Softball Set For Weekend Travels

DenisePopiolek

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Riding a six game winning streak, Michigan State travels to face Loyola-Chicago, Thursday at 4 p.m., before resuming Big Ten play vs. Wisconsin and Iowa this weekend. The Spartans defeated Bowling Green on Tuesday, 2-1, completing a nine-game homestand with an 8-1 record. Lesley Noel leads the Big Ten with a 0.00 ERA and a 3-0 record against conference competition, while Kara Weigle paces the Spartan offense with a league-high .615 average at the plate. State has won 10 of its last 12 contests, and leads the Big Ten with a 6-0 record heading into weekend play.

THE LOYOLA SERIES

Heading into Thursday's match-up, the Spartans hold the all-time series record vs. Loyola, 4-0. MSU faced the Ramblers on opening day at Old College Field in 2005, where MSU swept both games of a doubleheader, 2-0 and 4-1, respectively.

THE WISCONSIN SERIES

Michigan State swept the 2005 series vs. the Badgers, 4-2 and 6-0, in Madison. State holds the 16-8 all-time series advantage, including a 5-1 mark the previous three seasons of Big Ten play.

THE IOWA SERIES

Iowa holds the all-time series advantage, 58-29, over the Spartans heading into weekend play in Iowa City. Due to inclement weather in 2005, the two teams have not faced each other in a complete game since the 2004 season when the Hawkeyes handed MSU two consecutive 8-2 losses.

BIG TEN STANDINGS

Michigan State ranks atop this week's Big Ten standings after sweeping Purdue and Indiana last weekend at Old College Field. MSU is the only unbeaten team in Big Ten play heading into weekend action. No. 12 Michigan holds a 5-1 mark, followed by both Ohio State and No. 17 Northwestern with 6-2 conference records.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING

Lesley Noel's 0.00 ERA ranks as a league-high while freshman catcher Kara Weigle ranks first in the Big Ten with a .615 batting average. Sophomore Caitlin Mahoney is a close second with a .563 mark with five starts at third base. As a team, State is fourth with a .260 average at the plate, while the Spartan pitchers rank second in league standings with a 1.00 ERA.

NCAA STATISTICS

The NCAA released its first statistics report of the season on April 10. where Lesley Noel ranks 16th in the nation with a 0.82 ERA. The Spartan pitching trio of Megan Hair, Noel and Rachel Turney rank 19th in the nation with a 1.50 cumulative ERA (NCAA statistics based on games played through April 9).

SPARTAN LEADERS

Nikki Nicosia holds State's highest overall batting average at .336 while sister Traci is just behind with a .317 average. Kara Weigle leads the Spartan bats in Big Ten play with a .615 mark, while Caitlin Mahoney and Nicole Mercado average .563 and .268, respectively. Pitching and defense has played a significant role in recent success, where MSU has committd just five errors with a 0.50 ERA during its current six-game winning streak.

A LOOK AT LOYOLA

. The Ramblers were swept by Purdue in a doubleheader on Tuesday, 2-1 in eight innings, and 7-1 in game two of the match-up.
. LUC is led by second-year head coach Yvette Healy, and is 9-29 with a 4-4 Horizon League mark heading into play vs. the Spartans.
. Tara Miller leads the LUC offense with a .317 average at the plate, adding 32 hits and 10 RBI.
. From the circle, Laura DeLeon is 5-8 with a team-low 2.96 ERA.

LAST TIME VS. LOYOLA

Last season, MSU faced the Ramblers in a postponed doubleheader on opening day at Old College Field, winning both games, 2-0 and 4-1, respectively. The wins marked Spartan head coach Jacquie Joseph's 500th career victory, which combines her years as head coach at State and, at Bowling Green.

Christy McGrew started on the mound for the Spartans and posted six strikeouts against the Ramblers. McGrew pitched a complete game, allowing only two hits as the Spartans' defense was solid, not allowing a single run. Freshman Lesley Noel led the Spartans with three strikeouts against the Ramblers in the second game, allowing only one run. The complete-game victory marked the first win of Noel's collegiate career.

. MSU leads the all-time series with Loyola, 4-0.

A LOOK AT WISCONSIN

. The Badgers most recently split a doubleheader vs. North Dakota State, winning game one, 3-2, and falling 5-1 in the nightcap.

. Sophomore infielder, Katie Hnatyk, was recently named to the Senior Canadian National Team.

. Wisconsin is 16-15, with a 2-4 Big Ten record heading into weekend play vs. MSU and Michigan.

. The Badgers are led by first-year head coach Chandelle Schulte.

LAST TIME VS. WISCONSIN

A year ago, Lesley Noel pitched a complete game, giving up six hits to improve her record to 4-3 on the year in a 4-2, game one victory vs. Wisconsin. Caitlin Mahoney, Elizabeth Peterson and Janette Hurtado all notched an RBI double in the third inning to guide the Spartans.

Seven Spartans recorded at least one hit and Rachel Turney gave up only four for her first complete-game Division I shutout as Michigan State defeated Wisconsin, 6-0, in the finale of the series. Nikki Nicosia went 3-3, adding one run, a stolen base and one RBI, to pace the Spartan offense. Amy Szawara and Dayna Feenstra each added one RBI as MSU moved to 6-4 in Big Ten play with the series sweep.
. MSU leads the all-time series vs. Wisconsin, 16-8

A LOOK AT IOWA

. Iowa is 4-2 in Big Ten competition heading into play vs. Michigan on Friday. The Hawkeyes are set to face non-conference foe Western Illinois on Wednesday.

. Iowa has won 12 of its last 14 games heading into Wednesday's match-up with Western Illinois.

. Emily Nichols has a team-best .361 average at the plate, adding 39 hits and 27 RBI. Brittney Weil leads the Hawkeye pitching staff with an overall 17-8 record, and 2.48 ERA.

LAST TIME VS. IOWA

Due to bad weather conditions last season, MSU played just three innings of its first game vs. Iowa before rainy conditions forced the remainder of the first, and the second game of the series to be cancelled.

During the 2004 season, Angel Merren and Natalie Furrow each posted doubles and Jessica Beech hit her third home run of the season in State's pair of 8-2 losses. State left 11 runners on base in game one, including three in the bottom of the third and two in three separate innings. MSU was held to just five hits in the second game, while it allowed 13. Furrow's double accounted for the only Spartan extra-base hit, as she was 2-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Merren, Mercado and Victoria Morache were all 1 for 3 at the plate.

. Iowa holds the all-time series record vs. MSU, 58-29.

IT'S OUT OF HERE!

Designated player Dana Rosenblatt posted her first career grand slam in Friday's victory vs. Purdue. During her first two seasons at MSU, she recorded just four hits in five starts, however in 2006, Rosenblatt has made a significant impact on the Spartan offense with 13 hits, a .277 batting average and four home runs.

OFFENSIVE RUT

Although the Spartans have won six straight, the offense has scored just 14 runs and tallied only 28 hits during the stretch. Compare that to the six wins just prior to the current stretch, where State posted a combined 40 runs and 50 hits. Solid pitching from the circle has been key in State's most recent success, as Megan Hair, Lesley Noel and Rachel Turney have combined for a 0.50 ERA, allowing three earned runs from the circle.

DID YOU KNOW?

The Green and White offense has posted nine games with double-digit hit totals in 2006, most recently vs. Purdue on April 7 (13). State has also posted 16 games scoring at least five runs, and three games with at least 10 runs scored. In 2005, MSU managed just six games with double-digit hit totals, and just 11 games with at least five runs scored.

BEHIND THE PLATE

Freshman catcher Kara Weigle has made 23 appearances behind the plate in 2006. In those starts, 19 opponents have attempted a stolen base and Weigle has gunned down five of those attempts. In 2005, MSU halted just 12 attempts, while thus far in 2006, State has stopped seven attempts.

SLIM MARGINS

State has played in 22 games decided by two runs or less in 2006. The Spartans are 8-5 in one-run games, and hold a 5-4 mark in games decided by two runs.

WINS AND LOSSES

MSU has won 12 of its last 14 games and rides a six game winning streak heading into Thursday's match-up vs. Loyola. State's longest winning streak in 2006 was a seven game stretch, March 4-9 competing at the Plant City and USF-Adidas tournaments. MSU has not lost more than three consecutive games this season. Compare the mark to the 2005 campaign, when MSU started the year 1-8, including eight straight losses.

CAREER PERFORMANCES

Dana Rosenblatt posted a career-best four RBI vs. Purdue on April 7. The feat has been reached three previous times during the 2006 season: Caitlin Mahoney tallied a career-best, four RBI vs. Minnesota on April 1. Traci Nicosia posted a career-high four RBI in the 13-2 win vs. IPFW on March 29, and Meghan Darhower added four RBI in the Spartan win vs. Wright State on March 25.

FROM THE CIRCLE

Lesley Noel anchors a Spartan pitching staff that ranks second in the Big Ten with a 1.00 ERA through its first six games of the season. Overall, Noel holds a team-low 0.82 ERA (1st Big Ten / 16th NCAA), while Megan Hair and Rachel Turney hold 1.80 and 1.86 marks, respectively.

A CLOSER LOOK AT THE NUMBERS

State is dominant at the plate, and on the mound, hitting .289 compared to a .198 average by its 2006 opponents. The Spartans are better in nearly every offensive statistical category - hits (291-189), runs (170-81), RBI (154-75), doubles (45-35), home runs (18-6) and total bases (398-250). MSU has hit four triples this season, including two by Nicole Mercado and two by Nikki Nicosia.

WHEN THE OPPOSITION IS RANKED...

Thus far in 2006, MSU is 1-1 when facing a ranked opponent. MSU fell, 5-4, in extra innings vs. then No. 12 Georgia, and most recently defeated then No. 25 North Carolina, 5-3, at the FAU Parents' Weekend Tournament on March 18. In the current rankings, State is not scheduled to face another ranked opponent until May 6-7 vs. Michigan (No. 13/12).

out of the park

Michigan State has posted 18 home runs through the first 39 games of the season. In 2005, the Spartans managed just 11 home runs in 54 games played. Both Dayna Feenstra and Caitlin Mahoney have tallied one home run in Big Ten play this season.

the 15-win mark

Michigan State reached the 15-win mark in just 23 games in 2006. The feat is the fastest the Spartans have reached 15 wins since the 2003 season when it was done in just the 18th game of the year. State's 4-0 start at the Holiday Inn Express Pirate Classic marked the best start by a Spartan squad since the 1997 season when Jacquie Joseph led MSU to a 7-0 mark to begin the year.

h - b - p (hit by pitch)

Only a select few Spartans have been hit by a pitch thus far in 2006. Meghan Darhower, Dayna Feenstra, Nikki Nicosia and Traci Nicosia, have all been hit by one pitch, while Gina Mondo and Caitlin Mahoney have each been hit two times. Freshman catcher Kara Weigle has been hit a team-high five times in 2006! In 2005, Feenstra led the squad with seven free trips to the bases after being hit by a pitch.

mvp in style

Spartan pitching ace Rachel Turney went 2-0 at the Pirate Classic with wins vs. Army and host ECU in the championship game of the weekend. For her play, Turney was named the Holiday Inn Express Pirate Classic Tournament MVP, and also Big Ten pitcher of the week. Turney garnered her second MVP honor when she was selected, along with teammate Dayna Feenstra, as the FAU Parents' Weekend tournament co-MVP on March 19.

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