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Spartan Baseball Preview: Minnesota

Michigan State enters the first round of the Big Ten Tournament!

The Michigan State Spartans recently qualified for the Big Ten Tournament during their last regular season series against the Ohio State Buckeyes.

The Spartans needed to win this series to grab hold of the eighth and final spot in the tournament because Maryland had beaten MSU earlier in the year (which gave them the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Spartans). So in rather dramatic fashion Michigan State went out and managed to win two out of three against Ohio State while Maryland came up empty against Indiana.

MSU is making its fourth appearance in the last five seasons, only missing last year (although this season wasn’t the best either) and it’s the Spartans 14th time making the tournament in school history. Unfortunately, Michigan State did finish last in the tourney standings, so they get to take on the 12th-ranked Minnesota Gophers in the first round starting later tonight at 6 p.m.


The Basics

The Numbers

  • Record: 37-13 (18-4 Conference, 17-7 Home)
  • Best Win: vs Indiana (RPI: 24), W 9-1
  • Worst Loss: vs Michigan State (RPI: 188), L 5-6
  • Big Ten Regular Season Champions

Last Six Games

  • 5/18 — Rutgers, W 5-3
  • 5/17 — Rutgers, W 4-0
  • 5/15 — St. Johns, W 8-4
  • 5/13 — Michigan State, W 3-1
  • 5/12 — Michigan State, W 10-5
  • 5/11 — Michigan State, L 5-6

Minnesota acquired wins in each of its Big Ten Conference series during the regular season and won the 24th Big Ten Regular Season Championship in program history following their 5-3 win over Rutgers Saturday afternoon. John Anderson, their head coach, has now won his 11th title with the Gophers and doesn’t look to slow down anytime soon. The only other time Minnesota won the regular season, and the tournament title was back in 2004. This Gopher team has the poise to do so in 2018.

While the Gophers didn’t have the pleasure of playing teams like Illinois or Michigan during the season they did get matched up with five of the Big Ten teams in this tournament during the last month and a half. They finished 11-3 against those clubs. Minnesota continues to look and get better as the year wanes but the last team to beat the Gophers on their home turf? Michigan State.

You might call me delusional (considering the Spartans are literally the worst team Minnesota lost to all year long based on the RPI) but yes I’m saying there’s a chance.

Gophers To Know

All jokes aside, it’s going to be extremely difficult for the Spartans to beat these Gophers. Minnesota continues to be one of the best statistical teams in the country. The pitching staff ranks fifth in WHIP and 11th in ERA. They allow less than four walks per nine innings, and they’ve also achieved six shutouts throughout the year. Minnesota may boast a potent offense (they once scored a total of 40 runs against Purdue in two days), but they can quickly shut down some of the best teams in the nation by way of their pitching abilities.

Just a side note but, Purdue finished second in the Big Ten standings with 34 wins (17 B1G victories) and got utterly destroyed by this Minnesota team.

When looking at individual accolades, the Gophers managed to have seven players who received All-Big Ten recognition this year. Here’s a list of those guys and their awards.

  • Patrick Fredrickson — received the league’s Pitcher and Freshman of the Year honors.
  • John Anderson — received the Big Ten Coach of the Year title for the eighth time.
  • Max Meyer — All-Big Ten First Team
  • Terrin Vavra — All-Big Ten First Team
  • Micah Coffey — All-Big Ten Second Team
  • Reggie Meyer — All-Big Ten Second Team
  • Ben Mezzenga — All-Big Ten Second Team
  • Luke Pettersen — All-Big Ten Third Team

This might be one of the best Big Ten teams college baseball has seen in quite some time. It’ll be interesting to see if they can bring the B1G tournament title back to Minnesota.

What You Need To Know

The Spartans finished the regular season 20-30 overall and 11-12 in Big Ten games to earn the eighth seed in the tournament. If fans were to bottom line this season in a sentence or two, I imagine it going something like this. It wasn’t a terrific year (it never is when you finish ten games below .500), but the Spartans bounced back in the second half finishing 11-9 with wins against Minnesota and Ohio State.

It was the only time Michigan State was an above .500 team all season long, so they got better as a unit. That said, can MSU beat the Gophers? Probably not. The Spartans tournament history (in the last ten years) isn’t great.

Michigan State has gone to seven Big Ten tournaments with Jake Boss leading the way, and yet they are 9-12 in those contests. There is one positive to take away from his coaching ability during this conference tournament. Which is the fact that the Spartans have won at least one game in five of the last six seasons.

Unfortunately, their history against Minnesota is even worse. The Spartans are 2-6 against the Gophers in B1G Tournament appearances, their last meeting in 2011, when the No. 2 seed Michigan State beat the No. 5 seed Minnesota on the way to MSU’s Big Ten Championship.

Not to mention MSU is 42-88 all-time vs. Minnesota, having just faced each other a couple of weeks ago where the Spartans won the opener before dropping the final two games.

All in all, the Spartans are trying to fight an uphill battle that might be too high for them to reach. The Minnesota Gophers won the conference and are ranked 12th in the nation while also being an easy pick to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. It just sounds like too much adversity for the 2018 Spartans to overcome.

Prediction

I think Michigan State’s starting pitcher, Ethan Landon, will keep this game close as long as he’s on the mound, but the minute he leaves the game Minnesota is going to blow it wide open. Their offense is simply too much for the Spartans to handle for the duration of this ball-game.

MSU 5 MINN 11