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Michigan State Baseball: Spartans lose three of four games against Northwestern

Michigan State outfielder Zaid Walker
Jeremy Fleming

The Michigan State Spartans baseball program was back in action this past weekend, but things did not go as well as they did in the opening weekend. After winning three of four games against Maryland, MSU lost three of four contests this time around against the Northwestern Wildcats, and moved to 4-4 overall on the season. The games once again took place at Fluor Field in Greenville, South Carolina.

The Spartans were hammered in the first game of the series, as the Wildcats won by a final score of 14-2. Northwestern had 12 hits compared to seven hits for Michigan State, and both teams made one error. MSU scored first with a run in the top of the first inning, but it was all Northwestern after that. The Wildcats accomplished an impressive feat, with three grand slams — one in each of the first three innings — and took a 13-1 lead after that. The Spartans managed to add one more run, but never threatened.

Senior outfielder Bryce Kelly was able to get two base hits off of three plate appearances, while freshmen Mitch Jebb and Trent Farquhar were the only Spartans to score runs. Pitcher Sam Benschoter, who had a brilliant debut against the Terrapins with 10 strikeouts last weekend was given the loss on his record, which is now 1-1.

The Spartans and Wildcats then met on Saturday for a double-header, which the programs split. The first game of the twin bill also went to Northwestern, but this game was much closer, with the final score being 4-2 in seven innings. The Wildcats (eight) once again had more hits than the Spartans (five) and both teams once again committed an error each.

NU raced out to an early 3-0 lead after two innings of play, but MSU finally got on the board in the fourth inning, as sophomore outfielder Zaid Walker started the comeback effort with a double to left field, followed by an RBI single from senior outfielder Joe Stewart to drive Walker home. The Wildcats would score again in the bottom of the fifth inning, however, and almost added another three runs if not for Walker absolutely robbing Northwestern’s Ethan O’Donnell of a home run with a beauty of a play in the outfield.

Michigan State would score once more, but unfortunately, the Spartans didn’t have enough runners cross home plate and eventually fell by two runs. Pitcher Mason Erla took the loss, moving him to 1-1 this season.

The second game of the day went a lot better for the Spartans, and was the only contest MSU managed to win, but it was in dominating fashion. Thanks to another strong performance by Walker, the Spartans were able to win third game of the series by a final score 12-3. The 12 runs and 17 hits were both season highs for Michigan State.

With Michigan State up 1-0, Walker, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week, hit a home run in the top of the fourth inning to give MSU the 2-0 lead. It was his first homer of the season.

Walker’s home run was just the tip of the iceberg, though, as MSU would add 10 more runs. Eight of the nine players in the lineup for the Spartans had at least one hit, while five players had multiple hits. Walker went 4-for-4 with an RBI two runs scored and the towering homer. Redshirt-freshman catcher Gabe Sotres recorded three hits in four at-bats, with four RBIs and two runs scored, all career-highs. Pitcher Adam Berghorst, who also plays on the Michigan State football team as a tight end, picked up his first career win on the mound, moving him to 1-0 this season.

The final game of the series once again belonged to Northwestern, losing to the Wildcats in heartbreaking fashion by a final score of 7-5.

MSU was in a 3-0 hole after three innings of play, but rallied in the top of the seventh inning with a three-run home run by Stewart to take a 5-3 lead. However, the Wildcats added another run in the bottom of the inning to make it 5-4. But in the bottom of the ninth inning, Northwestern’s Shawn Goosenberg hit a three-run walk-off home run to give NU the victory in both the game and the series. Michigan State pitcher Zach Iverson (now 0-1) was credited with the loss.

Michigan State will have its first “pod play” of the season this coming weekend in Ann Arbor against Michigan and Illinois.