There hasn’t been too much baseball being played in East Lansing lately, and that’s mainly because of the chaotic weather the last couple of weeks. Between snow flurries and downpours three of MSU’s last five games on the schedule have been postponed or cancelled due to the weather.
But now that this home stand is over, the Spartans will be traveling out to University Park, Penn. for a three game weekend series against Penn State.
The Spartans will be facing the Nittany Lions after coming off an unexpected 4-2 loss to the Eastern Michigan Eagles on Tuesday afternoon. MSU currently sits at a 19-5 record on the season and 3-0 in the Big Ten — both of which are leading the conference, while Penn State will enter the weekend 4-2 in the Big Ten and 17-12 overall.
MSU has a chance to improve to 6-0 in the Big Ten and 22-5 overall, but the Spartans will have to play to the best of their abilities and keep Penn State in check for that to happen.
No roar from the plate
Coming into this weekend series, Penn State is hitting .255 as a team, which ranks 12th in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lion offense is led by juniors Jim Haley and Nick Riotto. Haley is currently leading the team with a .351 average, 27 runs and 20 RBI’s. Riotto is the second best hitter for Penn State, currently hitting .314 on the year, and the outfielder is leading his club with a .437 on base percentage.
One of the biggest keys for MSU to come away victorious this weekend is to keep these two hitters on lockdown. If you take Haley and Riotto out of the equation, Penn State is only hitting .232 as a team.
A major part of why Penn State is in fourth place in the Big Ten standings is because of their pitching this season. Penn State also ranks fourth in the conference with a 3.28 ERA and their pitching staff is holding opponents to a .242 batting average this season.
Freshman starting pitcher Justin Hagenman is at the helm of Penn State’s pitching rotation, leading the team with a 4-1 record in seven starts this season. Hagenman will face the Spartans with a 1.96 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 46.0 innings of work so far.
Out of the bullpen, the Nittany Lions have been relying on senior right-hander Jack Anderson. In 17 appearances this season, Anderson leads the club with a 0.61 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 29.1 innings.
What it boils down to
When this series is all said and done, if MSU want’s to continue their run at a Big Ten title, the Spartans will need to take at least two of three games over the weekend. MSU got off to a white-hot start this season and as the season continues, their performance against Big Ten opponents will show if they’re legit competitors or not.
MSU will win the series if they keep Haley and Riotto in check. On paper, the Spartans are the better team both on the mound and at the plate, and the numbers back it up. Apart from big bats in the Spartans’ starting lineup like Jordan Zimmerman and junior second baseman Dan Durkin, look for other guys like sophomore outfielder Brandon Hughes, junior outfielder Taylor Grace and freshman infielder Marty Bechina to get back on track.
The Spartans will lose the series if Penn State out competes them. In their last two weekday games — against Oakland University and EMU — where the Spartans were outhit and outscored in those contests and the end result were two blemishes on MSU’s resume that could harm them if things take a turn for the worst later in the season.
First pitch for game one is set for 6:30 p.m. All three games will be televised on BTN Plus, or you can catch audio on the Spartan Sports Network.