After making solid strides all spring long in the conference standings, Michigan State baseball finished its final month of Big Ten play with a record of 7-7, accumulating for a season total of 32 wins and 20 losses. While the .500 record to finish conference play off was not exactly ideal, the seven wins were just enough to allow MSU to grab the eighth and final seed in the Big Ten Tournament, marking a return to the conference's post-season tournament for the first time since 2018.
The return to the tournament did not come without some drama, as they held on in the final inning to outlast second seeded Indiana over the weekend by a score of 7-6 to break the five-year drought.
Coming into the tournament as an eight seed, Michigan State will face the top-seeded Maryland Terrapins, who finished conference play with a league leading 17 wins. This will be the first time all season long that these two teams will square off.
The undisputed regular season champion Terrapins march into the first round with a 37-19 overall record. While they have only played three neutral site games all year long, they have lost every single one of them. The Spartans, however, have appeared in eight such matches and are two games above .500 with a 5-3 record.
One of the biggest storylines of the game will be how the big bats in the Spartan lineup fair against a Maryland pitching staff that has been dealing with some injury issues. Junior first baseman Brock Vradenburg and fellow junior second baseman Trent Farquhar have shown to be dangerous in the batter's box all year long for MSU as Vradenburg has put up a 1.218 OPS and a team high 66 runs batted in while Farquhar has mashed 19 doubles this season. For Maryland, freshman Kyle McCoy has been out for the past two weeks with forearm tightness and could be sidelined for even longer. Senior Nick Dean and junior Jason Savacool have dealt with minor injuries as well.
While starters have yet to be announced, some pitchers who are in the mix to see the mound are freshman left hander Joseph Dzierwa, senior right hander Andrew Carson and redshirt sophomore right hander Noah Matheny. While Dzierwa and Carson have lower velocity pitches in their arsenal compared to Matheny, they are more reliable when it comes to throwing strikes than balls. Over 30.1 innings pitched, Matheny has tallied 31 strikeouts and a 7.12 earned run average. Dzierwa, who has usually been the Spartans' go-to starter for the first game of each series during conference play, has recorded 54 Ks and a 5.68 ERA in 69.2 innings of work. Compared to the underclassmen, the senior Carson has a better ERA at 3.91, but less strikeouts than Dzierwa at 47 in 19 fewer innings.
This will count as MSU's 15th all-time tournament appearance and the eighth for head coach Jake Boss Jr. The Spartans are 9-14 in conference post-season games under the skipper, winning at least one game in five of the previous seven visits as well as two games in four of the six tournaments.
The game will be the third of the tournament's opening day with first pitch clocked for 7 p.m. at Charles Schwab Field Omaha in Nebraska. While the winner will advance to play either fourth-seeded Nebraska or fifth-seeded Rutgers on Thursday evening, the losing team will still have something to play for as they will face the loser of that same game on Thursday morning.
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