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Spartans Face Nebraska in Big Ten Tournament First Round

May 23, 2016




No. 2 Seed Nebraska (37-28, 16-8 B1G B1G) vs. No. 7 Seed Michigan State (34-18, 13-11 B1G)
Date, Time Wednesday, May 25 - 2 p.m. ET
Location Omaha, Nebraska | TD Ameritrade Park
Tournament Bracket 2016 B1G Tournament Bracket
Game Notes Michigan State
Probable Pitching Matchup LHP Cam Vieaux (6-4, 2.41 ERA) vs. RHP Derek Burkamper (6-2, 2.77 ERA)
TV BTN
Coverage Watch on BTN2Go | Listen - Spartan Sports Network
EAST LANSING, MICH. -- The Michigan State baseball team will take on Nebraska in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday, May 25 at 2 p.m. ET in Omaha, Nebraska. The Spartans finished the regular season 34-18 and 13-11 in the Big Ten to earn the seven seed, while Nebraska earned the No. 2 seed with a 37-28 overall record and 16-8 record in the conference.

Michigan State is making its third consecutive and 13th overall appearance in the Big Ten Tournament. MSU played 16 games, going 7-9, against Big Ten Tournament qualifying teams during the regular season. Only Iowa played more games (18) against tournament qualifying teams.

• MSU's 34 wins are tied for the seventh most in school history.

• The Spartans have ranked among the top five nationally in ERA for much of the year and enter Wednesday's game fourth at 2.71 ... MSU is tied for first in the league in opponent batting average at .236 and has allowed the second-fewest hits at 413.

• Spartan pitchers have combined for a school record 440 strikeouts -- 31 more than last year's club which previously held the record.

• Reliever Dakota Mekkes has a team-high 89 Ks and leads the nation in strikeouts per nine innings at 15.01 - 1.94 higher than the next closest pitcher ... Mekkes also leads the country in hits allowed per nine innings at 3.88 ... His 1.35 ERA leads the Big Ten and is sixth best in the country.

• First baseman Jordan Zimmerman ranks in the top of five in the Big Ten in several major offensive categories, including: batting average (.386, T1st), on-base percentage (.475, 2nd), slugging percentage (.604, 3rd), hits (78, 4th), runs scored (46, T5th) and home runs (8, 6th).

• Spartan relievers have struck out 225 batters to only 93 walks this season and the group has combined for a 12-5 record to go along with 14 saves, which is tied for the fifth most in the Big Ten.

• Wednesday's starter Cam Vieaux ranks third in in the Big Ten in ERA (2.41) and seventh in strikeouts (76).

• Catcher Matt Byars has started 50 of 52 games behind the plate, including all 24 Big Ten games ... He led the league with 11 doubles in conference games.

Season for the Record Books
With 34 wins this season, MSU is tied for the seventh most victories in school history with the 2015, 2010 and 1987 teams. Two more wins would put the 2016 club in the top five in school history and in a tie for fourth with the 2011, 1992 and 1971 teams.

The most wins under current head coach Jake Boss Jr. came in 2012 when the team went 37-23 and earned an NCAA Tournament-bid. Only 12 teams in MSU history have recorded 33 or more wins, six of which have been coached by Boss.

Only six teams in school history have recorded 35-plus wins in a single season, with the record being set in 1988 when the team finished 41-20.

Spartan Strikeouts
With 440 strikeouts this season, the Spartan pitching staff has the single season school record, passing the 2015 club that had 409. MSU has posted 10 or more strikeouts in 16 games this season to average 8.4 per game and rank second in the Big Ten.

Dakota Mekkes leads the team and is fourth in the Big Ten with 89 strikeouts, while Cam Vieaux is seventh in the Big Ten with 76 strikeouts.

MSU has sent down 124 batters looking to rank third in the Big Ten. Mekkes paces the team with 25 backwards Ks and is eighth in the conference, while Vieaux and Ethan Landon both have 23 to rank 10th.

Mowdown Mekkes
Junior Dakota Mekkes has been the first option out of the bullpen all year for the Spartans, as his 25 appearances are the most on the team. Mekkes has been a shutdown reliever, allowing just eight earned runs in 53.1 innings work, good for a 1.35 ERA that is the best in the Big Ten and tied for sixth in the nation. He also leads the league in opposing batting average (.135) and ranks fourth among all pitchers -- and first among relievers -- in strikeouts (89).

With 89 strikeouts in 53.1 innings, Mekkes owns a 15.01 strikeouts per nine innings rate that is the best in the country. Fifty-five percent of the outs the righty has recorded this season have come via strikeout. The 89 Ks are the most ever by an MSU reliever in a season and are tied for the seventh-highest single-season total in school history. He needs just six more to pass Tony Bucciferro (2012) to break the top five.

Having allowed just 23 hits in his 53.1 innings of work, Mekkes leads the nation in hits allowed per nine innings at 3.88.

Only three of the 26 runners Mekkes has inherited this season have come around to score.

Making Them Earn It
MSU enters the weekend boasting a 2.71 ERA that is the fourth best in the country. Mekkes leads the team and the conference with a 1.35 ERA. Staff ace Cam Vieaux owns a 2.41 ERA that ranks third in the Big Ten. Ethan Landon is tied for 10th in the Big Ten with a 2.77 ERA while the bullpen as a group owns a 2.54 ERA.

The Spartan pitching staff has 27 games this season in which they've held opponents to two or fewer earned runs. Because of the shutdown staff, Michigan State is 34-8 this season when scoring at least three runs.

Zimmerman Does it All
Junior Jordan Zimmerman leads the team and ranks in the top five in the Big Ten of several offensive categories. The transfer from Mesa, Arizona, is tied atop the league with a .386 average while ranking second in on-base percentage (.475) and third in slugging percentage (.604). Zimmerman's 78 hits rank fourth, while his 46 runs scored are fifth most in the Big Ten and his 122 total bases are tied for second.

Zimmerman has a hit in 47 of 52 games for the Spartans this season, including a current 13-game hitting streak. He has 24 multiple-hit games to go along with nine multiple-RBI games.

He began the year at second base for 14 games before moving to first base where he's started since.

Earlier this season, Zimmerman put together a 21-game hitting streak, which tied the third longest in school history. During that span, he hit .494 with four homers, 21 runs and 16 RBIs.

Reliable Relievers
If MSU holds a lead late in games, it's meant good things for the club, as the Spartans are 28-1 when leading after six innings and 30-0 when leading after seven innings. Michigan State has allowed only 28 runs all season in the eighth and ninth innings and MSU is outscoring its opponents 146-72 after the fifth inning.

Spartan relievers have struck out 225 batters to only 93 walks this season and the group has combined for a 12-5 record to go along with 14 saves, which is tied for the fifth most in the Big Ten.

After eight appearances as the team's Sunday starter, Walter Borkovich has returned to the bullpen where he's allowed just three runs in 16.1 innings of work.

Michigan State-Nebraska Big Ten Tournament History
MSU is 2-1 all-time vs. Nebraska with all three games being decided by two runs or fewer: 2012 first round (W, 10-9), 2014 second round (L, 3-2), 2015 second round (W, 9-7).

Cam Vieaux will be making his second start vs. the Huskers in the B1G tournament as he started the 2014 second round game (6.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 7 K, L).

About Nebraska
All-Time Series Record: Nebraska leads, 6-3
2016 Series (5/7-5/9): L, 3-6; W, 4-2; L, 4-7 -- East Lansing, Mich.

Derek Burkamper will get the ball for the Huskers and the righty is 6-2 with a 2.77 ERA. Burkamper pitched 5.1 innings and allowed one earned run on four hits in a 6-3 win over the Spartans earlier this season. Ben Miller has started in all 55 games for Nebraska and leads the team with a .328 batting average. Ryan Boldt has scored 47 runs and ranks fourth in the Big Ten, while Scott Schrelber leads the league with 16 home runs.

As a team, Nebraska ranks third in the Big Ten with a .289 batting average and its 555 hits are the second most in the league.

Lineup Production
With 512 hits on the season, Michigan State ranks fourth in the Big Ten and is averaging 9.9 hits per game. The Spartans have 24 games of double digit hits and MSU is 26-3 when outhitting its opponent this season, as opposed to just 6-14 when being outhit.

The Spartans average 5.3 runs per game and are outscoring opponents by a total of 276-185 on the year, good for a +91 run differential.

Six Spartans have 20 or more RBIs this season while four starters bat better than .300.

Shutout Streak
Michigan State has tossed six shutouts this season, which is tied for the 10th most in the country and are the most by a MSU team since the 1998 team also had six. With one more shutout, it would be the most since the 1979 team recorded nine shutouts in a season.

In wins over Auburn, Troy and Illinois State earlier this season, Michigan State recorded three consecutive shutouts for the first time in the program's history since 1979. It wasn't until the seventh inning of the following game against Florida Gulf Coast that MSU gave up a run to end the streak of 33 straight innings without giving up a run.

New Look Spartans
The Michigan State roster consists of three seniors, eight juniors, 14 sophomores and nine freshmen. Highlighting the sophomore-heavy roster is 2015 All-Big Ten Freshmen team members OF Brandon Hughes, C Chad Roskelly and RHP Andrew Gonzalez.

After going 34-23 during the 2015 campaign and finishing tied for third in the Big Ten with a 14-10 mark in conference play, the 2016 Spartans are a new-look team. Spartan returners account for just 27% of the team's RBI total and 24% of the team's hit total in 2015 with Brandon Hughes being the only returning every day starter in centerfield.

Freshman Marty Bechina has started in 51 games for the Spartans as a dynamic puzzle piece, seeing action at third base, left field, center field and designated hitter. Fellow freshman Royce Ando has started 38 games at shortstop, while three other starting spots in the field are currently filled by transfers. Matt Byars has started in 51 games behind the plate, Jordan Zimmerman has started in every game for MSU and Kris Simonton has seen consistent play in right field as a transfer from Akron.

Saturday starter Ethan Landon is also a transfer from Kansas State in his first year in the Green and White and is 7-3 with a 2.41 ERA.

Continued Success Under Head Coach Jake Boss
In his eighth season as head coach, Jake Boss Jr. has now led MSU to seven straight 30-win seasons on top of winning his 200th game in the Green and White last season. A win over Michigan earlier this year secured the seventh 30-win season for the Spartans under Boss, coming a day after the head coach's 100th Big Ten win.

Draft Prospects
Junior right-hander Walter Borkovich was picked as the sixth-best prospect in the Big Ten by D-1 Baseball while Cam Vieaux was selected ninth. In addition to having prospects for the 2016 draft, sophomores Alex Troop (5th), Jake Lowery (9th) and Ethan Landon (10th) were listed as top prospect for the 2017 draft. Freshman infielder Marty Bechina was also ranked No. 8 on the list of Impact Freshman in the Big Ten.

Spartans Drafted
MSU had eight players drafted in the 2015 MLB Draft, the most in school history. The previous high for Spartans selected in one MLB Draft was five, which last happened in 2002.


 

 

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