Column: It's win or go home for MSU baseball
Following a dramatic come-from-behind victory over Illinois on Senior Day, MSU maintained control of the No. 6 spot in the Big Ten standings. However, MSU fell out of sixth place into seventh after winning only one out of three against Iowa this past weekend.
Coming down the final stretch of regular season play, the Spartans need to have a win-or-go-home mentality to receive a bid to the Big Ten Tournament in Minneapolis.
The top six in the conference advance to the tournament. Being a young team, MSU baseball has gone through growing pains throughout its 2013 season.
With two freshmen, six sophomores and one junior in its regular starting lineup, the Spartans have had their ups and downs.
The Spartans suffered a major loss after senior outfielder Jordan Keur tore his Achilles tendon against Indiana early in April.
Keur, a three-year letter winner with a career .315 batting average, was an All-Big Ten first team selection his junior year along with being named Big Ten Player to Watch in 2013 and voted a captain by his teammates.
Playing in 179 games, including 155 starts, Keur obviously didn’t picture ending his senior year on the bench.
However, being a captain, Keur showed maturity and contributed to his team whether it was being the first to give his teammates high fives or by offering advice to the underclassmen.
The Spartans (29-16, 10-8 Big Ten) will face off against last-place Penn State, who is 3-18 against Big Ten teams, in MSU’s final Big Ten series of the 2013 season this upcoming weekend. The team will look for the following players to maintain their big play in conference games.
Sophomore designated hitter Blaise Salter leads MSU in batting average, hitting .362 in conference games. As a team, the Spartans are hitting .280 in the Big Ten.
Senior Andrew Waszak, pitching his third year in the weekend rotation, and sophomore Mick VanVossen have been solid for the Spartans in the starting rotation. Waszak is 2-2 with a 3.25 ERA while VanVossen is 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA versus Big Ten teams.
Freshman left-hander Anthony Misiewicz has proven reliable from the bullpen, earning three wins and zero losses in conference play. In seven appearances Misiewicz has only given up two runs while striking out 11 and walking only three batters.
Illinois and Michigan are tied in front of MSU, with the same Big Ten record, 12-9. To receive a bid to the tournament, at the very least, MSU will have to sweep the series against the Nittany Lions, which would give them a Big Ten record of 13-10.
Even then, the odds are against MSU in the event that Illinois or Michigan do well in their remaining Big Ten games.
Fortunately for the Spartans, Illinois plays No. 3 Minnesota while Michigan is set to face No. 4 Nebraska in their final Big Ten series.
The Fighting Illini are fresh off a weekend sweep of Penn State, outscoring the Nittany Lions, 22-10. Michigan took two out of three from second to last Purdue.
The Spartans need to finish strong — and get a little help from Minnesota or Nebraska — to sneak back into the No. 6 spot in the Big Ten standings.
Matthew Pizzo is a State News sports reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.