Spartans Head to Columbus Looking for First Big Ten Tournament Title
May 25, 2011
SPARTANS HEAD TO COLUMBUS LOOKING TO WIN FIRST BIG TEN TOURNAMENT TITLE
Michigan State will be looking for its first-ever Big Ten Tournament title this weekend. This will mark MSU's ninth appearance in the Big Ten Tournament, and second in the last three years. In Boss' first season in East Lansing in 2009, he brought the Spartans back to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in five years; however, MSU went 0-2 with losses to Illinois and Purdue. The Spartans have advanced to the NCAA Tournament on four occasions, with the last trip arriving in 1979.
"As great as what our accomplishments were in the celebration last weekend, that's all over with," said MSU head coach Jake Boss, who earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors for guiding MSU to the Big Ten title. "If we want to continue to keep playing, we're going to have to win the tournament. I think our guys are focused on that and will be ready to go."
Kurt Wunderlich, the first Spartan to be named the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, will get the start in MSU's first game on Thursday at 3:35 p.m.. Michigan State will match up against the highest seed from the winners of games one and two on Wednesday (either Purdue, Ohio State or Minnesota).
Michigan State features a balanced offensive attack that ranks third in the nation and first in the Big Ten with a .322 batting average. Three of the top hitters and five of the top 10 are in MSU's lineup, led by Big Ten Player of the Year Jeff Holm, who is in contention for the conference triple crown. Holm currently ranks first in the Big Ten with 61 RBIs and is second in batting (.379) and tied for second in homers (9).
Defensively, MSU leads the league with a .975 fielding percentage, and the pitching staff is third in the Big Ten with a 4.06 ERA.
2) BIG TEN CHAMPS: Michigan State won its fourth Big Ten title and first since 1979 with a 15-9 record in 2011, sharing the regular-season crown with Illinois . . . The Spartans clinched a share of the championship with a 10-1 win over Northwestern on May 20 at McLane Stadium . . . MSU was in first place wire-to-wire in the Big Ten standings . . . In addition to 1979, MSU also won Big Ten titles in 1954 and 1971.
3) BIG TEN AWARDS: MSU hauled in three individual awards from the Big Ten as first baseman Jeff Holm was named Player of the Year, Kurt Wunderlich was named Pitcher of the Year, and Jake Boss was named Coach of the Year . . . A school-record six Spartans were named to the All-Big Ten First Team: Holm (first base), Ryan Jones (second base), Torsten Boss (third base), Brandon Eckerle (outfield), Tony Bucciferro (starting pitcher) and Wunderlich (starting pitcher) . . . Jared Hook (designated hitter) and Tony Wieber (relief pitcher) landed on the third team, while Joel Fisher (catcher) and David Garner (relief pitcher) made the All-Freshman Team . . . The six first-team selections for MSU were the most in school history and the most of any team in the Big Ten this season . . . The previous school record for most first-team selections was three . . The eight selections on the first, second, and third teams were the most of any team in the league and ties the school record for most All-Big Ten selections (1954) . . . It also marked the first time in school history MSU has placed two starting pitchers on the All-Big Ten First Team (Wunderlich, Bucciferro).
4) WHAT NEW BATS?: MSU ranks third in the nation and first in the Big Ten with a .322 team batting average . . . The Spartans finished conference games with a league-best .318 average, marking the first time since 1984 that the Spartans finished as conference stat champions in batting . . . MSU also leads the Big Ten and ranks 11th in the nation with 603 hits for the season . . . The top three hitters in the Big Ten (Eckerle first at .386; Holm second at .379; Boss third at .369) and five of the top 10 (Jones ninth at .350; Hook 10th at .348) are in MSU's lineup . . . The Spartans feature seven starters in their lineup with an average over .300.
5) HITTING MACHINE: Senior center fielder Brandon Eckerle became the program's all-time hits leader on May 14 at Indiana with his 246th career hit . . . The Durand, Mich., native enters the Big Ten Tournament with 256 career hits . . . Eckerle passed Bob Malek, who played just three years from 2000-02 and held the record for nine years with 245 hits . . . 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 91 hits, just two shy of Chris McCuiston's record of 93 hits, which was set in 2002 . . . The first-team All-Big Ten selection has hit at a torrid pace all season long, as he has led the conference in batting average all but two weeks of the season . . . Eckerle also leads the team with 28 multi-hit games, including five games with four hits . . . He has at least one hit in 44 of MSU's 53 games this season . . . Eckerle earned first-team Academic All-America honors for his 3.98 GPA in general business administration and plans on attending law school in the fall . . . A third-team Academic All-American last year, he is just one of three players in program history to garner Academic All-America accolades twice . . . Eckerle 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.
6) THERE'S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING: Senior Kurt Wunderlich is the first Spartan pitcher in program history to be named Big Ten Pitcher of the Year . . . Wunderlich is 9-2 on the mound and has won 25 games in his career, which ranks third in Spartan history . . . The nine wins rank first in the Big Ten . . . With Wunderlich on the mound, Michigan State was 7-1 in the opening game of a series in Big Ten play . . . MSU is 12-2 this season in games Wunderlich has started . . . The Des Peres, Mo., product also ranks among the top 10 leaders in the conference in innings pitched (fourth with 93.2) and strikeouts (seventh with 60) . . . He was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week twice this season.
7) PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Senior first baseman Jeff Holm is just the second Spartan to be named Big Ten Player of the Year (Bob Malek, 2002) . . . Holm is in contention to win the Big Ten Triple Crown . . . He currently leads the conference in RBIs (61), is second in batting (.379), and is tied for second in homers (9) . . . The 61 RBIs are tied for fourth most in an MSU season . . . Holm is also second in the league in slugging (.607) 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 playing for the Chillicothe Paints 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 . . . The co-captain has been clutch all season as he leads the team with 10 game-winning RBIs, including six in Big Ten play . . . He also has a team-best 18 two-out RBIs . . . A third-team selection last season at first base, Holm leads all Big Ten first baseman in batting, homers, RBIs, slugging, on-base percentage (.443), runs (49), stolen bases (20), hits (80) and total bases (128) this season.
8) BOSS MAN: Sophomore third baseman Torsten Boss, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, is having an excellent all-around season at the plate . . . Boss ranks among the Big Ten leaders in 11 statistical categories: batting, slugging, on-base percentage, RBIs, hits, home runs, triples, doubles, walks, total bases and sacrifice flies . . . Among Big Ten third basemen, he ranks first in nine offensive categories, including batting (.369), doubles (16), triples (5), and RBIs (57) . . . 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.
9) RACKING UP THE WINS: Michigan State is second in the Big Ten with 34 overall wins (Purdue: 36) . . . MSU won more games (34) than any other Big Ten team in 2010 . . . With 34 wins last season and 34 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) . . . The 68 wins in the past two seasons are the second most in consecutive years in program history (75 wins in 1987-88).
WIEBER A DUAL THREAT
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