The Spartans are coming off of a 3-2 loss to Western Michigan (who turned out to be very good). The Broncos held the Spartans hitless in the final three innings and let up only 8 in the game. Michigan State fans can relax because the odds of that happening in back to back games are slim. The Spartans have been a great offensive team in 2017 and haven’t fizzled out more than a couple times.
Michigan State will be in East Lansing their next three games, all against Minnesota - who happens to be second in the Big Ten behind the Spartans. The series kicks off today at 3:05 p.m.
Minnesota has had a pretty good year so far and they look like the real deal, so let’s get right into it.
- Record: 15-8 (3-0 conference, 7-3 Away)
- Best Win: @ Ohio State (RPI:36), W 5-2
- Worst Loss: vs North Dakota State (RPI: 195), L 1-3
Last Five Games
- 3/28 - Kansas, W 5-2
- 3/25 - Ohio State, W 6-5
- 3/25 - Ohio State, W 15-5
- 3/24 - Ohio State, W 5-2
- 3/18 - Sacramento State, W 5-2
Minnesota has been on a tear in 2017 which should lead people to believe this series is going to be challenging, competitive, and fun. The Gophers are currently 15-8 overall, 8-5 at home, and 7-3 away. This team doesn’t lose much and they match the Spartans for wins on the year - not to mention they are on a six-game winning streak.
The Minnesota Gophers have five players averaging .305 or better from the plate, and plenty of others just below the .300 mark. Their pitching isn’t to shabby either - the team ERA is 4.11, meaning they allow less than five runs a game as a group while four of their top five pitchers have an ERA less than 2.73.
The Gophers are a very balanced baseball team which is something the Spartans should definitely be preparing for.
Gophers To Know
Minnesota has a .284 team batting average, with their best players being Jordan Kozicky (.400) and Luke Pettersen (.397). Both guys have been having tremendous seasons thus far and look to keep it up moving forward.
Here’s how their year is stacking up so far:
- Jordan Kozicky (INF/C): .400 (12-30), 4 2B, 1 3B, 8 RBI
- Luke Pettersen (INF): .397 (31-78), 1 2B, 12 RBI
Their best pitchers - led by Lucas Gilbreath - have been doing well lately. Gilbreath has posted an ERA of 2.73 with a record of 2-0 and 34 strikeouts. Brian Glowick leads the Gophers relievers with 9 saves, a 0.59 ERA, and has struck out 16 batters.
Here’s a snapshot of how the rest of their guys are doing:
How The Spartans Match Up
Following the loss to Western, the Spartans are putting out a 3.34 team ERA with Alex Troop leading all Michigan State players with a 2.23 ERA and 30 strikeouts. Walter Borkovich has pitched the most out of any Spartan (other than Troop) and leads the team with a 4-1 record. Lastly, the young gun Riley McCauley has been outstanding from the bullpen with five saves in 7.2 IP, and 13 SO.
Running down those stats should put ease some worried fans’ minds. The team’s pitching has consistently gotten better and has been directly correlated with winning. We all know the offense is good and anytime the Spartans offense takes the field it’s almost a foregone conclusion they will perform.
3.34 - that’s the teams ERA - something we just went over but really let that marinate for a second because over the last five games the most runs let up by Michigan State was 6 in the series closer vs Illinois. That means if even an average Michigan State offense shows up, the Spartans have a great chance of leaving as the victors in most situations (unfortunately when the offense doesn’t show up its usually pretty bad).
Regardless, the Spartans match up very well in this one, but the series could go either way.
Incredibly, Michigan State is going to have its very first home stand this weekend. Two other games against Western and Central have taken place, but those were just single match ups. The Spartans have yet to host a series and now is their chance.
Minnesota may be the best team they have faced (other than Western) since Clemson/South Carolina. The Gophers are well balanced, they have enough experience to be successful and just put a good Ohio State ball club in their place this past weekend. Saying all that, I’m still picking Michigan State to win this series.
I stand by my last prediction prior to the Broncos game on Tuesday. The Spartans are simply on a mission - one that involves a lot of winning and proving themselves - and anytime this team has experienced anything other than success they have bounced back and brought it harder and better than the previous time. When they lost to UNC-Greensboro, they came back and won three in a row. Following a three game losing streak - the Spartans won 6 out of the next 7.
It’s this teams M.O. and I see it happening again in this series.