Coming into the Big Ten series finale, the MSU baseball team is trying to remain poised in the face of elimination.
Currently seventh in the Big Ten standings, the Spartans (31-16, 10-8 Big Ten) will travel to Penn State University today for a must-win Big Ten series finale. The top six teams advance to the Big Ten Tournament. If MSU sweeps the last-place Nittany Lions, it will receive a bid to the tournament in Minneapolis, set for May 22-26.
“You can almost say it’s tournament time right now for us; if we don’t win, we’re not going to keep playing,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said.
However, if the Spartans take two out of three from Penn State, they are going to need help from either Michigan or Illinois, currently are tied for sixth in the standings.
MSU has momentum coming off a doubleheader sweep of Central Michigan University. As a team, the Spartans had 24 hits in the two wins.
“It was great for us to break out into a hitting streak for a little bit,” sophomore designated hitter Blaise Salter said. “We came out swinging real well, and we pitched really well; hopefully we can carry that momentum into this weekend.”
Salter leads MSU with a .347 batting average.
Senior Andrew Waszak has the ball for the Spartans in the first game, and according to Boss, there’s no other guy you want out there.
“He’s our guy — no question he’s been really good all year long — in that role especially,” Boss said. “He competes and battles; he’s going to get deep in the game to give us our best chance.”
Waszak is 5-3 on the season with a 2.44 ERA. “I don’t want to put that much pressure on myself, but I’m pretty pumped up,” Waszak said.
Junior catcher Joel Fisher has been catching Waszak for six years. “He’s moved his way up through the ranks, he’s going to go out there and battle for you,” Fisher said.
Hot-hitting sophomore right fielder Jimmy Pickens is excited for the series. Pickens had five RBIs in the doubleheader against Central.
“If you can’t get excited for these next three games, you shouldn’t be playing,” Pickens said.
MSU starts the first game of its final series at 6:05 p.m. Thursday at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.