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Spartan Baseball Preview: Michigan State gets ready to face the Chippewas

The Spartans finish up a 5 game home-stand before heading to Ann Arbor

The Spartans just finished up their first home series of the year this past weekend when they faced the Niagara Purple Eagles.

It was a four game stint at Kobs Field that they ended up splitting. MSU came extremely close to winning the series during Sunday’s finale due to a miraculous ninth inning comeback but the Spartans fell just short.

We saw a little bit of everything from Michigan State this weekend. They were able to string together some quality offense, stellar pitching, and even stole eight bases in a single game. The quality of competition was indeed low but seeing MSU stay consistent over the four game stretch was important, especially with the conference schedule starting Friday (against Michigan).

With their two wins in the series Michigan State improves to 6-12 (0-0 B1G) on the year and will look to obtain their seventh win of the season against Central Michigan tomorrow afternoon.


The Basics

The Numbers

  • Record: 4-15-1 (2-2 Home, 0-9-1 Away)
  • Best Win: vs Northwestern (RPI: 217), W 7-3
  • Worst Loss: @ UTRGV (RPI: 236), L 6-7 (10 innings)

Last Five Games

  • 3/19 — Lawrence Tech, W 14-1
  • 3/17 — Northwestern, W 7-3
  • 3/17 — Northwestern, L 2-5
  • 3/16 — Northwestern, L 2-4
  • 3/11 — USF, L 6-10

Last year the Central Michigan Chippewas were a pretty good college baseball team. They finished the 2017 season with a 31-28 overall record. The Chips were 16-8 within their conference and had a 12-7 home advantage.

Central Michigan finished first in their division and went on to play in their Mid-American Conference Tournament where they would lose to Eastern Michigan twice.

The Spartans played the Chippewas two times in 2017 and won both contests by a total score of 18-2.

This season Central Michigan has gone in the opposite direction. Through 20 games they are 4-15-1. At one point they lost 13 games in a row with one tie against New Mexico thrown in.

It hasn’t been an easy season for either team, it’ll be interesting to see who comes out on top Wednesday afternoon.

Chippewas To Know

Before facing Lawrence Tech (the Chippewas latest victory) they were 3-13-1 after traveling to Florida, Texas, and New Mexico. Over Spring Break Central Michigan lost every single one of their games, over half of them were lost by four runs or less.

That tells me Central Michigan and Michigan State aren’t all that different. Seriously, what’s the difference between four and six wins? Not much, but both teams are clearly competitive in any game they play in.

Offensively the Chippewas are batting .237 (155-655) as a unit with 17 doubles, three triples, three home runs, 80 RBI, and 18 stolen bases. If they improved in every one of these areas just a bit, some of those losses might turn into victories.

Here are their top four guys at the plate:

  • Zach Heeke: .278 (15-54), 9 RBI, 10 BB, 3 SB
  • Evan Kratt: .257 (18-70), 3 2B, 8 RBI, 14 BB, 1 SB
  • Zach Gilles: .246 (17-69), 3 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 8 BB
  • Jason Sullivan: .233 (17-73), 3 2B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 9 BB

The Chippewa pitching staff has a cumulative ERA of 5.62 with a record of 4-15. They have pitched 173.0 innings, given up 172 hits, 108 earned runs, and 182 strikeouts.

When we compare pitching staffs between these two teams I have to give the Spartans an edge. They are very comparable offensively but defensively MSU has an advantage.

That being said, here are the best pitchers CMU has available:

  • Tyler Hankins: ERA — 4.85, 1-2, 29.2 IP, 39 H, 16 ER, 29 SO
  • Michael Brettell: ERA — 6.51, 1-3, 27.2 IP, 36 H, 20 ER, 25 SO
  • Pat Leatherman: ERA — 4.74, 0-2, 19.0 IP, 17 H, 10 ER, 25 SO
  • Dazon Cole: ERA — 5.29, 0-4, 17.0 IP, 16 H, 10 ER, 18 SO

How The Spartans Match Up

It’s no secret that the Spartans have struggled this season, like I said what’s the biggest difference between four and six wins? Absolutely nothing. Both teams are heading into this game trying to find themselves and become better in every area.

If this is how Michigan State plans to play all year long then finding an identity and working towards improvement is all us fans can ask of them. I myself still have some (probably misplaced) faith that they can turn what has been a terrible start to 2018 around and become a middle of the pack Big Ten team.

I don’t want to use the word “Elite” but the pitching staff is very good and they continuously perform at a high level. MSU allows about four runs per game. All of their starters can go seven innings deep (if Jake Boss allows them too) and four to five of their guys are completely dominant.

At the very least Michigan State will remain competitive throughout this season and have the ability to make teams work for their wins. No, they might not win a lot of games but they are working towards becoming a more successful baseball team and that all starts now.

MSU should be very confident heading into this game tomorrow and if the Spartans are able to perform how they did last weekend against Niagara then Michigan State shouldn’t have any problems winning this game.

Prediction

Michigan State is going into this game carrying some momentum from their last series against Niagara. They played very well, fans could argue it was some of the best baseball they’ve seen out of them up to this point.

I’m willing to go as far as to say that Michigan State has improved. There were areas of their game that needed cleaning up and Jake Boss along with the players took care of it. But now it’s time for the hardest part, repetition.

Michigan State needs to step up and I think they will. So prepare for a Wednesday afternoon victory Spartan fans!

MSU 5 CMU 2