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Spartan Baseball Series Preview: Nebraska

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Michigan State heads to Lincoln for the first time

The Spartans are hitting the road one final time to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska leads the B1G and with it being so late in the season MSU can only hope to ruin their chances of claiming a conference title.

Michigan State is heading to Lincoln for their first time ever. The series will start later on today where first pitch is slated for 7:35 p.m. This will also be just the third regular season series meeting between these two teams.

MSU holds a 26-19 record (8-10 B1G). They are coming off of a midweek sweep for the first time all season edging out Western Michigan before giving Eastern the business for a 11-6 win.

Sparty’s last Big Ten series didn’t go so well — losing two out of three games to Iowa (also in contention for first place in the conference).

The Basics

The Numbers

  • Record: 30-16-1 (12-5-1 conference, 15-5 Home)
  • Best Win: vs Arizona (RPI: 17), W 1-0
  • Worst Loss: vs Ohio State (RPI: 157), L 7-9

Last Five Games

  • 5/10 — Creighton, W 4-0
  • 5/7 — Rutgers, W 7-6
  • 5/6 — Rutgers, W 9-3
  • 5/5 — Rutgers, W 8-5
  • 4/30 — Ohio State, W 11-9

The Cornhuskers improved to 30-16 with a 4-0 win over Creighton Wednesday for their fifth straight victory. NU is ranked in a number of polls including the Baseball America Top 25 (No. 25), along with the Collegiate Baseball poll (No. 26).

They are also receiving votes in the USA Today Coaches poll and the NCBWA polls.

Nebraska took the conference lead following their sweep of the Rutgers on Sunday. Their .694 winning pct leads the second place Maryland and Minnesota squads respectively.

NU’s best finish in the B1G regular season since joining the conference has been second place, in 2017 they have another opportunity to try and eclipse that ranking.

Since their joining in 2012, they have finished second in the Big Ten three separate times — 2013, 2014, and 2016. The last time a Huskers team won a conference title was all the way back in 2005 where NU won the Big 12 and made it to the College World Series.

Huskers To Know

After making very few starts last season as a freshman, turned sophomore Angelo Altavilla has become a huge contributor for the Huskers on both ends. He has started 45 games this year and has a .311 batting average (2nd best), with 11 doubles (tied for most on team), one triple, and 30 RBI (2nd on team).

Altavilla has shown his versatility this year on defense as the coaching staff has moved him around in the infield when necessary. A young guy willing to do anything to help his team win.

NU’s head coach Darin Erstad knows how to win, it’s something he has done and accomplished ever since he was hired as the Husker manager. This last Tuesday he won his 200th career game, becoming the fifth coach in history to achieve such a number.

His winning can be correlated with his handling of the teams bullpen who always seems to do it’s job, especially with a lead. According to some saber-metrics the Huskers had won 73 straight games when leading after the eighth inning prior to a loss against the Rutgers last season. Since then NU has gotten that number back up to 40.

A formidable pitching staff indeed, here’s a quick look at their numbers this year:

How The Spartans Match Up

Most would agree for most of this season Michigan State baseball has been quite the roller coaster. Sometimes MSU is all the way up, and other times Sparty is all the way down.

Michigan State hasn’t had a winning streak of four or more since March. Which dates back to their first Big Ten outing against Illinois. Since the conference schedule kicked in MSU has had a winning streak of three games in a row one time (when they swept Fresno State in early April).

Bottom line it’s my belief this Spartan team isn’t strong enough as a unit to beat this Huskers squad that currently leads the B1G.

MSU hasn’t given anyone good reason to believe they can play at a high level against really good competition.

Their last win against a team with a winning record came against Iowa, and before that it was Fresno State (who turned out to be an average team). Prior to MSU’s win against Iowa they had five chances to grab quality wins after they swept the Bulldogs.

The Spartans went 0-5 during that stretch in regards to playing teams with winning records. In that same span they were 5-3 against squads who were below .500.

Prediction

There isn’t much hope for the Spartans this weekend. In the end they may be a relatively easy target for the Huskers on their way to a conference title.

Since the B1G started Nebraska has five losses within the conference. Aside from one bad loss to Ohio State NU has four other dings on their resume against teams who have been in direct competition for the title at one time or another (Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota).

I’m picking Nebraska to win this series pretty candidly.

MSU loses series 0-3