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Midweek starters key to Spartans' success

April 29, 2010

Winning midweek nonconference games is crucial if the MSU baseball team wants to make the NCAA Tournament.

Because the Spartans don’t want to overuse their top three pitchers, who start in the weekend Big Ten matchups, the responsibility of taking the mound for the midweek games usually falls to inexperienced underclassmen.

But after a somewhat shaky start, Tony Wieber (3-0) and Andrew Waszak (4-1) haven’t been pitching like underclassmen.

In the two nonconference wins this week for MSU against Eastern Michigan, the two freshmen combined to throw 13 2/3 scoreless innings.

“I think we are starting to see the fruits of all their labors,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “They are developing into two pretty good arms for us.”

Waszak pitched a gem in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Eastern Michigan, throwing 7 2/3 shutout innings, allowing only two hits and striking out seven.

Waszak’s owns a 6.00 ERA in nine appearances, which is deceptively high due to a rough start against Western Michigan on April 14 when he allowed seven runs in 1 1/3 innings. Wieber holds a 5.08 ERA, also in nine appearances.

In Tuesday’s 5-1 win over Eastern Michigan, Wieber showed solid command, throwing 6 1/3 innings and allowing only three hits while striking out six.

It was Wieber’s second straight impressive start. On April 20 against Western Michigan, he scattered seven hits in seven scoreless innings in an MSU win.

At the heart of the duo’s success is a simple goal — just throw strikes, a feat more difficult than it may seem.

“Everyone in college is a good hitter, but pitching is always the same,” Wieber said.

“If you throw strikes and hit your spots, you are going to be successful.”

When the freshman pitchers are throwing lights out, it sure takes the stress off the team when they step to the plate.

“You don’t see too many weekday guys that keep your team in the ballgame like they have this year so far,” junior shortstop Jonathan Roof said. “When they keep putting zeros on the board we can go out there and relax at the plate and we don’t have to worry about scoring a lot of runs for them.”

None of the Spartans’ three starting weekend pitchers are seniors this year. And with the two freshmen throwing so well down the stretch of the season, Boss is expecting some competition for the conference starts next season.

“Me and Tony talk about it sometimes,” Waszak said of the prospect breaking into the starting weekend rotation. “It’s not something we’re looking too far into but it’s just fun to go out there and do our job and keep battling.”

Boss agreed the future of MSU’s pitching staff looks bright.

“I think they are capable down the road of starting on the weekend,” Boss said. “You try and groom guys to be ready for that role. I think they both have the mindset to start on the weekend and if they continue to have success. Hopefully they get that chance.”

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