The baseball team (11-11 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) is entering a key stretch of the season and it has come out the gates swinging.
Spending the first month plus playing baseball on the road in the south the team returned to East Lansing to play its first two games at home.
Before the team takes on No. 26 Illinois (18-5-1 overall) they had a few mid-week games on the schedule they couldn’t look past that would serve as good tune-ups.
The Spartans’ performances in these games will surely give them confidence heading into just their second conference series of the season. The team began the week with an 8-3 home opener win over Central Michigan (15-10 overall, 2-1 MAC) Tuesday and followed that performance a 7-1 win over Oakland (3-15 overall, 1-5 Horizon).
“All of these games we play mid-week are always a good tune-up for the weekends and hopefully we can carry some momentum into this really tough Big Ten weekend for us,” senior catcher and first baseman Blaise Salter said.
In the team’s first conference series of the season, the Spartans dropped two of three to the Ohio State Buckeyes so they will no doubt be looking to turn things around against the Illini.
Junior outfielder Cam Gibson believes the team’s play in their return to McLane Baseball Stadium has given the Spartans the confidence they need to get some wins against Illinois this weekend.
“Illinois has been solid all year, they’ve been tearing people apart,” Gibson said. “But we’re going to come into this weekend pretty confident (that) we’re not going to let them tear us apart. We’re going to try and take three wins this weekend.”
The Spartans hope that they can carry some of the offensive momentum they built against CMU and Oakland this week into the series with Illinois as the Illini has an impressive 2.16 team ERA, with hitters posting a meager .207 batting average against the staff as a whole.
“Illinois is one of the best teams in the country, they have one of the best pitching staffs ERA wise and it’s going to be a test for us,” Salter said.
After the three-game series with Illinois, MSU will go on the road for four. The team will play at Eastern Michigan on April 1. before heading to Eugene, Oregon for a three-game series with the No. 18 Oregon Ducks from April 3 to 5.
The team returns home to play Western Michigan on April 8. The following day the Spartans will take a one-day break from regular-season play to take on the Lansing Lugnuts in the Crosstown Showdown exhibition game.