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Spartan Baseball Series Preview: #14 Clemson

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Michigan State is pitted against their toughest test of the year

Michigan State is coming off of another great weekend, where they swept through the First Pitch Invitational. While the Invitational certainly had its challenges most fans felt the Spartans had a very good chance of leaving victorious.

Now, Michigan State shifts their focus to what may end up being their toughest test of the season, #14 Clemson. The Tigers are 8-3 on the year and just won two out of three games in a series against #8 South Carolina.

Can Michigan State win Wednesday night and join Clemson in the Top 25?


The Basics

The Numbers

  • Record: 8-3 (0-0 conference / 6-3 Home)
  • Best Win: vs Wright State (RPI: 20), 6-2
  • Worst Loss: vs South Carolina (RPI: 41), 0-2

Last Five Games

  • 3/5 - @ South Carolina, W 5-3
  • 3/4 - @ South Carolina, W 8-7
  • 3/3 - vs South Carolina, L 0-2
  • 2/28 vs Wofford, W 9-2
  • 2/26 vs Elon, W 3-0

Clemson has played an array of teams with very respectable RPI’s, namely Wright State and South Carolina. While their best win was posted against the Raiders, they actually lost that series, losing two out of three games.

The Tigers have four players who are averaging .333 or better, one of whom is hitting above .400 and has played in nine of the eleven games. There isn’t much else considering they only average .280 as a group..

Defensively, they are a lot like the Spartans in terms of errors, Michigan State has 17 of them on the year (something Jake Boss and company have yet to improve upon) and the Tigers have a total of 14. While both teams fielding percentage proves to be quite high, they can’t seem to go a game without making a few careless errors.

On the mound, the Tigers are formidable, especially in a one game series like this. Clemson has two starting pitchers, who have ERA’s under 1.00, and a high count of strikeouts. Both guys seem to be their feature aces for the year. In addition they have a reliever who can close out games and shut opponents down when he takes the mound.

Michigan State may have their work cut out for them in this one, a single game series can be tough to overcome but fans would be hard pressed to rule this Spartan team out.

Tigers To Know

There are many guys Michigan State fans should know, but one might be the best hitter in the country — Seth Beer, the reigning Dick Howser Trophy Winner (an award presented annually to the national player of the year). The now-sophomore was the first freshman to ever win the award last year when he batted .369 with 75 Hits, 13 doubles, 70 RBIs, and 18 home runs.

In 2016, he led the Tigers to a grand total of 44 wins in 2016 and Clemson’s first ACC championship in a decade. To top it off he led the team with a 26 game hitting streak, which tied for fourth-longest in Clemson history.

It’s early in the 2017 season but Beer is off to a slower start than he had in his freshman year, only averaging .265, with 9 hits, 1 double, 4 homers, and 9 RBIs. His on base percentage remains quite high at .537, thanks to walking 18 times in just 11 games.

Clemson is still a dangerous opponent, even if Beer isn’t playing at a high level. A few others have stepped up in the box and are averaging well over .300.

  • OF Reed Rohlman: .359 AVG, 14 H, 2 2B, 2 RBIs, .457 OBP
  • OF Chase Pinder: .357 AVG, 15 H, 2 2B, 12 RBIs, .449 OBP
  • 1B/OF Andrew Cox: .333 AVG, 8 H, 2 2B, 6 RBIs, .515 OBP
  • C Robert Jolly: .407 AVG, 11 H, 3 2B, 2 RBIs, .484 OBP

Clemson also has a few pitchers that any ball club would gladly welcome on to their roster. Through 11 games these guys have dealt everything they have from the mound. Ryley Gilliam (sophomore), Charlie Barnes (junior), and Jacob Hennessy (freshman) have been studs for the Tigers all year long. Posting numbers that most fans would have a hard time wrapping their heads around.

  • Ryley Gilliam: 0.82 ERA, 1-0, 11.0 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 18 SO
  • Charlie Barnes: 0.92 ERA, 0-1, 19.2 IP, 17 H, 2 ER, 24 SO
  • Jacob Hennessy: 1.80 ERA, 0-0, 10.0 IP, 10 H, 2 ER, 14 SO

How The Spartans Match Up

Michigan State is the kind of squad who will be underrated and overlooked all year but they have the ability to pull this off

The Spartans offense has been essentially criticism-proof, so fans and analysts alike have questioned their defense, specifically the early pitching struggles like giving up 16 runs to UNC-Greensboro.

Most, if not all of those complaints were shut down after the First Pitch Invitational where Michigan State pitched outstanding the entire weekend. They allowed little to no offense through three games.

The real key will be what they’ve done all year, which is shutting down the opposing teams offense (or at least keeping them at bay) and taking advantage of their own. There is no doubt Michigan State can score at will, their entire starting lineup can hit the ball. Unlike most teams, the Spartans do not have to worry about a “weak link” to throw off their rhythm.

While it’s easier said than done (Clemson does have the reigning player of the year) Michigan State has the horses to bring this team down in the rankings and hopefully move theirs into the top 25.

Prediction

We have pored over the numbers, each and every last one of them. The stats have point to a close one ending in a Clemson win, which is by no means a stretch of the imagination

That said, numbers can only tell analysts and fans so much, my gut is telling me the Spartans are going to pull this off. Somehow, someway they will walk away the victors Wednesday night. Michigan State has everything it needs to pull off an upset, they just need to show the world what they are capable of. Taking advantage of the opportunities before us is what life is all about and the Spartans plan on latching on to this one.

MSU 5 CLEMSON 3