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Spartans host Ohio State in three-game weekend series

March 29, 2012
Freshman pitcher Mick VanVossen throws a pitch Wednesday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Central Michigan Chippewas 6-5. Jaclyn McNeal/The State News
Freshman pitcher Mick VanVossen throws a pitch Wednesday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium. The Spartans defeated the Central Michigan Chippewas 6-5. Jaclyn McNeal/The State News

Tony Bucciferro knows he’s expected to have a good outing when he takes the mound for the MSU baseball team (15-7) at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday at McLane Baseball Stadium at Kobs Field in the Big Ten opener against Ohio State (13-10 overall, 1-2 Big Ten).

But while the senior right-hander understands he needs to set the tone for the weekend and conference season as a whole, Bucciferro has a little something extra to motivate him as Saturday approaches.

“In the past, I’ve kind of struggled against Ohio State,” Bucciferro said, laughing. “I look at the games the same way, but there’s a little chip on my shoulder, since I haven’t done as well. But I’m going to be ready for them. Our team is going to be ready, and with our defense behind me, I think we’re going to play well.”

In his last two outings against the Buckeyes, Bucciferro gave up 22 hits and 13 earned runs in 10.2 innings of work. Most recently Ohio State saw Bucciferro last only 3.2 innings after allowing eight runs to cross the plate.

He’ll have a chance for redemption Saturday as MSU begins its pursuit of repeating as Big Ten champions with a three-game series against the Buckeyes. Originally scheduled to begin a day earlier, the series will be played Saturday, Sunday and Monday because of inclement weather expected in the area Friday.

Bucciferro leads a pitching staff that boasts a Big Ten-best 2.7 ERA and has been the Spartans’ biggest asset all season.

MSU is riding an eight-game winning streak, and Bucciferro said he and his teammates carry a considerable amount of momentum into the weekend.

“We’re really excited,” Bucciferro said. “Coming off a couple good weekends and then two midweek game wins, we’re all excited to get this conference season started and defend our Big Ten championship.”

The Spartans made a commitment this season to treat every game as a big one, but players admitted there’s something more special about conference play. After winning the program’s first Big Ten championship since 1979 in 2011, junior second baseman Ryan Jones said the team hasn’t talked about last season that often.

They do, however, know there is a target on their backs now.
“We try not to think about,” Jones said.

“Last year is last year, and there’s a new ball club this year. But everybody has us circled on their schedule, so we’re going to have to be ready to play every weekend.”

Ohio State lost two of three games against Purdue last weekend and has the worst team ERA (5.18) in the conference.

But players and head coach Jake Boss Jr. said every Big Ten team is dangerous.

Still, with his pitching staff in a zone and his offense picking it up as of late, Boss said his team feels confident before every game right now, which is a good way to enter Big Ten play.

“With a good Ohio State coming into town, we’ve got some momentum going, and hopefully (we will) keep it rolling,” Boss said. “Hopefully the weather is good this weekend, we get a nice crowd and start off on the right foot in the conference.”

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