FIRST-PLACE Michigan State SPARTANS LOOKING TO WIN FIRST BIG TEN TITLE IN 32 YEARS

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       The Michigan State baseball team, which enters the final series of the regular season against Northwestern with a one-game lead in the Big Ten standings, is looking to win its first Big Ten title in 32 years this weekend. MSU is 13-8 in conference play, one game ahead of both Minnesota and Illinois.

       The Spartans will host the Wildcats for a three-game series at McLane Baseball Stadium, beginning Thursday at 3:05 p.m. The series continues Friday at 3:05 p.m. and concludes Saturday on Senior Day at 1:05 p.m. Michigan State is 9-0 at home against Big Ten opponents this season with sweeps over Minnesota, Penn State and Purdue.

       “We’ve put ourselves in a position to play for a championship, which is a goal we put before our guys at the beginning of the year,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss. “I feel good that we’re at home – it’s a fun atmosphere to play in. It should be a fun weekend of baseball.”                                                                                   

       MSU improved to 32-18 overall after crushing Notre Dame, 20-3, Tuesday evening at Frank Eck Stadium on the campus of Notre Dame. The 20 runs were not only a season high for Michigan State, but also a school record against the Fighting Irish. The win snapped a three-game slide as the Spartans were swept at Indiana last weekend in Bloomington.

       Northwestern did not play a midweek game after playing just twice last weekend - both wins - against Michigan in Evanston, Ill. The Wildcats, who have won four in a row and five of their last six, are 19-27 overall and 9-11 in Big Ten play. Last year on the final weekend of the regular season, Northwestern took the series from MSU, two games to one, preventing the Spartans from making the Big Ten Tournament.

       Michigan State has won three titles in program history, the last one arriving in 1979. The Spartans also claimed Big Ten titles in 1954 and 1971.

       “There would be no better way to go out,” said senior center fielder Brandon Eckerle, who became the program’s all-time hits leader over weekend. “It would be pretty special to win a Big Ten Championship.”

               The Spartans will honor the six members of the 2011 senior class (Stephen Doty, Eckerle, Jeff Holm, Andrew Webb, Seth Williams, Kurt Wunderlich) with a pre-game ceremony on Saturday. The class has helped MSU to a combined 113-68 (.624) record over the past four seasons.