Fresh off a series win by taking three of four games at Ohio State, the Michigan State baseball team (18-23) brings a three-game winning streak on the road for midweek contests at Western Michigan and Illinois-Chicago. MSU starts things off Tuesday against the Broncos (15-26) in Kalamazoo before traveling to Chicago to take on the Flames of UIC at 7 p.m. ET. This marks the first and only time of the season MSU will play two midweek games.
After falling in game one of the series, 8-4, MSU bounced back by sweeping Ohio State in a Saturday doubleheader (5-1 and 6-4) before winning the series finale on Sunday, 7-5.
Earlier this season on April 10, the Spartans held off Western Michigan, 6-5, at Oldsmobile Park. Junior right-hander Ryan MacFarlane started for Coach David Grewe in that game, and will get the start once again against the Broncos on Tuesday. In a no decision, MacFarlane struck out five and allowed one run on three hits in 3.1 innings. Dennis Jones went 3-for-4 as MSU scored all six of its runs in the fourth inning. Junior lefty Tony Clausen picked up his first collegiate victory, firing 1.1 innings of scoreless relief. Michigan State will be looking for its fourth straight victory over the Broncos.
After taking on Western Michigan, the Spartans will head further west on I-94 to battle Illinois-Chicago at Les Miller Field. The Flames are dominating Horizon League play with a 17-4 league record, and currently sit in first place. UIC (26-16) has beaten quality non-conference opponents in Georgia Tech, Tennessee and Washington State.
Following the two road midweek games, Michigan State returns home to face Northwestern (13-32, 5-19 Big Ten) in the final home Big Ten series of the year. Friday's game (May 11) will be the last game of the year at Kobs Field, while Saturday and Sunday's games will be at Oldsmobile Park in Lansing.
QUICK LOOK AT THE BIG TEN STANDINGS
• The Spartans are tied for seventh with Purdue in the Big Ten standings. Both teams own a 9-14 Big Ten mark.
• The top six teams in the standings advance to the Big Ten Tournament, hosted by the regular season champion.
• Michigan sits atop the conference at 17-3, 2.5 games head of second-place Minnesota (14-5).
• MSU trails sixth-place Illinois (10-12) by 1.5 games. The Spartans and Illini meet in the final weekend of regular-season play at Champaign.
• Iowa and Penn State are tied for third at 14-8, while Ohio State is fifth at 12-10.
Chris Roberts NAMED BIG TEN PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Freshman Chris Roberts earned his first career Big Ten Player of the Week award after helping Michigan State to a series victory over Ohio State in Columbus. Roberts hit .563 (9-for-16) in the four-game series. The Oshkosh, Wis., native recorded multiple hits in all four contests, including a 3-for-5 performance in the series finale on Sunday. Roberts tallied five RBI and also contributed a pair of runs.
In game one of the series, he went 2-for-4 with two RBI and a double, and followed up the outing by going 2-for-3 with a two-run single in game two. In the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader sweep, Roberts was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
Roberts, a 27th-round draft choice out of high school, leads the Spartans with a .349 batting average and .450 slugging percentage.
The award is the first for a Spartan position player this season. John Dwan was named Big Ten Pitcher of the Week April 2 after his victory on the mound at Indiana.
QUICK LOOK AT THE SPARTANS (18-23, 9-14 BIG TEN)
• MSU started out 5-2 in league play, the best start for MSU since the 2004 team won its first six Big Ten games.
• Chris Roberts leads the team with a .349 batting average. He was named the Big Ten Player of the Week for his impressive performance at Ohio State this past weekend.
• For the second straight time, MSU collected a series win over the Buckeyes in Columbus. The 2005 team also took three of four at Ohio State. With Roberts earning Big Ten Player of the Week honors, it also marks the second consecutive time MSU has been awarded a player of the week after its performance at Bill Davis Stadium (Sean Walker in 2005).
• The Spartans feature 12 newcomers this season (three freshmen, three sophomores, six juniors).
• MSU is led by second-year head coach David Grewe (Dayton, 1998). Grewe, who was an assistant for three years at Notre Dame prior to arriving in East Lansing, owns a 274-188 (.593) career record in nine years as an assistant and head coach.