PREVIEW: MSU seniors to play final series at home against Iowa


MSU pitcher Mason Erla (30) trots to the dugout/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Robert Butterson, General Assignment Reporter

The 2021 college baseball season is nearing an end, and the Michigan State Spartans (17-24) will host the Iowa Hawkeyes (23-18) in a three-game series to conclude the regular season. As the final series of the season, Sunday’s game will be senior day, with seven Spartans graduating from the program. 

Those seven Spartans are Sam Benschoter, Zach Hopman, Bryce Kelley, Andrew Morrow, Jarret Olson, Bailey Peterson and Joe Stewart. 

MSU first baseman Joe Stewart swings at a pitch/ Photo Credit: Jeremy Fleming/MSU Athletic Communications

In the past three series between these schools, Iowa has won two of the series dating back to 2016, while Michigan State won the most recent matchup in 2019.  

The Spartans have found a spark as of late, winning five of their previous seven matchups. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes have lost five of their last seven games, slipping them to fourth in the Big Ten conference standings after contending for one of the top spots in recent weeks. 

The Hawkeyes are a talented team, which includes a few conference leaders, their biggest offensive presence being redshirt senior outfielder Ben Norman. Norman leads the team with 10 home runs, 50 runs batted in and 33 runs scored. Norman’s 50 runs batted in currently leads the Big Ten conference. 

Iowa’s typical Friday starter, redshirt junior Trenton Wallace, currently leads the Big Ten with a pitching record of 6-1 and leads the conference with 97 total strikeouts. Wallace also has the lowest earned run average in the conference with 2.45. 

Additionally, the Hawkeyes lead the Big Ten with 13 team saves, mainly led by redshirt junior Dylan Nedved who leads the conference with 11 saves on the season. 

Michigan State senior Bailey Peterson made a return to the lineup last series after sitting out with an injury and proved to add tremendous value by winning co-player of the week for the Big Ten conference, hitting .429 with three home runs in the series, including a huge seven runs batted in performance in Sunday’s game. 

Peterson helped energize the Spartans to score 34 total runs in the weekend series, a season high and a boost of encouragement heading into the final series of the season.  

MSU infielder Bailey Peterson swings during a game/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Maintaining a presence in the Spartan lineup is sophomore outfielder Zaid Walker, as he hit .500 in the previous series while driving in six runs and scoring five runs. Those performances increased his team lead to 28 runs scored and a .312 average on the season. 

On the mound, the Spartans have a solid rotation of guys that have given them over 20 innings pitched on the season. Led by Mason Erla and Sam Benschoter as two of the likely starters, their starts will likely be the last ones of their career in the program. 

Friday’s first pitch will be at 6:35 p.m., followed by a 4 p.m. start time on Saturday. Sunday’s senior day game will begin at 1:05 p.m, and the Big Ten season will conclude, as there will be no Big Ten tournament played this season.