2007 Baseball Season Recap
May 24, 2007
The 2007 Michigan State baseball team featured a mix of talented newcomers and experienced upperclassmen, providing second-year head coach David Grewe a foundation to build a winning program in East Lansing. The Spartans won 10 of their last 13 games to make a run for a Big Ten Tournament bid, and although they finished just a half-game back of making the tournament, the pieces are in place for a successful season in 2008. MSU will lose just four seniors to graduation off its 30-man roster, and will add eight highly-regarded student-athletes that have signed National Letters of Intent.
Michigan State placed seventh in the Big Ten with a 15-16 league record while finishing 25-26 overall. The Spartans played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the Big Ten, facing top 100 teams in South Alabama, Auburn, Central Florida, Stetson, South Florida and Oklahoma. MSU scored key victories against South Florida and Oklahoma on the road, both of whom were ranked in the top 50.
The Spartans, who entered the Big Ten season at 8-8, got off to their best league start since 2004 by winning five of their first seven games, ascending to second place in the standings. Unfortunately, the team hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, losing consecutive series to Penn State, Minnesota and Michigan. MSU got hot down the stretch, however, winning 10 of its last 13 games and nine of its last 11 conference games. The Green and White took three of four at Ohio State and swept Northwestern at home to set up a showdown with Illinois on the last weekend of the regular season for the final Big Ten Tournament bid. Needing to win three of four, MSU fell just shy, winning two games but falling in two one-run contests.
Individually, several Spartans shined on the field this spring for Coach Grewe. Junior second baseman Steve Gerstenberger earned second-team All-Big Ten honors for leading the team and ranking 10th in conference games with a .378 batting average. Gerstenberger, who started every game at second base in 2007 after playing first base as a sophomore, was also third in league games with 48 hits. Overall, he led the Spartans in several offensive categories, including batting (.368), runs (37), hits (77) and doubles (14). His 77 hits tied for eighth best in a Spartan single-season.
Senior catcher/designated hitter Sean Walker caught fire in the last month of the season, slugging five of his team-high seven homers in May. Walker hit a grand slam in the win over Northwestern May 12, and hit four homers in the final series of the season at Illinois. The Round Lake, Ill., native closed his career ranking third all-time at Michigan State in doubles (43) and tied for seventh in homers (26). He also had 102 career RBI.
Other top performers at the plate included: freshman outfielder Chris Roberts, who was second on the team with a .333 batting average and earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors May 7; junior Dennis Jones, who started every game in center field and led the team with 36 RBI and 15 stolen bases while batting .322; junior Evan Friedland, who started every game at first base and tied an MSU record with 42 double plays while batting .312 with 28 RBI; junior shortstop Brandon Doherty, who hit .477 in the final month of the season to raise his average to .310; and sophomore catcher Kyle Day, who led the team with a .438 on-base percentage.
On the mound, senior Craig Brookes was MSU's No. 1 starter all season long, and led the team with 81.1 innings pitched and 57 strikeouts. Junior Jon Kibler finished the conference season seventh in the league with a 3.92 ERA and won four games to earn third-team All-Big Ten honors. Junior Mike Monterey emerged as the team's closer and had one of the finest years for a reliever in Spartan history, collecting eight saves, which was third most in an MSU single-season. Senior lefty John Dwan earned Big Ten Pitcher of the Week honors for the second time in his career after tossing seven scoreless innings at Indiana, and he also threw complete-game victories against Purdue and Illinois.
With an experienced player at every position returning to East Lansing next season, along with two Big Ten starting pitchers, a stocked bullpen and eight freshmen, look for Michigan State to be one of the top teams in the Big Ten in 2008.
2007 TOP PERFORMERS
Junior second baseman Steve Gerstenberger, who made the unique transition from first base to second base this season, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after leading the team and ranking 10th in the conference with a .378 batting average during league games. He also finished third with 48 hits in conference play.
After starting 45 games at first in 2006, he started all of MSU's games this season at second. He led the team in batting (.368), hits (77), runs (37) and doubles (14), all marking career highs. He also registered career highs in stolen bases (11), RBI (31) and on-base percentage (.408). His 77 hits ranked tied for eighth best in an MSU single-season.
Gerstenberger closed the season on a 12-game hitting streak, batting .475 (28-for-59) during that stretch.
Junior Dennis Jones, a speedy transfer from Macomb (Mich.) Community College, started every game in center field this season. Batting ninth in the lineup a majority of the year, Jones led the team with 15 stolen bases, 36 RBI and 10 bunt singles. Jones was the team's top clutch hitter, as he led the team with 15 two-out RBI and a .383 average with runners in scoring position.
Senior right-handed pitcher Craig Brookes led the team with a 3.65 ERA, which ranked fifth in the Big Ten through the regular season. He posted wins this season over Saint Joseph's, Quinnipiac, Purdue and Northwestern, and had solid starts in no decisions at South Alabama (6 IP, 7 K, 2 H, 1 R) and Oklahoma (6 IP, 6 K, 5 H, 0 ER). He threw seven quality starts this season (at least six innings pitched and three or fewer earned runs). Brookes finished his career third in MSU history in innings pitched (274.1), fifth in strikeouts (186) and tied for seventh in wins (17).
Freshman outfielder Chris Roberts was named the No. 2 newcomer in the Big Ten by Baseball America for a reason - he hit .331 with 27 RBI, including a .360 batting average in Big Ten games. Roberts, who made seven starts at shortstop, primarily saw action in the outfield.
Roberts was named the Big Ten Player of the Week May 7 after batting .563 (9-for-16) with five RBI in the Ohio State series. Roberts provided two game-winning hits in the Northwestern series: in the second game of a doubleheader on May 12, he broke a 4-4 tie with a two-run, bases-loaded single, and in the series finale May 13, he hit an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to give MSU the 4-3 win.
Junior relief pitcher Mike Monterey emerged as the team's closer in 2007. Slated to be a starter at the beginning of the year, Coach Grewe opted to use Monterey in the bullpen, and he produced in the clutch. Monterey had eight saves this spring, which ranked third in an MSU season. He also has nine career saves, good for fifth best in MSU history.
Senior catcher/designated hitter Sean Walker slugged a team-high seven homers this season, including four in the last series of the year at Illinois. Walker closed his career third in MSU history in doubles (43) and tied for seventh in homers (26). He also collected a 102 career RBI. Walker hit .429 (6-for-14) with a homer and seven RBI in the Northwestern series, including a career-high six RBI and a grand slam in the series opener. In his senior year, Walker led the team with a .497 slugging percentage and hit .291 with seven homers and 27 RBI.
Junior Evan Friedland started every game for Coach Grewe at first base this season. Friedland was excellent in the field, tying an MSU record with 42 double plays while coming in third in an MSU single-season with 397 putouts. At the plate, Friedland was fourth on the team with a 312 batting average and third with 28 RBI.
Sophomore catcher Kyle Day was named one of the top prospects in the Jayhawk League last summer by Baseball America and will play in the prestigious Cape Cod League this summer for the Harwich Mariners. He led the team with a .438 on-base percentage and 33 walks. In the final weekend of the regular season, Day hit .438 with two homers and nine RBI at Illinois. He finished with a .295 batting average, three homers and 26 RBI.
Junior shortstop Brandon Doherty hit an astounding .477 (21-for-44) in the last month of the season to raise his batting average to .310 for the season. A talented fielder with excellent range, Doherty started 44 games at short and collected 146 assists, good for seventh best in an MSU single-season. In the last series of the year at Illinois, Doherty hit .625 (10-for-16) with two homers and six RBI.
Junior lefty Jon Kibler was named a third-team All-Big Ten selection after finishing seventh in conference games with a 3.92 ERA to go along with a 4-3 record. Kibler fired three complete games in Big Ten play, all wins, against Indiana, Penn State and Ohio State. The Freeland, Md., native was second on the team with 41 strikeouts and tied for second with 66.1 innings pitched.
TOP GAMES OF THE 2007 SEASON
Feb. 25 - Michigan State 4, Jacksonville 2: John Dwan gave up one run and three hits in six innings and Nolan Moody struck out four of his five batters in relief as MSU won its first game of the 2007 campaign, a 4-2 triumph over Jacksonville, who later beat Florida State in the regular season.
March 4 - Michigan State 22, Saint Joseph's 1: MSU plates nine runs in the first and slugs out 19 hits en route to scoring a season-high 22 runs in the 21-run victory over the Hawks.
March 5 - Michigan State 4, Pittsburgh 3: Down 3-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, Michigan State scored two in the eighth and one in the bottom of the ninth for the comeback win. Mark Sorensen struck out four in three innings of scoreless relief.
March 16 - Michigan State 4, No. 21 Oklahoma 3: Chris Roberts hits a game-winning, RBI double in the top of the ninth to give MSU an upset win over the Sooners on the road. Mike Monterey fired three innings of scoreless relief to earn the win. Craig Brookes struck out six and surrendered just one unearned run in the first six innings.
May 5 - Michigan State 6, Ohio State 4: In the second game of a doubleheader, MSU entered the top of the sixth inning down 4-1 to the Buckeyes. Dennis Jones tied the game with a bases-loaded triple in the sixth, and Steve Gerstenberger collected the game-winning RBI later in the inning. The Spartans add one more in the seventh to hold on for the 6-4, come-from-behind victory, giving MSU just its fourth doubleheader sweep over Ohio State in Columbus in series history.
May 13 - Michigan State 4, Northwestern 3: On Senior Day at Oldsmobile Park, senior E.J. Daws scored the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning on a Chris Roberts RBI single, giving MSU the comeback win.
May 19 - Michigan State 16, Illinois 4: The Spartans hit a season-high five homers, including two by Sean Walker, and collect a season-high 21 hits in the 16-4 win over Illinois in the second game of a doubleheader sweep. Brandon Doherty, Steve Gerstenberger and Chris Roberts also went deep for MSU. Doherty went 4-for-4 and Walker registered a career-high four hits and drove in four runs.
TOP PERFORMANCES OF THE 2007 SEASON
Eli Boike hit two triples and went 3-for-4 with four RBI in MSU's 22-1 win over Saint Joseph's on March 4.
Brandon Doherty went 5-for-5 vs. Pittsburgh on March 5.
Jon Kibler struck out a season-best nine in the win at South Florida, tops for a Spartan pitcher in 2007.
Dennis Jones stole four bases in the home opener vs. Concordia on March 24.
John Dwan fired seven scoreless innings and gave up just three hits in win at Indiana. His performance lands him Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
The Spartan pitching staff allowed just three runs, two earned, the entire three-game series against Purdue (0.78 ERA), as MSU won two of three over the Boilermakers. Craig Brookes struck out five and gave up just two runs, one earned, in 7.0 innings in the 3-2 game one win, while John Dwan pitched a complete-game, five-hitter to win game three of the series.
For the second straight time, MSU collected a series win over the Buckeyes in Columbus, winning the final three games of the series. The 2005 team also took three of four at Ohio State.
Chris Roberts earned his first career Big Ten Player of the Week award after hitting .563 (9-for-16) in the four-game series at Ohio State. The Oshkosh, Wis., native recorded multiple hits in all four contests, including a 3-for-5 performance in the series finale on Sunday. Roberts tallied five RBI and also contributed a pair of runs.
Jon Kibler threw a five-hit, complete game in MSU's 5-1 victory in game one of the doubleheader at Ohio State on May 5.
Dennis Jones collected seven RBI in the Ohio State series, including three on a bases-clearing triple in game three of the series and three more on a bases-clearing double in the series finale.
In his last career game at Kobs Field, Sean Walker went 3-for-4 with a career-high six RBI and a grand slam against Northwestern. Walker hit the grand slam off his hometown friend and high school teammate, Ryan Myers. Dennis Jones also had a career game at the plate, going 5-for-5.
In the last series of the regular season at Illinois, MSU hit . 399 as a team with 11 homers and 35 runs scored. The Spartans entered the series with 10 homers as a team the entire season. Sean Walker hit four homers in the series, Brandon Doherty hit .625 (10-for-16) with two homers, and Kyle Day hit .438 with two homers and nine RBI. The Spartans hit eight homers in the doubleheader sweep over the Illini May 19.
The Spartans became just the 35th school in NCAA Division I baseball history to win 2,000 games as a program with their 6-5 victory over Western Michigan on April 10. MSU's all-time program record is 2011-1635-28. Entering the 2007 season, only 34 schools in the country had won at least 2,000 baseball games.
MSU had two wins over top 50 teams (Oklahoma, South Florida).
BOYS OF SUMMER, PT. 1
Here's a look at where some of the Michigan State players will be playing this summer:
Alaska Baseball League
Chris Cullen, Mat Su Miners
Cape Cod League
Kyle Day, Harwich Mariners
Great Lakes Collegiate League
Eric Roof, Columbus All-Americans
A.J. Dunn, Hays Larks
Kyle Hurtt, Michigan Bulls