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MSU and CMU to face off at Comerica Park Wednesday night

April 13, 2016
<p>Then-senior infielder Ryan Richardson stands on deck April 14, 2015, during the game against&nbsp;U-M at Comerica Park in Detroit. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 4-2. Allyson Telgenhof/The State News.</p>

Then-senior infielder Ryan Richardson stands on deck April 14, 2015, during the game against U-M at Comerica Park in Detroit. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines, 4-2. Allyson Telgenhof/The State News.

MSU head baseball coach Jake Boss has made it very clear that he wants his team to be the best team in the state of Michigan. And after defeating the University of Michigan on Tuesday afternoon by a final score of 11-5, the Spartans are now 2-2 against in-state opponents. MSU can improve to 3-2 on Wednesday when it plays Central Michigan University at Comerica Park in downtown Detroit for the “Clash at Comerica."

The first pitch of the game is set for 7:05 p.m.

“It’s an easy day to get excited to play,” Boss said. “Playing at Comerica Park is something special for sure and we’re playing a good Central Michigan ball club… so it’s easy to get excited. Hitting can be contagious and hopefully that will carry over.”

Wednesday’s meeting between the Spartans and the Chippewas will be their second of three meetings this season. In their first matchup on March 23, the Spartans’ home opener, MSU defeated Central by a final score of 4-1. Since their mid-March meeting, the Spartans are 7-3.

The Chips are fired up

Since their last meeting against the Spartans, the Chippewas are 3-8 and are 7-25 overall on the season. CMU is 2-4 in conference play, which ranks them fifth in the Mid-American Conference West Division. CMU is only ahead of Western Michigan University, who is 1-5 in MAC play.

So far this season, the Chippewas are hitting .235 as a team. Sophomore infielder Zach McKinstry is at the helm of CMU’s offense hitting .352 this year. In 128 at bats, McKinstry has 45 base hits, including a team-leading eight extra-base hits. McKinstry leads CMU with eight stolen bases and has driven in 12 RBI’s while crossing the plate 16 times this season.

CMU’s biggest problem this year has been with their pitching rotation. As a team, Central ranks ninth in the MAC with a 6.53 ERA. One of CMU’s leading starters, junior left-hander Nick Deeg has a 1-6 record on the season. In eight starts, Deeg has a 6.27 ERA and a 1.592 WHIP. Deeg is holding opponents to a .299 opposing batting average and leads the team with 43 strikeouts.

MSU is red-hot

The Spartans are about halfway through their regular season and MSU is still firing on all cylinders. MSU’s 5-1 record in the Big Ten is leading all other teams in the conference, and the Spartans also lead conference opponents with a 22-6 overall record.

Offensively, MSU ranks second in the conference with a .313 batting average, only behind Minnesota, which is hitting .329 as a team. Junior infielder Jordan Zimmerman is leading the MSU offense this season, hitting .437 in his first season with the Spartans. Zimmerman is currently riding a 21-game hitting streak, which spans all the way back to March 5, against Auburn. Aside from Zimmerman, eight Spartans are hitting above .300.

MSU’s pitching staff ranks among the best in the Big Ten as well. MSU leads the conference with a 2.45 ERA. The Spartans are also holding opponents to a .225 batting average and have only allowed 89 runs this season, which leads all other teams in the Big Ten. Spartan ace Cam Vieaux is leading the rotation this season with a 5-1 record. In eight starts, Vieaux has a 1.38 ERA and leads the team with 51 strikeouts.

Not their first Clash at Comerica

Wednesday’s matchup between the Spartans and the Chippewas will be their sixth at Comerica. In the five games before it, CMU has won three of those games, but MSU won the first game of the series back in 2011 3-1.

In last year’s Clash, CMU topped the Spartans in come-from behind fashion in an 8-7 walk-off victory. MSU was leading 7-2 in the bottom of the ninth, but the Chippewas topped off the rally with a walk-off hit by then-senior third baseman Morgan Oliver.

The past is the past, however, and the Spartans will look to continue to play the same brand of baseball they’ve been playing in recent games.

“We love playing at a Major League park,” sophomore outfielder Brandon Hughes said. “Our mentality is to bring the same focus that we had (against Michigan) into tomorrow.”

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Probable pitchers for the matchup have not been determined.

“Our guys need to understand that every game is important,” Boss said. “Especially if we do what we say what we want to do. We want to make the postseason… our job is to go out there and play hard every day and that’s what we’re striving to do. We’ve got a chance to play in a big league ballpark, something that most of our guys have done but we don’t do it every day so it should be pretty easy to get excited and play again tomorrow.”

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