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Spartan Baseball Series Preview: Valparaiso

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The Spartans will face the Crusaders for just the ninth time in school history

Michigan State will continue it’s non-conference schedule this weekend when they face Valparaiso in a three-game series at McLane Stadium. The schedule was recently adjusted due to inclement weather heading our way, and will now be played Friday and Saturday (with a doubleheader on Friday).

The start time is slated for 12:05 p.m. with game two being played around 30 minutes later.

Recently, Michigan State’s comeback came up short in their 8-7 loss to Notre Dame Tuesday afternoon at Kobs Field. The loss snapped the Spartans three-game winning streak.

Michigan State is now 9-20 on the year with a 3-5 Big Ten record, while the Fighting Irish improved to 14-19.


The Basics

The Numbers

  • Record: 10-18 (7-13 Away, 2-4 Conference)
  • Best Win: @ Oklahoma (RPI: 24), W 11-4
  • Worst Loss: vs Arkansas Pine Bluff (RPI: 278), L 5-6

Last Five Games

  • 4/11 — Milwaukee, W 23-5
  • 4/8 — Southern Illinois, L 0-8
  • 4/7 — Southern Illinois, W 6-2
  • 4/6 — Southern Illinois, L 2-6
  • 4/1 — Bradley, L 4-10

During the 2016-17 season, Valparaiso finished 24-29 (.453) overall with a 13-15 conference record. They won seven out of their last ten games within the Horizon League and qualified for their conference tournament. Unfortunately, Valparaiso lost in the first round to Oakland (4-6).

The Crusaders played their best baseball at home, where they finished the season 9-6. Their best wins came against Purdue, UAB, and Western Kentucky.

So far this year they are 10-18 with quality wins against Oklahoma, Holy Cross, Bradley, and Southern Illinois.

Valparaiso might not be the best-looking team on paper, but neither is Michigan State. This should be an exciting series.

Crusaders To Know

As a team, the Crusaders are averaging .295 (301-1021) from the plate with 59 doubles, six triples, 22 home runs, 187 RBI, and 12 stolen bases.

Valparaiso will end up being one of the most consistent offenses Michigan State will face this season. The Crusaders have six guys on the roster averaging .302 or better from the plate (five of those players are everyday starters).

Here’s a list of those five starters:

  • Zack Leone: .423 (33-78), 6 2B, 2 HR, 23 RBI
  • Blake Billinger: .358 (43-120), 13 2B, 2 HR, 19 RBI
  • Sam Shaikin: .320 (39-122), 9 2B, 4 HR, 24 RBI
  • Giovanni Garbella: .311 (23-74), 4 2B, 4 HR, 19 RBI
  • Chase Dawson: .302 (38-126), 2 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 22 RBI

In their last game against Milwaukee, Valparaiso scored a total of 23 runs (their highest run total since 2010). The Crusaders hit the ball 18 times and scored seven runs in two separate innings.

The Spartan pitching staff is going to have to bring their “A” game if they plan on slowing this team down.

How The Spartans Match Up

The Spartans and Crusaders have only played nine times in school history, the last time being in 1994. This is also the first time Valparaiso will be traveling to East Lansing since 1987.

Michigan State swept the series but didn’t have much luck in the other six games these two teams played. Valparaiso leads the all-time series 6-3, with a 3-3 record in East Lansing.

If the Spartans have one advantage in this series, it’s pitching. Their staff has been reliable all year long, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. As a team, Michigan State is sixth in the B1G in strikeouts (236) and fourth in the league regarding strikeouts per nine innings (8.4).

Individually, Ethan Landon, Riley McCauley, and Mason Erla all rank inside of the top 20 for strikeouts within the Big Ten.

  • Landon: 45 K’s
  • McCauley: 39 K’s
  • Erla: 38 K’s

The Spartans have ten double-digit strikeout games this season, including six of their last 12 games. While most of those have resulted in losses, their pitching is the exact reason I give them a shot at winning the series this weekend.

Prediction

I’m prepared to be completely wrong about this but Michigan State has played well in their last four or five games, and I am willing to say it will continue. Will the Spartans win? I don’t know, but like most of us, I choose to have faith.

The Spartans offense has caught fire recently, and the pitching staff has remained consistent. Again, this hasn’t resulted in any consistent wins yet, but this weekend I believe it will.

Michigan State wins the series 2-1