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Michigan State Dodgeball wins 2023 national title

Dodgeball school.



Michigan State dodgeball
© Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

For the first time in club history, Michigan State dodgeball won the national title. You love to see it.

Now I understand this page is filled with the varsity sports, but it is time we show our club teams some love, too. For this 2023 Michigan State Dodgeball team, it is more than well deserved.

On Sunday, they brought home the school’s first NCDA National Title in the programs 20-year history and completing a 19-0 campaign in all competition. 

We will start this story in 2020, when a group of four freshmen came to the team in the fall. Jack Girling, Barry Butler III, DQ McClean, and Josh Kramer filled out a freshman class that joined a top-five ranked national team.

After a strong start to the year, we all know what happened that spring as classes were canceled and the world was flipped on its head due to the COVID-19 pandemic and not only the 2020 but the 2021 seasons were canceled. The club almost did not come back after losing not only one but two straight years of senior classes. Because of this, the numbers dwindled immensely.

The question was: who would step up? The answer to that question starts with the coaches. Kevin and Becca Nguyen. These two coaches met through dodgeball and are now married, and they jointly run this club program. One player told me that without these two’s dedication to the team, there would be no MSU program.

Through their leadership, the team continued into the 2022 season. 

Those 2020 freshmen of Girling, Butler III, McClean, and Kramer were now upperclassmen forced into bigger roles as the team’s leaders and captains and joined by an excited and hungry set of newcomers ready to play for the first time 18 months. During the 2022 season, Girling and Butler III became well known as the best arms in the nation with a mix of deadly accuracy and blazing power, while Kramer was heralded as the best hands in the NCDA and McClean became the voice in the middle making sure all the new talent was always where they needed to be.

One of the new freshmen was the powerful Alec Deen, who was rookie of the year for NCDA’s 2022 season due to his ability to overpower the defense with his fastball.

The regular season came to a close with the No. 2 ranked Spartans beating James Madison in sudden death overtime to advance to meet No. 1 Grand Valley State, facing off for the championship. The Spartans ran out of steam, falling short to the Lakers of GVSU. Although they fell short the Spartans became a national title favorite with the coined “Core Four” juniors coming back for a senior season. 

To start 2023, MSU was again ranked top-five nationally and Girling and Butler III were now superstars and feared by the whole league competing against each other for NCDA MVP and McClean continued to be a force in the middle and Kramer was named head captain and the leader of the team on the court.

They had one goal: to avenge the loss of last season and bring home the top prize for the players and especially coaches that stuck with the program through the pandemic. 

On Feb. 13, Kramer was assisting coaches Kevin and Becca with the newly created women’s dodgeball team at IM Circle when the school went into lockdown due to the shooting that rocked the whole Spartan community but especially the students on campus that night. As the group locked themselves in a basement storage closet for four hours until the police came, giving all clear to go home.

Rocked by the shock and fear of what happened that tragic night the team didn’t know how to move forward. Their biggest tournament of the year, the Michigan Dodgeball Cup, was supposed to happen that weekend. After getting the green light the team decided to keep the tournament on schedule and became one of the first teams to compete and try to bring some hope, joy, and normalcy back for the players, students, and their families. They did that by taking home the Cup, overcoming all the adversity and coming back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to beat longtime rival Grand Valley. 

This team just would not stop there, they stayed motivated by all the obstacles they went through — COVID, the disappointment of 2022, a tragic event that rocked us to the core — this team was Spartan Strong and Spartan Tough.

They carried the momentum of the Michigan Dodgeball Cup into the national tournament. On Saturday in pool play to set the final bracket, the Spartans dominated three straight victories to earn the overall No. 1 seed in the 16-team bracket. The Sweet 16 saw the Spartans advance with a 4-2 victory over Miami (OH). The Spartans continued to the Elite Eight to take on Nebraska, and they caught fire in this match as they ran through the Cornhuskers 5-1.

I told you they caught fire and it really showed here with a complete performance demolishing James Madison 5-0 to advance on to a familiar foe GVSU in the title game.

This rematch of the 2022 final lived up to the hype and at halftime after only 1 point taking up the whole first half the Spartans found themselves in a similar position trailing to their rivals. The second half was again an absolute battle with clutch throws and even tougher catches the Spartans earned the final point to bring this final to overtime.

After an intense 6 vs. 6 overtime match, the Spartans would not be denied as the match ended after Nick Fedewa a junior first year player knocked out GVSU’s last standing player to seal a 2-1 marathon victory and giving MSU its first ever National Championship, and a crowning achievement for four players and two coaches that never gave up and made us all proud. 

Congratulations to your 2023 national championship Michigan State Dodgeball team.


Why is Mat Ishbia ending NIL sponsorship with Michigan State?

There’s a legit reason for this.



Mat Ishbia
© Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Mat Ishbia ended his NIL sponsorship with Michigan State athletics on Friday and there’s a good reason why that happened.

It has been just under four months since the NBA approved Mat Ishbia’s bid to become the majority owner of the Phoenix Suns and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury. Since then, a lot has changed for the former Michigan State walk-on.

According to a press release on Friday, Ishbia is now ending his NIL agreement with the Spartan Athletic Department.

After the Name, Imagine, and Likeness regulations were placed in effect back in 2021, Ishbia’s company, United Wholesale Mortgage, quickly announced a deal to be the first of its kind. The new program was to pay MSU student-athletes on the football team and men’s basketball teams $700 per month. In exchange for the money, athletes would send out social media posts advertising UWM. It expanded last fall to include volleyball players as well. This was to be used as a recruiting tool. It would show that MSU’s NIL programs would be competitive nationally and convince athletes to attend.

Spartan fans have speculated that the deal could have to be terminated now that Ishbia has taken over in Phoenix. That turned out to be the case. In a letter sent today, UWM stated, “As an owner of two professional sports teams, it was asked that Mat/UWM discontinue this NIL partnership to avoid any actual or perceived conflicts of interest.”

Since 2020, Mat has been Michigan State’s largest public donor. He has committed almost $50 million to the Spartan Athletic Department on top of these NIL programs. These funds have been used in remodeling/expanding athletic buildings, funded the construction of the new Tom Izzo Football Building, and helped get Mel Tucker’s 10-year, $95 million contract extension finalized. His money has also helped build the “Spartans for Life Fund” which assists with career development and life after athletics.

Mat was a walk-on for the MSU Basketball team under Tom Izzo back in 1999. He did win a national championship with Izzo. Mat often credits his time on the team for teaching him skills needed to excel in the professional world. He became the CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage in 2013 and brought the company public in 2021 making him a billionaire. He submitted his bid to the NBA for the Phoenix Suns/Phoenix Mercury in December 2022. That bid ended up being approved and finalized for $4 billion.

MSU thanked Mat Ishbia in a statement today released from the athletic department. They said they are “deeply appreciative” of his continued support for the department and credited him for all the transformations above. UWM stated they and Mat will “continue to remain dedicated to supporting Michigan State University and their athletic programs and will continue to do so within the guardrails established.”

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Michigan State baseball season ends with winning record

Not a bad season for the Spartans.



Michigan State baseball
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State baseball lost its second Big Ten Tournament game on Friday and was eliminated. It ends 2023 with a winning record.

With a 4-0 loss to Nebraska on Friday night in the Big Ten Tournament, the Michigan State baseball season is officially over.

There wasn’t much the offense could do against Will Walsh as they were held to only four hits all night. There were moments when the offense was just one hit away or one near-home run away from tying the game but Michigan State just could not get it done and you have to tip your hat to the Nebraska pitcher.

You might look at the score and think the game was not close but there wasn’t much of a difference between the two teams outside of clutch hitting. Michigan State got a great performance from its starting pitcher as he only allowed one run. This game was close until Nebraska opened the scoring back up with three runs in the eighth. Two of those runs came off of a weird bounce that went over the first baseman’s head. This put Michigan State behind and it was too late for the Spartans to respond.

With this loss, Michigan State now has to look forward to next season after the successful year it just completed.

This season is something that should show fans that the program is on the right track. After years of Michigan State baseball being at the bottom of the Big Ten, this team went into the Big Ten Tournament and got an upset win, and battled against No. 1 seed Maryland and No. 4 seed Nebraska.

This team also achieved the first winning record since 2016 and an appearance in the Big Ten Tournament. It also included young players contributing all over the field and multiple players that could be drafted in the MLB draft but have the chance to come back. There will be another article about the bright future of Michigan State baseball especially with it being a young team later in the coming weeks but right now, it’s important to recognize this team for a great season.

Michigan State will be losing a couple of seniors that will be missed and this isn’t probably the way the team wanted to end their season, but this week’s performances against the top teams in the Big Ten not only demonstrate that Michigan State can have great pitching which has been a big issue in recent history. If this team can keep the majority of their starting lineup, they will have a chance to be even better next year as the pitching staff should return mostly everyone.

Congrats to the baseball team on an improved season and I look forward to seeing what happens in the offseason for this team, as there are big decisions that have to be made for some players.

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Michigan State baseball wins first Big Ten Tournament game since 2016

The baseball team is ending more droughts.



Michigan State baseball
© Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Michigan State baseball ended another long drought, winning its first Big Ten Tournament game since 2016 on Thursday.

The season of droughts ending for the Michigan State baseball team continues.

We have seen the Spartans record a winning record for the first time since 2016 and making the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2018. With the win on Thursday against Rutgers, the streak of not winning a game in the Big Ten Tournament ends at seven years. 

Thursday’s game against Rutgers wasn’t perfect. Michigan State had similar issues to what it had in its first game, which was against Maryland. Michigan State left so many players on base that it probably drove Jake Boss crazy. In both games, Michigan State left over 10 players on base and you’re usually not going to win many games doing that.

While the offense did not show up, the pitching did and that is the reason they beat Rutgers. This offense has kept the team going all season but when it mattered the most, this pitching staff has done what it has needed to.

With Nick Powers’ pitching performance on Wednesday, only allowing three runs to one of the most elite offenses in college baseball, to Wyatt Rush’s pitching performance on Thursday, the pitching staff has kept this team in the tournament.

The pitching performance by Rush on Thursday was one that fans might not have expected. Rush, who is a senior and the typical closer, stepped into the game with bases loaded and one out with the game tied. He ended the inning by only allowing one run and gave Michigan State a chance and finally, the offense finally responded with two runs in the eighth inning. Rush came out in the bottom of the ninth and finished the job.

This win continues the season for the baseball team and shows that the program is headed in the right direction. To all the players, this is the first win they have experienced in Omaha.

If you haven’t had the chance to watch this team, you should because this team is playing well against some of the best teams in the Big Ten. You also might not see a few of these players again at Michigan State and they deserve our support.

Michigan State baseball has no room for error anymore. If it wants to win the whole Big Ten Tournament, it not only has to continue to pitch well, the offense has to show up more often. If the Spartans are able to win a few more in a row, they would have a chance to be the first team to win the Big Ten Tournament from the loser bracket in a long time.

If you have time, make sure to tune into the Big Ten Network on Friday as Michigan State will look to continue its run.

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