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Spartan Baseball Preview: The First Pitch Invitational

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Michigan State heads to South Carolina where they will play three different teams over a span of three days

After a taking two of three against UNC-Greensboro Michigan State travels to Greenville, South Carolina to participate in the eighth-annual First Pitch Invitational.

The Spartans will play seven games in the next ten days starting today against Furman. Following that game Michigan State will play against Presbyterian and UT Martin.

The Spartans are currently 6-1 for the second season in a row, and the third time under head coach Jake Boss. Sparty will look to stay hot and come back from a disappointing 4-1 loss to Greensboro this past Sunday.


The Basics

The Records

  • Furman: 6-2 (0-0 conference, 2-0 Road)
  • Presbyterian: 5-5 (0-0 conference, 2-3 Road)
  • UT Martin: 5-1 (0-0 conference, 5-1 Home)

Pitchers on Pitchers

This weekend is loaded with great pitching and impressive defense, that goes for the Spartans as well.

Expected to take the mound in Friday’s match-up is Will Gaddis, a Junior from Furman. The right handed pitcher out of Brentwood, Tennessee is the reigning Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2016 (10-3, 3.45 ERA and 92 strikeouts) and was the preseason pick to win the award in 2017. He was also recently drafted in the 36th round by the New York Yankees but obviously opted out and came back to the Paladins for another year. While it’s early in 2017 his season is shaping up to be a good one.

  • Will Gaddis: 1-1, ERA-2.77, 13.0 IP, 11 Hits, 12 SO

Next up are two guys from Presbyterian, who Michigan State will face Saturday at noon. Will Smith, an RS Junior, is already turning out to be one of the best relievers/closers in the country. On February 27th, it was announced he had won his first honors since being redshirted in the previous year and was presented with the Big South’s Pitcher of the Week.

The other notable pitcher on Presbyterian is the 6’4 Senior lefty Hayden Deal, a fitting name. When he takes the mound he does more than just deal, he commands the game inning to inning. This past Sunday Hayden had himself a game pitcheing 6.2 innings, giving up only 3 hits, and recording 10 strikeouts before being pulled for Will Smith who came in and took care of the rest. So far both of these guys seasons stack up like so.

  • Will Smith: 2-0, ERA-0.00, 7.2 IP, 1 SV, 5 SO
  • Hayden Deal: 1-0, ERA-2.45, 11.0 IP, 11 Hits, 11 SO

Dalton Westfall, a 6’6 Right Handed Junior from UT Martin has been wheeling and dealing to start the year. Earlier in the season he was named the College Sports Madness OVC Player of the Week and immediately following those honors, he managed to win the OVC Baseball Pitcher of the Week. In 2017 his numbers have been the most impressive out of these four teams, the awards speak for themselves.

  • Dalton Westfall: 2-0, ERA-0.00, 15.1 IP, 5 Hits, 27 SO

As the Spartans start this weekend they will definitely want to look out for these guys.

How the Spartans Match Up

Offense will be key for the Spartans this weekend as it seems to be the best asset they currently have. Michigan State now leads the Big Ten and is top two in the nation for runs scored per game with 11.3, having already racked up 79 runs in just seven games. The Spartans posted double digit runs in three of those games, most recently a high of 22 runs vs UNC-Greensboro.

Michigan State has been spraying the ball around the field as they keep improving via team batting average, now standing third in the country with a .368 BA. They are also tied for 21st in the country when it comes to total hits with 100 in only 272 at bats.

During their first loss of the season, they struggled against the Greensboro ace, Matt Frisbee, who held them to six hits and one earned run. Michigan State’s ability to hit the ball and put loads of runs on the board will be a huge key to their success this weekend.

Prediction

Right now, Michigan State is a good baseball team that needs a lot of work in the non-offensive areas of the game. During this tournament they are facing a number of outstanding arms which, considering their struggles against Matt Frisbee, is worrisome.

The team is extremely deep with arms this year but managed to allow 16 runs last Saturday to Greensboro. Fans should question whether that speaks volumes towards the Spartan pitching staff or UNC’s ability to hit the ball. Whatever your answer, it is something else to watch for starting Friday.

With that said there is no reason to take anything away from a team who is well on their way to having another successful season and potentially winning the Big Ten.

Michigan State walks away with two victories this weekend, their one loss will come in their opener against Furman.