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May 30, 2012

Spartan Baseball Picks Up Big Recruit

Toledo Blade photo
By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

Michigan State baseball picked up a new commitment when they signed up Perrysburg, Ohio outfielder Hunter Smith. Perrysburg High School had used Smith as both an outfielder and as their designated hitter because of his unique mixture of speed and power.

The senior lead the Northern Lakes League, where Perrysburg High School competes, in home runs with seven. Smith brings a power left-handed bat to the Spartans lineup and can provide them with the speed on the basepaths that they appreciate.

During his senior year at Perrysburg, Smith stole 13 bases in 15 attempts, which compliments his power numbers which are themselves impressive. The 6'4" 215 lbs outfielder drove in a team-leading 25 RBI batting left-handed, but he throws with his right hand.

The rise of Spartan baseball has much to do with the commitment of Smith, who also had offers from Miami of Ohio, University of Cincinnati, Arizona State, University of Toledo, Ohio State and Pepperdine. Schools have reason to fight over Smith, who aside from his power numbers, hit .344 in his senior season.

Smith will be donning the green and white for Jake Boss, Jr. next season, most likely in the outfield.


May 26, 2012

Mark Dantonio Third Most Hated Coach In Big Ten, What's Up with That?


By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

Michigan State's Mark Dantonio isn't sitting at the popular kids table much these days. According to an ESPN poll the Spartans head coach is the third most hated coach in the Big Ten behind newly minted Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema.

The poll contained responses from 27,000 voters, 37 percent of whom voted for Meyer, 33 percent for Bielema and 21 percent for Dantonio. With Meyer bringing his dislike over from the SEC to the Big Ten, and already beginning ruffle feathers with his recruiting tactics, his place atop the rankings isn't shocking.

Bielema has been accused in recent years of running up the score on lesser opponents, even Big Ten opponents, in order to improve his team's numbers for the BCS computers. Wisconsin has also been very successful of late and success always breeds hate in opponents.

The same could be said of Dantonio. He has built the Spartans into a winning program, compiling the first back-to-back 11 win seasons in school history, while beating the rival Michigan Wolverines four straight years. Perhaps the trick plays that Dantonio has become known for lately has something to do with his rank in the poll, perhaps it's his refusal to be inferior towards Michigan and calling them out in interviews, who knows.

From his oft-quoted, "pride comes before the fall" and his most recent, "we're lying in the weeds" comments towards the Wolverines it is no surprise that he was voted as one of the most hated coaches in the league. But there is something that comes with being hated, success, and Michigan State and Dantonio show no sign of stopping that.

May 24, 2012

Spartans Assistants Get Long Deserved Raises


By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

The Michigan State football program has started to win big games, and with that comes national attention and other teams looking to emulate the success that is taking place in East Lansing. One way to replicate the success the Spartans are having is to pry one of head coach Mark Dantonio's assistant coaches away from his program and give them the headset on another team.

With the departures of Don Treadwell and Dan Enos to Miami of Ohio and Central Michigan respectivelythe Spartans looked like they were about to lose their defensive coordinator, Pat Narduzzi, as well. But after much courtship from other schools Narduzzi agreed to remain with the Spartans. Because he came back, it was obvious that he would be due a substantial pay raise for his loyalty.

Each of these pay increases are well deserved and long due for the members of Dantonio's coaching staff. Dantonio has been lobbying for raises for his staff for years now and Athletic Director Mark Dantonio was finally given the funds to pay Dantonio's staff what they deserve.

While this raise for Narduzzi will keep him in green and white for now, he will not always be a Spartan. What this salary increase says is that Michigan State recognizes that Dantonio's assistants have contributed mightily to the recent success of the program and the school wants to maintain a winning program. Narduzzi will also remain with Michigan State unless he takes a step up to a head-coaching job.

The Lansing State Journal got the numbers on the pay raises given out to all of Dantonio's assistants today.

Pat Narduzzi (D-Coordinator)- Three-year deal with an increase from $233,000 to $500,000. NArduzzi must pay a $250,000 buyout if he leaves his defensive coordinator position for another coordinator position. Would not have to pay buyout if he takes a head coach position.

Dan Roushar (O-Coordinator)- Increase from $230,000 to $305,000

Dave Warner (QB's)- Increase from $175,000 to $200,000

Brad Salem (RB's)- Raise from $170,000 to $200,000

Terry Samuel (WR's)- Raise from $163,000 to $182,000

Mark Staten (O-Line)- Increase from $170,000 to $200,000

Ted Gill (D-Line)- Increase from $163,000 to $182,000

Mike Tressel (LB's/Special Teams)-  Raise from $170,000 to $203,000

Harlon Barnett (DB's)- Raise from $170,000 to $203,000

May 17, 2012

Spartans Hockey to Have New Uniforms in 2012-13 Season


By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

In a recent interview with The State News' Dillon Davis, Michigan State hockey head coach Tom Anastos was asked about the possibility that the Spartans would be donning new sweaters next season. According to Anastos the Spartans won't just get one new uniform, they will get three.

The Spartans will get new home and road uniforms and an alternate "vintage" uniform to go along with them. While there is no news yet on what the uniforms will look like, when Anastos spoke with Davis he talked a bit about the new sweaters.

“Our Spartan head branding will be a key component of it in terms of creating a look and a fresh look after a couple years of wearing what we wore. Some of the design, you just learn certain things that impact the jersey from a wearing standpoint. When I came here, I asked the players if they liked the uniforms, which they did, and if they liked the material and how it wore and the comfort of it and how it allowed for performance and all those types of things. We talked about designs, and I had some of them involved and trying to create designs that are certainly cool and the players liked and recruits would like and that kind of stuff. We wanted to be able to connect the present with the past and present a little bit.”

Some have suggested that the Spartans will return to the traditional script logo that they have worn for decades, and that seems to be a valid idea as Michigan State wore that logo in every season that they have won a national championship.

The move to update the Spartans uniforms comes just two years after the university turned over the athletic department to Nike. Nike designed a university wide rebranding of every athletic club, making sure that the design of each uniform carried over across each sport.

With Nike again in charge of the redesign the uniforms should maintain much of their same look from the last two seasons. Expect minor changes to the new jerseys, nothing major. The announcement of the new uniforms, with the alternate, come just days after the University of Michigan announced three new uniforms of their own.

Could it be a bit of the in-state rivalry?

May 16, 2012

Spartans Drop Chippewas, 5-2, in Clash at Comerica


By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

The Spartans beat the Central Michigan Chippewas in the second annual "Clash at Comerica," 5-2, completing the series sweep for the season. With the win the Spartans have won all three meetings with Central Michigan this season and extend their streak against the Chippewas to five. The loss also snapped Central Michigan's 10-game win streak.

It was Michigan State's second win in the "Clash at Comerica," having beat the Chippewas 3-1 last season in the inaugural game of the series in Detroit.

Freshman pitcher Mick VanVossen improved to 4-0 on the season, allowing just two runs on five hits in his seven innings pitched. Central Michigan struck early, getting a run in the first inning off VanVossen who then shut them down, recording 10 straight batters and 13 of 14 following the early run.

Michigan State pulled ahead in the second inning when sophomore catcher Joel Fisher launched his first collegiate home run over the left field fence for a two run shot. The homer cleared the bullpens in left and landed in the seats beyond.

In the third Justin Scanlon lead off the inning with a triple and was able to scamper home after an attempted pick-off throw by Chippewa pitcher Rick Dodridge sailed on the third baseman. John Martinez tacked on another run for the Spartans later in the inning when he singled home Torsten Boss.

To lead off the fourth inning Anthony Cheky drew a walk before stealing second base. When the Chippewas catcher Tyler Huntley overthrew second base attempting to catch Cheky stealing and the ball sailed into center field, Cheky was able to advance to third base. Scanlon then singled home Cheky to make the score 5-1.

Things got interesting in the sixth when Central Michigan's Nate Theunissen tried to score from first base on a double to left field by Sam Russell. As Theunissen rounded third and headed for the plate, the Spartans were executing a perfect relay play. Left fielder Jordan Keur grabbed the ball in the outfield and fired it into the cutoff man, shortstop Scanlon, who then was able to gun Theunissen out with a perfect throw to catcher Fisher. 

Central Michigan was able to get to VanVossen for the second time in the game in the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run to right field. VanVossen would finish out the seventh before turning the ball over to the bullpen to close out the game.

Jeff Kinley was called on in the eighth inning to continue his hot streak - and he did, throwing a scoreless eighth. Head Coach Jake Boss, Jr. then turned to his closer Tony Wieber in the ninth. Wieber, the Spartans all-time saves leader, earned his eighth save of the season, tying a career high for a season.

May 11, 2012

Bucciferro Tosses Complete Game As Spartans Shutout Hawkeyes

@StateBaseball

By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

Tony Bucciferro is supposed to be the ace of the Spartan staff, and on Friday against Iowa, he was. Bucciferro threw a complete game, five-hitter in the Spartans 6-0 victory over the Hawkeyes.

The complete game shutout was the fourth of Bucciferro's career, his nine strikeouts was just one shy of his career high, and with the full nine innings under his belt, Bucciferro took sole possession of the all-time innings pitched record for Michigan State University with 352.1.

With the win, their sixth in seven games, the Spartans move into a second-place tie in the Big Ten with the Indiana Hoosiers, but still trail Purdue for first place.

As has become the norm for Michigan State, they struck early, getting a first inning run off a Ryan Krill single. The Spartans would strike again in the third when Ryan Jones singled before coming home on a Torsten Boss sac fly to make the score 2-0.

Freshman catcher Blaise Salter hammered his first career home run in the fourth inning to give Bucciferro a 3-0 lead. Bucciferro would struggle in the fifth inning, hitting three straight batters to load the bases but was able to wiggle out of the jam without allowing a run.

In the seventh inning Bucciferro again appeared to lose a bit of control when he walked and then hit a batter, putting two men on base. Once again, he was able to focus and get three straight Hawkeyes out to avoid surrendering a run.

Bucciferro was rewarded for his performance in the stressful innings with three Spartans runs in the seventh, all with two outs. As the axiom goes, two out hits get you to heaven and if that's the case John Martinez is getting to heaven. With the bases loaded and two outs Ryan Krill drew a walk to force home a run to make it 4-0. Martinez then singled to center field, scoring Justin Scanlon and Jordan Keur extending the Spartans lead to 6-0.

At 108 pitches heading into the ninth, Bucciferro could have been one long plate battle away from not finishing the game, but he was able to come out and fan two more batters in the ninth frame to close out the win with 118 pitches.

May 8, 2012

Spartans Win 30th Game; Set School Record

MSU Athletics
By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

For the first time in program history the Spartans baseball team has won 30 games in three straight seasons; Michigan State secured their 30th win on Tuesday with a 15-7 win over the Western Michigan Broncos in Kalamazoo, Mich. Last season the Spartans won 36 games and in 2010 they won 34 on the year. With the win the Spartans move up to No. 44 in the RPI rankings and within range of a possible at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

In the game on Tuesday the Spartans were efficient with their offense, recording 15 runs on 15 hits, including a season high six doubles. John Martinez lead the offense with a career day, recording four hits, four RBI and two doubles while going four-for-four with two walks.

Michigan State got on the board early with three runs in the first inning, capped by RBI doubles by Martinez and Jordan Keur. Ryan Jones got in on the hit parade with a double of his own in the second that scored a run to extend the Spartans lead to 4-0.

The Broncos weren't going to stay down long and they answered with four runs of their own on five hits in the third inning. But Jones responded with yet another RBI double in the fourth inning before being plated himself by a Torsten Boss single to make the score 6-4.

Western Michigan cut Michigan State's lead to one with a run in the bottom of the fourth but the Spartans answered right back by bringing three more runs around in the fifth inning to make the score 9-5. Blaise Salter was the guy with the big bat in the fifth, scoring two runs with a double to left field.

The Broncos would once again cut into the Spartans lead in the bottom of the fifth by scoring twice making the score 9-7, but it was all they would be able to muster. Spartan starter Mike Theodore didn't have a sparkling game going only two innings while allowing four runs on five hits.

Lefty Trey Popp came in as relief for Theodore in the third and although being a bit shaky in his two plus innings of work, earned his third win of the season. Popp pitched two plus innings while allowing eight hits and three runs.

Bryce Jenney came in to relieve Popp in the fifth inning with runners on first and third and no outs. Despite fanning a batter and getting the other two to pop out an unearned run would score on him, completing Popp's line.

Jenney finished out the game for the Spartans, earning himself a five-inning save, his first of the season. During his five innings he allowed just two hits and one run.

Michigan State tacked on runs in the sixth and seventh before closing the game with a four-run ninth to make the final score 15-7.



May 7, 2012

Spartans Take Weekend Series Against Illinois

Sean Gagnier / Gang Green
By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

The Spartans traveled to Illinois to take on the Fighting Illini this weekend and took two of three games from them; winning the first two contests before dropping the final game on Sunday. During the weekend, freshman Jimmy Pickens had a career series and earned himself conference honors.

Friday

Illinois pitching didn't stand a chance as the Spartans blasted 17 hits for 15 runs, recording eight of those runs against Illini starter Kevin Johnson in his 4.2 innings. Johnson, who had been tied for second in the Big Ten with seven wins, turned in a line that included eight allowed runs, seven earned runs on eight hits.

Spartan starter Tony Bucciferro stayed on the mound for 6.1 innings while giving up four runs on five hits and fanning five. He was tagged with the victory on the day, his fourth of the season and 24th of his career.

Pickens had a career day, going 3-for-5 with 6 RBI, a team and personal high. Highlights of Pickens' day were his two run double in the fifth and his bases-clearing triple in the sixth. Pickens' other RBI came on a single in the fourth that plated a runner.

After scoring four times in the fifth and five times in the sixth the Spartans held a ten-run, 13-3, lead over the Illini. Jared Hook would add another run on a solo home run in the seventh and Ryan Krill singled in the 15th run in the ninth inning.

Saturday

Yet another game went into extras and yet another time the Spartans came out on top - Michigan State improved its record to 7-1 in extra innings by beating the Illini 6-5 on Saturday. The victory secured the Spartans their first series win at Illinois since 2003.

Andrew Waszak tied a season high five strikeouts during his six innings of work; while on the mound he allowed eight hits and five runs, including a three-run home run in the first inning. Waszak calmed down after his shaky first inning and didn't allow another run until the fifth when the Illini scored two more to tie the game at five.

Jeff Kinley entered the game in the seventh in relief of Waszak and continued his dominance of late. Kinley threw 3.2 innings of shutout ball, adding to his scoreless streak that now sits at 26 innings. He was credited with the win, giving him a team-leading six victories on the season.

With the teams tied at five in the 10th, Jordan Keur drew a walk with one out. He then was able to get himself in scoring position by stealing second. Krill then hit a grounder to first base, but due to a bobble Keur was able to come around and score.

With Michigan State up 6-5, Kinley returned to the mound but didn't quite have it any more. An Illinois base-runner was able to get to second base on a two-base error by Pickens with one out. After fanning the next batter and walking the following one, Head Coach Jake Boss, Jr. turned to his closer Tony Wieber.

Runners on first and third and two outs, Wieber recorded his seventh save by getting the batter to pop out and close out the win for the Spartans.

Sunday

Michigan State wasn't able to complete the sweep over Illinois on Sunday, losing to the Illini, 8-6. The Spartans never led in the contest, but were able to tie things up three different times.

The see-saw match began when Illinois plated a run in the bottom of the second ahead of a Ryan Jones solo home run in the top of the third to tie the game at one. Illinois regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning by scoring an unearned run, but Pickens homered in the top of the fourth to tie the game at two all.

In the bottom of the fourth the Illini scored three more and racked up two more hits in the fifth before Spartan starter David Garner was pulled. Bryce Jenney came in as relief for Garner but allowed a sac-fly to extend the Illini lead to 6-2.

But three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh by the Spartans tied things at six. It was a three-run shot by John Martinez in the sixth that allowed the Spartans to get back into the game. Torsten Boss was able to cross the plate in the seventh after drawing a walk and eventually scoring on a wild pitch.

Jenney allowed a lead off single in the seventh before being relieved by Trey Popp. Popp allowed a sac-bunt, walked a batter and then gave up a single, loading the bases before being given the hook. Wieber was brought in to stop the Illinois rally but hit the first batter he faced. A sac-fly would tack on another run, giving the Illini their final 8-6 lead.

Big Ten Honors for Pickens

Pickens was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on Monday for his performance in the weekend series against Illinois. He went .500 in the series (6-for-12), racked up seven RBI, scored four times and hit his sixth homer of the season.

Comedy in the locker room

The Spartans aren't all business, take this picture from catcher Joel Fisher. It shows him and fellow backstop Blaise Salter engaged in what Fisher referred to as "locker room chicken."

@J_Fish32 / Twitter

May 4, 2012

Michigan State Likely to Renovate Munn Ice Arena

By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

There was a rumor that there was an internal deadline within the Michigan State athletic department to make a decision about the future of Munn Ice Arena; renovate or build new. It appears that Athletic Director Mark Hollis has made his decision - to renovate.

In an interview with the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode, Hollis said that barring any unforeseen infusion of donor money, the school would move forward with a renovation project instead of seeking to build a new stadium.

Hollis puts the price tag on a renovation at around $20 million which is far more palatable than the $70 million that he believes it would cost to build a new stadium on campus for the hockey program. Renovation could be the better choice for the Spartans, Munn has the bones to regain its luster, it just requires some effort.

Head Coach Tom Anastos said that he is happy with either direction the university chooses to go in, in talking with Rexrode he said that he has seen conceptual sketches of both options and it's a win-win. Although Anastos feels that a new stadium could be constructed for $40-$50 million, he acknowledges that MSU will have their work cut out to raise the $20 million for the renovation.

Of immediate concern for Hollis is to replace the refrigeration unit for the arena, which would allow for more consistent ice conditions in the stadium. The current cooling unit is old and in desperate need of replacement, the $3 million tag for that will be footed by the department operational funds this offseason.

Suggestions on the renovation has said that the new Munn should remove the bench seating and install chairback seating throughout. In addition, expansions to the bathrooms and scouting areas could help move Munn back to being one of the better facilities in college hockey.

Improvements to the locker rooms and academic areas were highlighted by Hollis as being areas where upgrades need to take place, he also said that minor changes like adding air conditioning to the offices could happen during the renovation.

"I want to create space for NHL scouts to have a comfortable location. Recruiting-wise, you want to have a room that can be used to entertain recruits. I want to develop the changing rooms, locker rooms, academic areas.," Hollis told Rexrode. "We’ll have an entrance plaza and we’ll have our great history on display. We just want to kind of change everything to the positive for the fans and the kids.”


   

May 2, 2012

The Future of Munn Ice Arena To Be Decided Soon


By Sean Gagnier
@SeanGagnier 

An update on this story is available here. 

The future of Michigan State's Munn Ice Arena could be in the hands of the Board of Directors and the Athletic Department right now. Rumors had it that there was to be an internal deadline of May 1st, to decide what to do with the stadium in the near future.

Athletic Director Mark Hollis has previously said that he would look into the future of Munn Ice Arena and could go as far as to build a new stadium on campus for the hockey program.

Head Coach Tom Anastos has said that he would love to have a new stadium, but didn't rule out an overhaul and update to the existing stadium. Anastos has said that this future of the 40-year-old stadium would be heavily dependent on the funding they receive.

If the school chooses to build a new stadium there are options in place that could transform Munn into a stadium for wrestling and gymnastics, allowing indoor track to move into Jenison Field House on campus.

Michigan State will have to weigh their options in the near future and decide what they want to do with Munn; overhaul and upgrade or build a new stadium.

"Our university realizes that we're in a 40-year-old building. It's time for an upgrade," said Coach Anastos in an interview with The State News' Dillon Davis.