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Michigan State Baseball: Keys to victory in home series versus Minnesota

Michigan State has a winning streak on the line this weekend.

Marvin Hall/The Only Colors

The Michigan State Spartans’ baseball squad will take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend in East Lansing.

Baseball is a game of streaks and MSU has won its last three games against Northwestern, Notre Dame, and Purdue-Fort Wayne. In the neutral-site victory at Comerica Park in Detroit against No. 12 Notre Dame, it was the Spartans’ highest-ranked victory since defeating No. 1 Oregon State in 2014.

Sophomore infielder Mitch Jebb continued to produce this week, going 1-for-3 in the game against the Fighting Irish, and drawing three walks between that game and the one against Purdue-Fort Wayne.

Aidan Arbaugh pitched five solid innings against Purdue-Fort Wayne, allowing two hits, one walk and one run. He struck out four batters.

This weekend, Michigan State (18-21) will host Minnesota (12-27) for a three game series.

Here are three keys to victory against MSU’s friends to the west.

Consistency

Michigan State is a on-and-off type of team, and for the program’s sake, hopefully its “turn on” time.

Jebb has really been huge for Michigan State. He leads the team in batting average at .327 and has an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) of .928. Outfielder Jack Frank, who went 2-for-4 against Notre Dame, is quietly hitting .326 with an OPS of .958.

Only five players (Jebb, Frank, Casey Mayes, Trent Farquhar and Bryan Broecker) are hitting above .275.

For the most part, Michigan State’s hitting has been anything but consistent. If hitting isn’t an issue, pitching is. Only one pitcher, closer Kyle Bischoff, has an earned run average under three.

Harrison Cook has started nine games this season and MSU needs him to be better. In 10 appearances, his ERA is 8.08. Against Notre Dame, he threw 5.2 innings and only allowed two runs. Hopefully Cook can build off of that performance.

Zaid Walker

I am personally still waiting for Walker, an outfielder, to turn it around. He needs to be better, especially as the Spartans close the season heading into the end of May.

In 2022, Walker’s OPS is down to .543. His batting average (.199) is the worst among starters on Michigan State’s roster.

Last season, Walker’s batting average was .303. He had a slugging percentage of .420, and an OPS of .787. He’s not usually a big power bat. He averages around two or three home runs each season. But that can improve.

The potential that Walker has is good. He just really needs to turn it around if Michigan State wants to start competing.

Defense

If you’ve watched any amount of Detroit Tigers baseball this season, you know that defense can make or break a game. For Michigan State, it’s true.

MSU ranks No. 206 among Division I schools in fielding percentage. For those unfamiliar, there are 293 Division I baseball teams in the NCAA. Between outfielder/infielder Peter Ahn and his teammates, errors are too familiar.

While Jebb has been very productive at the plate, he has room to grow in the field. His main position is shortstop, making him far more prone to errors. In the Majors, the player with the most errors is almost always a shortstop. Expecting a perfect fielding percentage isn’t realistic.

Perhaps MSU’s biggest liability in the field is Dillon Kark. A utility player, Kark rarely finishes a perfect fielding week. His fielding percentage is .875 which is far from acceptable.

If Michigan State wants to keep winning, it needs to stop making mistakes.

Friday’s game will start at 6:35 p.m, Saturday’s at 4:05 p.m and Sunday’s at 1:05 p.m. Those games will stream on BTN+. All times eastern and subject to change.

*All statistics used in this article are according to Baseball-Reference.