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The Only Recap: Michigan State splits series with Niagara

The Spartans were unable to clinch the series during Sunday’s finale

The Spartans played in a four game series this past weekend against the Niagara Purple Eagles.

Before facing Niagara, Michigan State was coming off of a rough First Pitch Invitational where they saw one win in three games. The Spartans lost two out of three contests to Furman and Illinois. So MSU entered this series with a 4-10 record (with no indication that things will turn around).

After splitting the weekend series with the Purple Eagles, Michigan State improves to 6-12 on the season, while Niagara is 4-10. Both teams are struggling to say the least.

The Spartans will play one more game against Central Michigan (this Wednesday), before kicking off the conference schedule vs. Michigan.

Michigan State came out of the gates strong to begin the series Thursday afternoon, putting on a clinic offensively, beating Niagara 10-1 in the Spartans home opener.

Despite it being extremely cold, with a hint of snowfall, Riley McCauley picked up his first victory on the year. He pitched 7.0 innings and gave up four hits.

Offensively, the Spartans were unconscious, erupting early in the game for a big five run second inning. Leading the way was Dan Chmielewski who finished the game going 2-5 with four RBI. Bryce Kelley also had himself a nice game, going 2-4 with two runs. But MSU didn’t stop there. They also stole a total of eight bases throughout the game, setting up their teammates, and making it easier on themselves to drive runs home. It was easily their most efficient ball-game of the season.

In their second game, Michigan State was holding onto a very small 2-1 lead heading into the ninth inning. Both teams had played well throughout and were looking for a way to hold out long enough for the win and a 2-0 lead in the weekend series (for MSU). Unfortunately, the Purple Eagles were able to take full advantage of some late game mistakes by MSU, scoring two more runs, putting them ahead, 3-2.

The Spartans being at home, were of course given an opportunity in the bottom of the ninth to turn things around. But they were unable to string together any kind of rally, being set down in order.

If there are any Michigan State baseball fans out there who don’t know who Mason Erla is, please alert the authorities because they are committing a crime. The youngster took the mound again in game three versus Niagara and put on a show.

He threw seven scoreless innings, struck out nine batters, and only gave up four hits. With the 5-1 victory he improves to 3-0, has a 2.15 ERA, 29.1 IP, 7 earned runs, and 24 strikeouts. This kid is on FIRE.

The Spartans came extremely close to avoiding the split series in Sunday’s finale but came up just short. Heading into the ninth inning MSU was down 12-7, they managed to put together a nice little rally, scoring three more runs when it mattered. MSU also had the tying run at the plate with two outs, but they weren’t able to finish.

Nonetheless, it was a valiant effort. Michigan State played hard all weekend long and ended up playing in some of the most competitive games they’ve had this season.

Spartans Staying The Course

The Spartans offense exploded this weekend and gave us something to talk about, finally. Michigan State scored 27 runs in four games (their most in that span all year) and finished with a total of 33 hits (another season high).

Sure, we can say it was the level of competition that made the MSU offense look so good but where’s the fun in that? It was nice to see them get going. Hopefully they can ride this momentum into Wednesday when they face Central Michigan. Something NEEDS to help create some consistent offense for the Spartans.

After this weekend their team batting average is up to .231 (129-558), with 16 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 53 RBI, and 43 stolen bases. Including the eight MSU stole during Thursday’s opener against the Purple Eagles.

Here’s a quick look at some of the Spartans best hitters:

  • Justin Antoncic (CF): .322 (19-59), 4 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 6 SB
  • Royce Ando (2B): .316 (12-38), 1 2B, 5 RBI, 5 SB
  • Dan Chmielewski (RF): .294 (15-51), 3 2B, 2 3B, 10 RBI, 5 SB
  • Zach Iverson (3B): .282 (11-39), 2 2B, 1 3B, 1 RBI, 2 SB
  • Ryan King (SS): .267 (16-60), 2 2B, 3 RBI
  • Bryce Kelley (LF): .259 (15-58), 5 RBI, 10 SB

Final Takeaways

  • Michigan State played well in this series, everything from offense, to pitching, to defense. A lot went right, unfortunately they weren’t able to get the series victory but they are still learning how to win as a unit.
  • Mason Erla and Riley McCauley should become the co-aces of the team.
  • Once again, I see potential in this Spartan team, despite their horrible record to start the season. If they are able to stay consistent then being competitive within the conference is still within their grasp.
  • Hopefully this series has jump started their offense, I realize Niagara isn’t the greatest baseball team in the world but something has to get them going in the right direction, permanently.

Next Series

The Spartans will take the field again Wednesday at 3:05 p.m. for another exciting home game against the Central Michigan Chippewas.