The Spartans played in the First Pitch Invitational again this season. Last year Michigan State swept the tournament beating Furman, Presbyterian, and Tennessee-Martin. They outscored their opponents 19-5 in three games.
This year was a little different (big understatement). Michigan State was lucky to win a game this weekend. As sad as that is, it’s true. If not for an amazing pitching performance by Mason Erla, the Spartans may have gotten swept.
Following the invitational, Michigan State improved (if you want to call it one) to 4-10 on the year. They played Illinois twice but the win / loss didn’t count towards the Spartans conference record.
So far, Spartan fans have experienced 14 games this season and only seen four victories. It’s been a very rough start to the season and the beginning of the First Pitch Invitational didn’t make it any better.
Michigan State lost to Illinois, 15-4, in the opening act of a double-header Friday afternoon. MSU allowed 14 hits, walked 12 batters, and committed two errors. The loss snapped a three game winning streak that the Spartans had over Illinois. The Fighting Illini now lead the all-time series 77-69.
Riley McCauley pitched 4.1 innings, giving up six hits, five earned runs, four walks, and four strikeouts. It was his first early exit this season.
The Spartans retook the field at night against Furman. They would lose a very close 3-2 battle. It’s the eighth time this year that MSU has been involved in a game that was decided by two runs or less.
Ethan Landon threw 7.0 innings while giving up seven hits and striking out four.
The last game of the weekend took place on Saturday (Sunday’s games were postponed). Once again the Spartans took the field against Illinois. Only this time Michigan State would come out on top in a 4-2 victory.
Offensively, the Spartans were finally able to step it up a bit. Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit. They also made several plays on defense that helped lead MSU to their fourth win of the year. Michigan State was led by their starting pitcher, Mason Erla. The redshirt freshman pitched 6.1 innings, retired 10 batters in a row, and ended the game with five strikeouts.
Spartans Staying The Course
The MSU pitching staff played so well, that Mason Erla earned the award for “Big Ten freshman of the Week” for his start on Saturday. Illinois came into the game on fire, winning seven straight games and performing at a high level.
The Fighting Illini had four guys averaging above .300 and they scored 29 runs in their first two games of the invitational. My point is MSU had no business beating this Illinois team at all this weekend. But that was before Mason Erla took the mound. He pitched just over six innings, gave up a single hit during that time, retired 10 hitters in a row at one point, and one earned run.
With the victory, Erla improves to 2-0 in 2018 and continues his streak of quality starts.
Here’s how the rest of the staff is looking following this past weekends tournament.
- Mitchell Tyranski: ERA — 0.64, 1-0, 14.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 12 SO
- Mike Mokma: ERA — 0.73, 1-1, 12.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 13 SO
- Mason Erla: ERA — 2.82, 2-0, 22.1 IP, 12 H, 7 ER, 15 SO
- Ethan Landon: ERA — 3.70, 0-3, 24.1 IP, 26 H, 10 ER, 25 SO
- Riley McCauley: ERA — 4.71, 0-2, 21.0 IP, 25 H, 11 ER, 27 SO
- From everything I’ve seen and read the Spartans are not improving.
- This is one of the worst starts in Jake Boss’s career as head coach for Michigan State.
- The pitching staff remains the most consistent part about this team but they aren’t built to carry MSU to victory. The Spartans must string together a few games with offensive prowess if they want things to change.
Michigan State will return to East Lansing for their home opener against Niagara. It’s a four game series that begins Thursday, March 15th, at 3:05 p.m.