Tuesday, April 23, 2024

MSU baseball looks to correct recent pitching woes against Rutgers in Big Ten home season opener

March 29, 2024
<p>MSU baseball players watch as sophomore pitcher No. 16 Joseph Dzierwa throws a pitch during the team’s home opener vs. the University of Evansville at McLane Baseball Stadium on March 15, 2024.</p>

MSU baseball players watch as sophomore pitcher No. 16 Joseph Dzierwa throws a pitch during the team’s home opener vs. the University of Evansville at McLane Baseball Stadium on March 15, 2024.

Photo by Matthew Williams | The State News

Michigan State baseball has had a rough start to the season, including two losses at Maryland and a loss to Oakland at home, a game in which the Spartans allowed 16 hits and went through seven pitchers.

However, the Spartans look to spin things around and possibly take a series win against Rutgers in Michigan State's home series opener against a Big Ten team. The Rutgers are 18-7 and have not played a Big Ten team yet, as opposed to Michigan State's 10-13 record overall and a 1-2 record in Big Ten play.

Rutgers will be visiting East Lansing for the first time since 2018 in this matchup and the Scarlet Knights are 12-6 in away games this season and are fresh off of a series win against the University of Connecticut and a lone victory at home against the New Jersey Institute of Technology. 

Rutgers comes into East Lansing with a potent offense: the team is averaging just over nine runs per game and are hitting .336 as a team, and seven out of its usual nine starters are hitting over .300.

The biggest threats to look out for on the Scarlet Knights' veteran roster are junior infielder Josh Kuroda-Grauer, who leads the Big Ten in batting average at .435, which is 18th overall in the nation, and also leads the nation in hits, sophomore outfielder Trent Cohen and redshirt-sophomore Tony Santa Maria, who has already hit eight home runs and has a .717 slugging percentage — the most in the Big Ten — among other standouts in their lineup.

Michigan State's head coach Jake Boss Jr. said that the team is "excited to play at home this weekend" but it will be a tough battle against a talented Rutgers team.

“Playing at home here at Kobs Field is something we take a lot of pride in," Boss Jr. said. "We’re excited to welcome in a very talented Rutgers team, (a) very experienced Rutgers team. They’re very well coached, (and) they play hard, we know we’re going to get a good effort out of them.”

The recent pitching struggles for the Spartans will need to end to limit the Rutgers offense from their average production during the series. The Michigan State pitching staff carries a 5.29 earned runs average as a whole on the season so far.

Batting for the Spartans hasn't been an issue yet as they’ve averaged just under seven runs a game this season (6.96) and are at a .297 batting average as a team. They’re coming off of outputs of 16 runs against the University of Michigan and seven runs consecutively, both at Michigan and Oakland.

Graduate catcher Sam Thompson has hit the ball well lately and spoke about the team’s recent performance coming into the game.

“A good midweek on Tuesday against Michigan, obviously (we) scored a boatload of runs, it’s always good to do there, especially in their park,” Thompson said. “(It was) a tough one here yesterday, but I think that’ll just make us even more motivated to put together a really solid weekend and get up there in the Big Ten standings and play some good baseball moving forward."

For Friday's game, Michigan State's left-handed sophomore Joseph Dzierwa, who is 2-1 on the season and has a 4.18 earned runs average, will take the mound. For Rutgers, left-handed senior Justin Sinibaldi will pitch, who is currently 4-0 and has an earned runs average of 3.02.

On Saturday, March 30, Michigan State's senior Nick Powers (3-2, 2.57 earned runs average), will match up against sophomore right-hander Christian Coppola (4-1, 6.41 earned runs average), who is representing the Scarlet Knights.

The final game of the weekend, Sunday, March 31, will have starters graduate student Nick Ferazzi, who is 0-1 on the season and has a 5.29 earned runs average so far, will take on freshman Zack Konstantinovsky of Rutgers. Konstantinovsky has a 0-3 record and has a 6.48 earned runs average.

The games will all be played at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field in East Lansing. Friday and Saturday’s game both will begin at 3:35 p.m while Sunday’s game will start at 1:05 p.m.

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