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Spartan Baseball Season Recap: Pitching & Defense

Michigan State was inconsistent all year long

We are back for one last season recap Spartan fans! As you all know from the previous post about the offense — Michigan State’s season didn’t end well at all.

Unable to get a B1G Tournament invite they now move on to the off-season much to soon for anyone's liking. Not only did they finish the year 29-23 with a 10-14 conference mark — MSU also lost the last game of the season to their rival Michigan on senior day.

Now that we have gone through the season from an offensive perspective it’s time to switch gears towards the other side of the ball.

The Good

The good represents the end of the season for the Michigan State pitching staff.

Throughout the year the Spartans let up their fair share of runs but during the home stretch of 2017 (last month of the season) — MSU really managed to reel it in and throw quality games.

During the last month of this year they played three top five teams in the conference who were in the running for the B1G title. Those included Iowa, Nebraska, and Michigan respectively. The Spartans didn’t win any of those series but the pitchers did what they were supposed to.

By keeping the games close (out of nine games, only two were completely out of reach) the guys on the mound gave their offense a fighting chance every time out.

  • 5/5 — Iowa, L 2-3
  • 5/6 — Iowa, W 2-1
  • 5/7 — Iowa, L 4-9
  • 5/12 — Nebraska, W 6-3
  • 5/13 — Nebraska, L 2-5
  • 5/14 — Nebraska, L 7-8
  • 5/18 — Michigan, W 6-1
  • 5/19 — Michigan, L 6-11
  • 5/20 — Michigan, L 1-2 (10 innings)

Barring two games where opposing teams scored in the double digits or came close to the Spartans were in each and every game. If one or two more rallies take place Michigan State could have ended on top in a number of these games. But I digress as the offense never put much together during this time.

MSU finished third in the conference for ERA (3.79), fifth for opposing batting average (.265) and fifth for batters struck out (420). They also finished 7th for wins (29).

The Bad

This part represents the beginning of the year when the offense was on fire and the pitchers were still trying to find themselves.

More than anything this was a big feeling out process for head coach Jake Boss Jr. It’s the beginning of the season and he is simply trying to figure out who is going to fit into the rotation and where.

With the offense looking like they were in mid season form the pitching staff didn’t really worry about losing games so much as putting up good performances vs. weaker competition. Their first weekend vs Abilene Christian they gave up 14 runs in two games (seven runs a piece). That was before UNC-Greensboro put a 16 spot on the Spartans during a Saturday win.

Little things like those made fans wonder how MSU would perform within the conference because eventually the offense had to cool off.

Which is exactly what happened to this Spartan team. As mentioned previously once Michigan State ran into teams like Clemson and South Carolina their offense failed to drive in runs. When this occurred their pitching also failed to keep the high powered offenses at bay for nine innings worth.

The Ugly

The ugly represents everything else that happened throughout the year.

During this season anyone reading has to have seen myself use the word “consistency” at some point or another. I’m going to continue to do so now.

In my opinion that is what killed this team in all facets, not just the pitching but the offense too. While covering the team I never knew what Spartans would show up.

One game Alex Troop throws a magnificent gem in a 6-1 win over the Michigan Wolverines. The next they lose a 4-3 battle to Eastern Michigan. Not to take anything away from the Eagles but their not exactly the Hawkeyes, Wolverines, or the Terrapins. After the non-conference MSU struggled against almost everyone.

It didn’t matter if the opposing squads hosted a winning record or one below .500, it seemed the Spartans could or would find a way to lose. More often than not they were losing games they shouldn’t have. Games that ended up being huge in terms of making the B1G Tournament.

  • 3/28 — Western Michigan, L 2-3
  • 4/4 — Eastern Michigan, L 3-4
  • 4/11 — Notre Dame, L 1-2
  • 4/16 — Ohio State, L 8-13
  • 4/28 — Northwestern, L 2-3

These are just a few losses that stick out to me (all these squads were below .500 when the Spartans played them). Michigan State won the series against Ohio State and Northwestern but gave one away each time (something that can’t happen when you are crawling your way up the conference standings). Pitching did well for the most part besides one eye sore against the Buckeyes where they allowed 13 runs at home.

Closing Statement

Well guys this is it, we will all have to wait until next year to see regular Michigan State baseball posts. It’s been fun and I’ll leave you with this.

The 2017 Spartan baseball squad was far to co-dependent on themselves. The pitching needed the offense to perform well every night and vice versa. In baseball you can’t win games like that, you must have strengths and weaknesses. Being stuck somewhere in the middle relying on both sides to win games equally put this years Michigan State team in a tough spot more often than not. Neither side was ever able to impose their will on the opposing team which made MSU a very average team.

As always, Go Green!