Tony Bucciferro had been as reliable as Justin Verlander when it came to pitching at least six innings. Entering Friday, he hadn't pitched fewer than six since April of last year.
But MSU's ace could only make it through 5 1/3 on Friday, giving up four runs in the sixth inning as the MSU baseball team lost its NCAA Tournament-opener to No. 2 seed Pepperdine 6-2. (Box score) The No. 3 seed Spartans will play in the consolidation bracket Saturday against No. 4 seed Fresno State, which lost to No. 1 seed Stanford 9-1. The game will be at 4 p.m. and the loser will be eliminated.
"I'm very disappointed in the way that we played," said head coach Jake Boss. "We made a lot of the same mistakes that we've made a lot of the year. We couldn't avoid the big inning. If we make a couple of played in that (sixth) inning, that four-run inning turns out a lot different."
Pepperdine got on the board first with a suicide squeeze bunt in the third inning. A sac fly scored another run in the frame. In the fifth, MSU hit three-straight two-out singles, capped by an RBI-hit by Jordan Keur, to get on the board.
But things unraveled in the sixth. Pepperdine loaded the bases with one out after back-to-back singles and a fielding error by first baseman Ryan Krill. Another single extended the lead to 3-1. With runners at the corners, the MSU infield moved in for a double play, but the Waves hit a bloop single over the head of Krill to added another one. A two-run double by Pepperdine's No. 9 hitter (who was hitting .202 on the year) scored two more and ended Bucciferro's day.
A sac fly from John Martinez in the seventh cut the deficit to 6-2, but MSU would score no more. Pepperdine's Jon Moscot threw a complete game, allowing the two runs on 10 hits.
Krill went 2-for-4, while second baseman Ryan Jones went 2-for-5 with a run scored.
Stranded runners have been a problem for MSU late in the season, and it continued on Friday. The Spartans left nine on for the game, including five left in scoring position.
If they miss their opportunities on Saturday, there will be no more chances.
"We weren't able to move runners and drive runners in when we had the chance," Boss said. "We have a big ballgame tomorrow and it's win or go home. We'll be ready to play."