The inability to get the clutch hit had cost the MSU baseball team quite a few times down the stretch of the season. Along with some late pitching struggles, it cost the Spartans for the last time on Saturday.
One of the best seasons in MSU history came to an end as the Spartans dropped their second NCAA Tournament regional game, this one to Fresno State by an 8-2 score. (Box score).
"I thought we were capable of playing better, which is probably the most disappointing thing," said MSU coach Jake Boss on his team's performance. "Credit Fresno State. They made a couple of big plays when they needed to. … Momentum was a big thing. They got it and took it and ran with it, and we couldn't get it stopped."
MSU starter Andrew Waszak allowed two runs in the top of the first, but the Spartans answered with two in the bottom frame. Designated hitter Blaise Salter drove in both runs with a two-out double off the left-field wall. Salter went 1-for-2 on the day.
The game remained scoreless until the sixth inning, when the Bulldogs hit a two-out double to score a run and take a 3-2 lead. In the seventh, Fresno drove in its fourth run with another two-out hit. Reliever Bryce Jenney entered for the eighth with the top ERA on MSU. But Jenney allowed a run on two hits and a walk and was pulled without recording an out. Closer Tony Wieber came in and induced an 8-3-6-3 triple play, keeping MSU's slim hopes alive.
But the MSU offense could only muster a two-out double in the bottom frame. Anthony Checky went 2-for-3 as the only Spartan with multiple hits. MSU stranded six runners on the day, for a total of 15 in the two tournament games. Wieber allowed three runs in the ninth and sealed MSU's fate. Fresno State advanced to the Stanford region semifinal to play Pepperdine.
For MSU, the senior class leaves with a 130-94 record — the most wins in school history. MSU's 37 wins this year were the third-most in program history. Much like Mark Dantonio did with the football program, Boss returned his program to its former glory. In Boss' first four years, he has won a Big Ten championship and earned an NCAA Tournament berth. Both feats hadn't been accomplished at MSU since 1979.
A solid senior class leaves, but recruiting classes are getting better. So much so that a few MSU players could get selected in the MLB Draft this week and have to make a decision about returning to school for their senior seasons. But Boss has built MSU into a consistent Big Ten contender, and the future remains bright for a long-dormant program.
"Obviously losing today hurts right now," said Boss. "But in a week or two, when we really step back and take a look at things, a lot of credit goes to our senior class. Really, all the credit goes to our senior class. All those guys came in our first year here and they bought in and changed the culture of the program. We brought in a couple junior college guys like Justin (Scanlon) here that added to that momentum and really turned things around and took Michigan State baseball to a place it hasn't been in a long time."