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Preview: Baseball looks to rebound against U-M in three-game weekend series

March 22, 2018
Junior catcher Nic Lacayo (27) bunts the ball down the first base line during the game against Central Michigan on March 21, 2018 at McLane Baseball Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Chippewas, 3-1. (C.J. Weiss | The State News)
Junior catcher Nic Lacayo (27) bunts the ball down the first base line during the game against Central Michigan on March 21, 2018 at McLane Baseball Stadium. The Spartans fell to the Chippewas, 3-1. (C.J. Weiss | The State News) —

Baseball will head to Ann Arbor at 4 p.m. Friday to begin a three-game series with rival University of Michigan.

Friday and Sunday games will be played in Ann Arbor, with a 1:05 first pitch on Saturday at McLane Baseball Stadium in East Lansing in between.

Both teams have had difficult beginnings to the season, as the Spartans stand 6-13 and the Wolverines are 9-11, although they are trending in opposite directions. The Spartans have dropped three of their last four, and the Wolverines come in riding a five-game win streak. 

Spartan standouts include sophomore outfielder Justin Antoncic who is currently hitting .308 with eight runs batted in. Do-it-all freshman Zach Iverson leads the Spartans in on base percentage at .434, and also has three pitching appearances on the season, striking out four batters and not allowing a run. 

The in-state rivals usually meet later in the season, but Spartan head coach Jake Boss Jr. was dismissive of the timing of the games as a factor. 

“We’ll play them anytime, anywhere. We’ll play them in December if we have to, it doesn’t matter," he said. "Anytime you get a chance to play against your rival, the guys will be ready to play." 

Junior outfielder Jonathan Engelmann leads the Wolverines in batting average, hitting .301 with 11 runs batted in. Sophomore Jack Weisenburger leads the Wolverines in pitching appearances, with seven. He has struck out 17 batters in 14.2 innings, and possesses a 3.68 ERA.

The Spartans have struggled to score runs of late, managing just five runs in four of their last five losses. Boss said he believes situational awareness will be key to hitting against the Wolverines this weekend.

“We’re going to have to be able to transfer the approach from one situation to the next, and really separate each at-bat like there’s nobody on-base,” he said. “It’s just one-on-one out there, the pitcher against the hitter, and none of the external factors really should matter.”

Boss did not back down from the discussion of the rivalry when asked about it after the Spartans’ 3-1 loss to Central Michigan University on Wednesday.

“I mean, we’re always ready to play, guys get excited to play, not only in the Big Ten, but against those guys,” he said. “You play against your rival, everything is more heightened. Their coach said last year, ‘We don’t like them, they don’t like us,’ there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m fine with that.” 

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