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Michigan State releases 2008 schedule

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Thirteen games against seven teams that qualified for the 2007 NCAA Championship and an April 24 exhibition against the Lansing Lugnuts at Oldsmobile Park highlight the 2008 Michigan State baseball schedule, as announced by head coach David Grewe Wednesday, Dec. 5. The 55-game slate begins Friday, Feb. 22 when the Spartans travel to the Stetson Invitational to take on host Stetson at 7 p.m. while the MSU baseball home opener is set for Friday, March 21 versus Oakland.

Like most years, the Spartans will play a challenging schedule, and MSU will take on many of the heavy hitters at the beginning of the season. Each of MSU’s first five opponents won at least 34 games in 2007. Michigan State leads off the season at the three-day Stetson Invitational, where NCAA qualifiers Stetson and Missouri await before the Spartans conclude the opening weekend with Connecticut on Feb. 24. Missouri finished last season 42-18 and ranked No. 24 in the season’s final rankings by The Tigers have also been named as a preseason favorite to go to Omaha as a College World Series participant.

After playing four games at Lamar’s Cardinal Classic from Feb. 28-March 2, the Spartans will travel to five-time national champion LSU on March 4-5, where Grewe will face Tigers coach Paul Mainieri, his mentor when the two coaches were on the Notre Dame baseball staff. Grewe was Mainieri’s assistant at Notre Dame for three seasons (2003-05).

MSU then travels to play a very tough field at the Rice Invitational in Houston, Texas, from March 6-8. The Spartans open the three-game set against NCAA squad and defending Southern Conference co-champion Western Carolina before playing 2007 College World Series participant and 2003 national champ Rice, who finished 56-14 and ranked No. 3 in the nation by Missouri Valley Conference champ Creighton concludes the stretch. The March 8 contest versus Creighton ends a stretch that will see the Spartans play nine games in three cities over a span of 10 days.

Following that challenging stretch, Michigan State will host the Spartan Classic, a three-game series against Quinnipiac on March 14-16 in Greenville, S.C. The series will be played at West End Field, the home of the Greenville Drive, which is the Class A minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

Michigan State’s schedule is among the nation’s toughest. MSU’s pre-Big Ten opponents had a collective total of 430 wins last year and a combined winning percentage of .610.

“Every team we play prior to our Big Ten Opener has a very legitimate chance of making the NCAA tournament field of 64,” Grewe said. “Without knowing every schedule in the nation, I would stack this up against anyone. We are playing the best, because it will make our team tougher.”

A three-game home series versus Oakland at Kobs Field brings the Spartans to the Midwest for the first time, and sets the table for their Big Ten opener against Illinois on March 28 at Oldsmobile Park.

After a midweek game at home against Eastern Michigan, MSU travels to Northwestern April 4-6 before hosting 2007 NCAA Championship participant Ohio State from April 11-13. A four-game series against Michigan from April 18-20 continues Big Ten play, with the two teams playing single games in Ann Arbor on April 18 and 20 with a doubleheader at Kobs on Saturday, April 19.

On Thursday, April 24, the Spartans take a break from conference play to take part in the second annual Crosstown Showdown against the Lansing Lugnuts at Oldsmobile Park. The contest with the Lugnuts, which drew 6,223 fans last year, is set for 6:05 p.m. and promises to be an entertaining event for the Greater Lansing area. Grewe expects to see a sellout crowd of 10,000 for the game that made a hit last year.

“This game created memories that last year’s team will never forget,” Grewe said. “It is a special night for all those involved. I feel the responsibility to make this game a reality for both the city of Lansing and the community of East Lansing. Our team is very proud to represent MSU on a Thursday night in late April before we take on Iowa.”

MSU returns to Big Ten play with four games each against Iowa at home (April 25-27), at Penn State (May 2-4) and at Purdue (May 9-11) before concluding the regular season with a four-game set at Kobs Field against Indiana (May 15-17).

Michigan State also hosts Central Michigan and Western Michigan on April 16 and May 7, respectively, while playing at WMU on April 9 and at CMU on May 13. The site for Central Michigan home game will be determined in January after further discussions are needed for site approval.

The top six finishers in the Big Ten regular season standings will compete in the 2008 Big Ten Baseball Championship, which is hosted by the regular season champion from May 21-24. The 64-team NCAA Championship begins regional play on May 30 and Super Regional play on June 6. Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium hosts the 2008 College World Series from June 13-23 in Omaha, Neb.

“With the common start date for all college baseball as Feb 22 and the parity that now exists amongst all NCAA teams, I am really looking forward to our games this upcoming season,” Grewe said. “We have a great RPI schedule and the challenge is in front of us. This season shall be fun.”

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