First Team: Jordan Keur (OF)
SPARTAN PITCHING STAFF LEADS THE WAY
Entering the week, the Spartans ranked among the Top 50 nationally in ERA (19th), hits allowed (23rd) and walks allowed (35th with 159).
If the season ended today, MSU's team ERA of 3.08 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.
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).
For the season, Michigan State has outscored its opponents by 129 runs (329-200).
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: No. 4 Baylor, No. 8 Texas A&M, No. 15 Purdue and No. 42 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 105 games, second only to Purdue in the Big Ten Conference (111). The 105 wins are the most in a three-year span in Michigan State history.
CLASS OF 2012 - ONE OF THE WINNINGEST IN SCHOOL HISTORY
The 128 wins are tied for the most by any senior class in the history of Michigan State baseball, along with the Class of 1989 and Class of 1990.
SPARTANS POST THIRD STRAIGHT 30-WIN SEASON FOR FIRST TIME IN SCHOOL HISTORY
MSU's 35 wins this season are sixth most in program history. They are also the most by MSU in the regular season since 2002 (36) and the fourth-highest total in the regular season in program history (1988: 41, 2002: 36, 1971: 36)
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.
In the latest NCAA RPI rankings released May 22, MSU came in at No. 47.
SOLID AT SECOND
Jones is the first Spartan second baseman to earn All-Big Ten honors three times (second team in 2010; first team in 2011; second team in 2012).
Jones ranks first in the conference with 86 hits, which is just 10 away from Brandon Eckerle's school record 96, set just last season. The 86 hits are currently fifth most in an MSU season.
Jones also ranks among the Big Ten leaders in batting (third at .363), total bases (third with 117), doubles (fourth with 16) and on-base percentage (eighth at .431).
Among Big Ten second baseman, Jones ranks first in hits (86), doubles (16), RBIs (36), total bases (117), slugging percentage (.494) and triples (3), and second in average (.363), runs (46), on-base percentage (.431), stolen bases (8 and homers (3).
Tied for team lead with 18 two-out RBIs and is batting .392 in the seventh inning or later (29-for-74).
Jones ranks fifth in MSU history with 234 career hits.
He is also second at MSU with 46 career doubles, just one away from tying the school record (Scott Ayotte, 47 from 1992-95).
After batting in all four spots in the order for half of the season, Jones has batted leadoff the past 22 games (MSU: 15-7).
Also an excellent defensive player, Jones ranks third in the Big Ten with 171 assists and his five errors are tied for the fewest amount by any second baseman in the conference.
KEUR RANKS AMONG LEAGUE LEADERS IN HITTING
Keur also is second in the league in hits (83), which is already eighth most in an MSU season.
In addition, Keur ranks third in the Big Ten with a team-high .442 on-base percentage.
Among Big Ten outfielders, Keur ranks first in batting, hits and on-base percentage.
Leads team with 29 multi-hit games and is batting .352 with runners in scoring position.
BUCCIFERRO CAPPING HIS RECORD-SETTING SPARTAN CAREER
A third-team All-Big Ten selection, Bucciferro ranks first in the Big Ten in strikeouts (85), fourth in innings pitched (98.0), eighth in opposing batting average (.238), and 10th in ERA (2.94). Bucciferro will likely set a school record during the Big Ten Tournament for most innings pitched in a season (current record: 101.2 by Kurt Wunderlich last year).
Bucciferro also led the Big Ten in conference games with 53 strikeouts.
Was one of only three Big Ten pitchers to win Big Ten Pitcher of the Week at least twice this season (Joe Haase, Purdue, twice; Lance Breedlove, Purdue, three times)
He was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week after allowing only one hit in six shutout innings in the win over No. 11 St. John's on Opening Day.
In the 4-3 victory over Cincinnati on March 16, Bucciferro won his third game of the season and struck out a career-high 10 batters.
Although he took a no decision vs. Ohio State on March 31 in the Big Ten opener, he threw eight scoreless innings, scattered just two hits, and took a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
Bucciferro garnered Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Week accolades for the third time in his career after throwing a five-hit, complete game shutout in the 6-0 win over Iowa on May 11. It marked his fourth career complete game shutout.
Bucciferro was named a Cape Cod League All-Star last summer and also was a 2011 first-team All-Big Ten selection.
Has thrown eight career complete games, including four career complete game shutouts.
WASZAK COMFORTABLE AT NO. 2
Waszak was named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Week for the first time in his career following his performance at Indiana on April 15 in which he threw seven shutout innings against the Hoosiers and allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out a season-high five.
Boss is the first Spartan third baseman to earn All-Big Ten honors three times (second team in 2010; first team in 2011; third team in 2012).
Had a career-high 15 game hitting streak this season; also reached base in 24 straight games during one stretch.
Tied for team lead with 18 two-out RBIs and ranks first on the team in multiple RBI games with 10.
Ranks third on the team with 21 multi-hit games.
Tied for first on the team with five game-winning RBIs; had two walk-off RBIs in the series win over Minnesota; in the first game of the series, walked with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th; in the series finale, hit the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded.
Batting .348 in the seventh inning or later (24-for-69).
Named a third-team preseason Louisville Slugger All-American, Boss has a career average of .344 with 18 homers and 142 RBIs, and ranks tied for seventh in MSU history with 39 doubles.
Boss is one of just 16 Spartans in school history to record at least 200 hits (currently with 205).
He began the season by starting 10 games in center field, but moved back to third base to solidify the Spartan infield defensively.
Ranked the No. 10 third baseman in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft according to Baseball America, Boss has hit two of his five home runs this season against preseason All-Americans. In front of numerous scouts against St. John's, Boss delivered a solo homer in his first at-bat of 2012 off of preseason All-American Kyle Hansen, hitting a 94-mph fastball over the left-center field wall. In his first at-bat in College Station, Texas, Boss hit another solo blast, this time against preseason Big 12 Pitcher of the Year and projected first-rounder Michael Wacha.
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