Baseball facing long week of tough games


Juniors Jimmy Pickens and Blaise Salter will lead the Spartans into the six-game stretch after a couple strong outings this past weekend at Minnesota. MSU swept a doubleheader against the Golden Gophers on Sunday to win the series and improve to 12-11 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play.

This past weekend, Pickens had two hits and one RBI in four at-bats in the team’s second game, a 5-0 win over Minnesota. In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader, a 15-0 beating of the Golden Gophers, Pickens scored two runs and had two hits.

Pickens is a two-year letterwinner for the Spartans and has 15 career home runs. He also has more than 70 RBI’s. Last year, he was a second-team All-Big Ten selection, and this year, he was named a Big Ten Player to Watch in 2014.

Pickens started all 50 games for MSU last year, and was named the Kirk Gibson Co-Offensive Player of the Year.

He ranked first on the team in RBI’s, total bases, home runs and slugging percentage.

The Spartans, led by Pickens, pick up northern play again at Eastern Michigan on Tuesday and conclude the stretch with a homestand against Siena on Sunday.

MSU also will be competing in the annual Crosstown Showdown this week against the Lansing Lugnuts. Pickens will look to replicate his performance from last year’s Crosstown Showdown, as he went 1-3.

Here are brief previews for the four opponents MSU will take on this week.

Eastern Michigan Eagles (10-13 overall, 1-5 Mid-American Conference)

Date: Tuesday at 6:05 p.m.

Location: Oestrike Stadium in Ypsilanti, Mich.

Overview:   Eastern Michigan is led in hitting by senior infielder Lee Longo, who leads the Eagles in hits, doubles and RBI’s. The Eagles have been up and down all season, but have an impressive win over then-No. 16 Clemson and Big Ten foe Northwestern. Out of the official games, Eastern Michigan should pose the largest challenge for the Spartans this week.

Oakland Golden Grizzlies (4-11 overall, 0-3 Horizon League)

Date: Wednesday at 3:05 p.m.

Location: McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field in East Lansing

Overview: MSU has owned Oakland in the career series, with a 32-3 advantage, and this year’s matchup appears to look the same way. The Golden Grizzlies started the year hot, winning four of their first seven games, including a victory over No. 24 Oklahoma State on the road.

But since then, they have faded — they’re winless since March 1. Wednesday also will be MSU’s home opener.

Lansing Lugnuts (0-0 overall)

Date: Thursday at 7:05 p.m.

Location: Cooley Law School Stadium in Lansing

Overview: Thursday will be the eighth edition of the Crosstown Showdown between MSU and the Lansing Lugnuts. The game is officially ruled an exhibition game and is known as the season opener for the Lugnuts as a minor-league team. MSU fell to the Lugnuts, 10-2, last season, with the Lugnuts holding a 5-2 advantage in the series. Last year’s Crosstown Showdown was moved back to a later date because of poor weather and field conditions.

Siena Saints (5-18 overall, 5-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)

Date: Saturday at 12:05 p.m. and 4:05 p.m.; Sunday at 1:05 p.m.

Location: McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field in East Lansing, Mich.

Overview: Siena opened the season winless in its first 17 games, but has won five of its last six in conference play.

The series will be the first time these two teams have played each other.

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