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On paper, the MSU baseball team outplayed the Boilermakers this weekend.
The Spartans scored more runs (17-15), had more hits (30-25) and slammed more home runs (4-1). All the numbers point to a successful weekend, right?
Except for the fact the Spartans didn't light up the scoreboard until Sunday, when they scored 12 runs, had 15 hits and laced three of their four home runs.
Sunday's 12-1 slaughter ended the weekend on a high note, but it didn't erase the fact MSU lost the first three games by a combined score of 14-5 and, in the process, had lost six straight Big Ten games.
"It's definitely disappointing," said freshman first baseman Sean Walker, who went 6-for-14 over the weekend and was the only Spartan to record a hit in each game.
The MSU baseball team knows that calling this weekend important is an understatement.
With Ohio State on top of the Big Ten and four teams packed just one game back, this weekend might create some separation.
The Spartans (19-15 overall, 7-5 Big Ten) begin their four-game series against the Boilermakers (16-17, 6-6) at 3 p.m.
Lansing - On the first Thirsty Thursday of the season at Oldsmobile Park, the Lansing Lugnuts were hungry to get their third win in a row.
The Lugnuts (9-5) did just that, beating the Beloit Snappers, 2-0, on the inaugural in-park cheap beer fest.
It was a typical MSU-Central Michigan baseball contest coming down the stretch.
The teams were neck and neck, and whenever one seemed to gain the momentum, the other would charge back to even the score.
But Wednesday, it was the Spartans who stole and kept the momentum in the late innings, downing the Chippewas at Kobs Field, 9-4.
"They always play us tough," MSU manager Ted Mahan said.
Since the start of the Big Ten season, the Spartans have become accustomed to an assortment of things: a 21-game hitting streak by junior right fielder Travis Gulick, first place in the conference and a 12-game winning streak.
The Spartans felt so invincible, and who could blame them?
Against the talented Buckeyes, MSU knew its 12-game home winning streak and its standing atop the Big Ten would be in jeopardy.
After winning Friday's game, 10-7, a victory that kept the Spartans in sole possession of first place in the conference, MSU dropped its next three games against Ohio State, 8-7, 19-2 and 12-10.
"We gave up 46 runs this weekend and we couldn't catch the ball," MSU manager Ted Mahan said.
For the first time in years, the MSU baseball team is in the crosshairs - everyone is aiming for it.
Typically known for having solid nonconference seasons but struggling in the Big Ten, MSU (17-12 overall, 6-2 Big Ten) is having a surprising season - one that mirrors this year's Detroit Tigers.
Jay Alexander was so excited that his team was playing the Spartans at Oldsmobile Park this season, he thought it was a mistake.
The Wayne State manager, whose team is a traditional nonconference opponent for the Spartans (16-12 overall, 6-2 Big Ten), did a double-take when he looked at the Warriors' 2004 schedule when it came out.
"I wanted to make sure it was correct before I called (MSU's) coach - I didn't want him to change his mind," Alexander said.
The red-hot MSU baseball team's (16-12 overall, 6-2 Big Ten) winning streak was extinguished at 12 games after losing their final two contests in a weekend series with Illinois (10-16, 3-5).
MSU head baseball coach Ted Mahan said his team is tired and that is a factor that played into the Spartans' streak being snapped this weekend.
There is the Izzone, Slapshots, Corner Blitz and now a new kid on the block of the MSU cheering sections - Kobs Korner.
Kobs Korner is the beloved student section of the MSU baseball team (14-10). An MSU baseball team that is 10-0 at home this season, courtesy of a little help from the Korner.
"It's been fantastic," MSU head coach Ted Mahan said.
After the MSU baseball team romped Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne at Kobs Field on Wednesday, manager Ted Mahan called baseball a "streaky game."
His observation is especially fitting for the Spartans, considering they just won their 10th straight game and junior outfielder Travis Gulick extended his hitting streak to 20 games.
The Spartans (14-10) annihilated IPFW (11-18) in all phases of the game in their 12-1 win.
With the Spartans riding a nine-game winning streak, Travis Gulick's play probably has gone unnoticed by most.
On Tuesday, however, the Big Ten recognized the junior right fielder's achievements by giving him co-Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
"It was really a surprise to me," Gulick said.
If the first four games of the Big Ten season are any indication of how MSU's season will go, finishing in the top half of the league won't be a problem.
The Spartans baseball team dominated the Hawkeyes over the weekend, recording the team's first four-game sweep since 1990 while earning the conference's top spot.
"We'd certainly rather be there than the alternative," head coach Ted Mahan said.
Bryan Gale jogged out to the mound, reached down and picked up the rosin bag, adjusted his pants, fixed his cap and stared toward home plate.
It was time.
In the top of the fourth inning against Iowa on Friday, the senior right-hander was one strikeout away from setting the all-time MSU mark for Ks.
"You try not to think of it, but in a way, it's kind of in the back of your mind," Gale admitted after the game.
Ted Mahan is optimistic for this year's Big Ten season.
That's saying a lot for the MSU baseball manager, who, in his previous eight years coaching the Spartans, finished with a winning conference record once (16-12 for a third-place finish in 2002).
"If there is ever a year we should compete in the top half of the Big Ten, this is the year," Mahan said.
Of course, Mahan, a soft-spoken 47-year-old who is in his 13th year overall with MSU baseball, has facts to back up his statement:
The Spartans play 18 conference home games this season, compared to 14 away contests.
It's safe to say the MSU baseball team has turned its season around, for now.
The Spartans (9-10) won their fifth straight game, stomping Siena Heights, 13-1, at Kobs Field on Tuesday.
The Spartans had a loud and enthusiastic student cheering section at Kobs Field on Monday afternoon.
And they had plenty of reasons to be boisterous for the near three-hour contest.
The MSU baseball team's offense blistered the scoreboard and left-handed pitcher Scott Koerber silenced Indiana Tech hitters, giving the Spartans a 10-4 victory.
It was the fourth-straight victory for MSU (8-10), bumping the Spartans' home record to a perfect 4-0 this season.
"Four in a row," MSU manager Ted Mahan said after the game.
The MSU baseball team broke out its bats and showed the potential to be an exciting team in its home opener against Grand Valley State University at Kobs Field on Thursday.
The Spartans (5-10) hit four home runs on their way to a 13-8 win over Grand Valley (12-7).
"We've got a lot of big strong guys," head coach Ted Mahan said.
The MSU baseball team (4-10) lost its sixth straight game Monday against Kansas State, 13-3.
The MSU baseball team (4-9) dropped its fifth-straight game Sunday in a 8-5 loss to Kansas State.
In the fourth inning, junior center fielder Travis Gulick increased MSU's lead to 5-2 with a two-run triple.