OMAHA, Neb. -- Michigan State baseball had three players recognized by the Big Ten Conference with postseason awards announced Tuesday afternoon by the league office, prior to Wednesday’s start of the B1G Baseball Tournament at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
Senior infielder Royce Ando was named to the All-Big Ten Second Team list, while freshman outfielder Zaid Walker was tabbed to the All-Freshman Team. Senior infielder Marty Bechina was MSU’s Sportsmanship Award honoree.
This season’s three All-Big Ten honorees gives MSU a total of 45 All-Big Ten accolades under head coach Jake Boss Jr. It is also moves Michigan State’s All-Freshman Team honorees to 19 total, as the Spartans have had at least one freshman collect the accolade in the last 11 years.
Ando, a native of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, led MSU and ranked 16th in the B1G with a .304 average, the highest single-season average of his career, after playing in all 54 games and starting 53, along with staring in all 23 B1G contests. He finished the season ranking second on the team with 26 RBI, tallying nine doubles, one triple and one home run, which came on his first at bat of the season at New Orleans on Feb. 15 after missing a majority of the 2018 season with an injury. Ando had a .394 on-base percentage and a .380 slugging percentage. He also had a team-high 16-game on base streak from April 5-27, as well as a seven-game hitting streak to open the season from Feb. 15-24. Ando also tied a Big Ten season-high by getting hit by a pitch three times in a game, doing so vs. Illinois on May 18.
In the field, Ando was 10th in the B1G in assists with 117, and tying for ninth in fielding double plays with 27, highlighted by being part of three of the Spartans’ season-high four twin-killings vs. Illinois on May 17, tying the most in a game in the league this season. In Big Ten play, Ando was ninth in assists with 54 and tied for sixth in fielding double plays with 16.
Walker, a native of Homewood, Ill., was third on MSU with a .285 average, starting 47 of 49 games played, including playing in all 23 B1G games, starting 21. He was second on the team with 11 doubles, adding one HR, ending the season with 19 RBI, along with a .309 on-base percentage and a .363 slugging percentage, and swiping four stolen bases. Walker got hot at the end of the season with at least one hit in 14 of the last 17 games, including seven multi-hit outings in that span, hitting .377 (26-for-69) in the stretch, including a season-long eight game hitting streak from May 4-14. Walker raised his average from .227 at the start of that stretch to end with a .285 mark.
In the outfield, Walker had 61 putouts and three assists, including a highlight-reel catch and throw against Illinois on May 17, catching the ball in the right field corner and firing a laser to third to nab the Illinois runner trying to tag from second.
Bechina, a Chicago, Ill., native, led MSU with 17 doubles, ranking fourth in the B1G. With a .260 average, Bechina was fourth on the team in average, adding five home runs to rank second on the team, including a three-run blast over the scoreboard to boost MSU to the 5-2 win over No. 23 Illinois on May 17. Along with leading the team in runs scored with 25, Bechina also ended with a .423 slugging percentage and a .342 on-base percentage. Bechina was also second on the team and tied for seventh in the B1G with 13 stolen bases. He also tied for third in the B1G in sacrifice flies with five.
In the field, Bechina was sixth in the B1G in assists with 124, as well as 16th in the B1G with 25 fielding double plays, teaming with Ando for three of the four Spartan season-high four twin-killings vs. Illinois on May 17, tying the most in a game in the league this season. In B1G only action, Bechina was tied for 10th with 54 assists.
This is Bechina’s second Big Ten award of his career, as he was named to the All-Freshman team in 2016.
Bechina finished his career with 45 doubles, ranking tied for fifth on MSU’s career doubles list. With 35 career stolen bases, Bechina ranks No. 9 on the Spartans’ career stolen base list, teaming with junior teammates Bryce Kelley (No. 2 with 64 stolen bases) and Danny Gleaves (No. 10 with 34) for the only three active teammates in the country this season to be on their respective school’s top 10 career stolen base list.
The Green & White finished the season winning three of its last four B1G series, including two on the road. The Spartans also had three wins over Top 25 teams down the stretch, with a pair of wins at No. 24 Iowa on May 11 and 12, and a win over No. 23 Illinois on May 17. MSU celebrated not only its 135th year of baseball in 2019, including honoring the 65th anniversary of the 1954 College World Series team and also the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Big Ten Champion and NCAA Regional team, but also its first with lights at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, going 7-2 at home under the lights.