|Photo from MSU Baseball Facebook Page|
The 4-3 Michigan State Spartans face a weekend series this week that is as big as they come - they will be heading to College Station, Tex. March 2-4 for a three game series against the No. 5 ranked Texas A&M Aggies. The Spartans have faced two Top 25 teams this season, winning against No. 11 St. John's and losing to No. 15 Louisville in their first series of the season.
Playing southern teams has always been a struggle for Michigan State because teams like Texas A&M have the luxury of warm weather that allows them to practice outdoors year-round, but Spartans head coach Jake Boss Jr. has stated that the mild winter has been a blessing for his team because they have been able to be on Kobs Field much more than usual.
In their first series of the year the Spartans headed to Dunedin, Fla. and played some of the top teams in the Big East and despite losing to No. 15 Louisville and South Florida, Boss' team was happy with the way they played. They beat No. 11 St. John's on Opening Day and their pitchers had a solid weekend despite the win-loss numbers.
Last weekend Michigan State traveled to play in the First Pitch Invitational for the fifth consecutive year and came very close to sweeping the tournament. In the first day of the tournament the Spartans played a double-header against Miami-Ohio and the host team Furman and beat them both. The following day the Spartans came out on top of Furman once again but they couldn't keep things rolling when they played the RedHawks for the second time, losing 1-0 to close out the tournament.
Boss has said that he is happy with how his team is playing, but has stated that their record could very easily be much more impressive. With the way that his top pitchers are throwing, he is very right. Spartans ace Tony Bucciferro has won both of his starts this season while posting a 2.25 ERA while fanning nine and allowing just three earned runs. Michigan State's second pitcher, Andrew Waszak has been stellar in his two appearances earning himself a 1-0 record while recording a 1.38 ERA, seven strikeouts and allowing just two earned runs. Waszak his holding opposing batters to a .156 batting average so far this season.
Third in the Spartans rotation is David Garner, who had a less than stellar performance against No. 15 Louisville in his first start of the season, but bounced back well in his second appearance against Furman. On the season Garner has a 7.27 ERA while allowing seven earned runs but he is missing bats, as evident by his 10 strikeouts on the season. If the Spartans will defend their Big Ten championship he will need to play like he did against Furman and continue to miss bats.
The Aggies are a formidable 8-1 on the season with their most recent win coming as an 8-1 victory over Northwestern State. Texas A&M's top pitcher, Michael Wacha has posted outstanding numbers in his first two appearances this season - compiling two victories, 19 strikeouts and a 0.00 ERA. During his starts opponents are hitting .075 and have recorded just three hits. Things don't get much easier as the Aggies also have Rafael Pineda who through his two starts has given up six hits, struck out 11 and recorded a 1.29 ERA.
Michigan State will need their big bats the show up in College Station, Tex. to have a chance to pull out a series win this weekend. OF Jordan Keur leads the Spartans with a .458 batting average and a .548 OBP. C John Martinez trails Keur with a .368 BA and a .400 OBP. 2B Ryan Jones has a .323 BA and .382 OBP on the season and is closely trailed by SS Justin Scanlon who has posted a .313 BA and a .333 OBP.
While Coach Boss would surely like to see his team OBP be higher, he has to be happy with the production he has been getting so far, but his leading batters will need to stay as such in the series with the Aggies. If the bats of Keur, Martinez and Jones go silent in College Station then the Spartans may be swept out of Tex. without a win. Needless to say this is a big weekend for the green and white.