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Michigan State Baseball: Spartans get a weekend split with both Penn State and Purdue

Mason Erla tallied his 200th career strikeout, while Bryce Kelley broke the career stolen based record with 80.

Senior left-fielder Bryce Kelley broke the MSU career stolen base record in MSU’s 5-2 win over Purdue on Sunday
Courtesy of Michigan State Athletic Communications.

You win some. You lose some.

As for the 2021 Michigan State University baseball team, that old phrase describes the season perfectly. The Spartans have now faced a total of eight different Big Ten teams since the beginning of the season. They have at least one win and at least one loss against all eight team. The Spartans’ current record stands at an even 11-11.

This past weekend was a perfect reflection of this season-long pattern. Michigan State faced off against the Penn State Nittany Lions in a doubleheader on Friday and split the two games. Then, on Sunday and Monday, the Spartans hosted a pair of games against Purdue. MSU split those two games as well.

In the first game on Friday afternoon, the Green and White got off to a fast start. Before the Nittany Lions were even able to get a single out in the bottom of the first inning, the Spartans put a pair of runs on the board due to two singles by freshman second baseman Trent Farquhar and senior center fielder Joe Stewart, coupled with a Penn State wild pitch.

To open the bottom of the second inning, Spartan junior third baseman Zach Iverson hit a solo home run, his first of the year and second of his career, to extend the lead to 3-0. Penn State would then answer with solo homer of its own in the top of the third inning to close the gap to 3-1.

The score would remain 3-1 until the bottom of the sixth inning, when the Spartans staged a three-run rally fueled by a trio of singles by freshman first baseman Brock Vradenburg, Farquhar, and senior left fielder Bryce Kelley to bring the score to 6-1.

In the top of the eighth inning, Michigan State head coach Jake Boss brought in freshman right-handed pitcher Dominic Hann to relieve junior right-handed starting pitcher Mason Erla. Hann quickly gave up a run off from a pair of n doubles from the Nittany Lions and then walked two more batters to load the bases with two outs and the score 6-2.

Boss then changed pitchers again, this time bringing Zack Iverson over from third base. But, the rain then began to fall in East Lansing, and the game was delayed for almost an hour. Once play resumed, Iverson struck out the next Penn State batter to end the rally.

MSU added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning and then faced a final Penn State rally in the top of the ninth. The Nittany Lions opened the inning with a pair of doubles and a single to narrow the score to 7-4. Penn State then hit two consecutive singles to load the bases with just one out.

But, Iverson was up to the task. He struck out the next batter and the following batter grounded out to end the game in a 7-4 victory for MSU. Mason Erla earned his third win of the year, and in the process tallied his 200th career strikeout, becoming only the fifth Spartan to achieve such a landmark. Iverson was credited with his fifth save of the season.

In the second game on Friday against Penn State, it was a rough start for Spartan freshman right-handed pitcher Adam Berghorst. He gave up four runs off from three hits and a walk in the top of the first inning and was replaced by senior right-hander Sam Benschoter after getting just one out.

The Spartans got two of those runs back in the bottom of the first off from a walk to Kelley, a single from freshman Jack Frank, and a Penn State error to cut the lead back to 4-2.

In the top of the third inning, Penn State plated one more run to extend its lead to 5-2, and this is where the score would stay until the bottom of the sixth inning when the Spartans trimmed the lead to 5-3 due to a triple from Farquhar.

But, MSU would not get any closer. Penn State added two runs in the top of the eighth inning to run the tally to 7-3, which wound up as the final score. The Spartans managed just four total hits in the nightcap, but gave up 11 hits to Penn State. Berghorst was issued his second loss of the season.

The Spartans got Saturday off this weekend, but returned to action at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field on Sunday against the Purdue Boilermakers.

MSU got off to a strong start in the bottom of the first inning, scoring two runs off of a single by sophomore right fielder Zaid Walker. Just prior to the RBI, Kelley stole third base and in the process broke the Michigan State career stolen base record with 80 total.

The Spartans then added another run in the bottom of the second as Purdue walked Kelley with the bases loaded to make the score 3-0. The Boilermakers added a single run in the top of the fourth inning to close the gap by a run, and the score remained 3-1 until the bottom of the seventh inning.

Following the seventh-inning stretch, MSU added two more insurance runs from a trio of singles from Frank, Walker, and freshman shortstop Mitch Jebb to up the score to 5-1, Spartans. Purdue would add a single run in the top of the ninth, but the Spartans would hold on for the 5-2 victory. Walker led all Spartan hitters by going 3-for-3 with three RBI.

MSU’s starting pitcher, freshman left-hander Nick Powers, gave up six hits scattered over 7.2 innings and also recorded a career-high seven strikeouts in earning his third win on the season. Iverson once again came over from third base to close out the game and earn his sixth save of the year.

In Monday’s weekend finale versus the Boilermakers, the Spartans did not fare nearly as well. Purdue scored at least one run in four of the first five innings, and by the bottom of the sixth inning, the Spartans had given up eight hits and trailed 7-0.

The Spartans finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning with a solo home run by Farquhar. The blast from the bat of the Spartan freshman second baseman sailed down the right field line, over the fence, and into the Red Cedar River. But, MSU could not extend the rally and left two runners on base.

Purdue added an eighth run in the top of the seventh inning, and the Spartans attempted to rally in the bottom of the seventh. Farquhar hit an RBI double to bring the Spartans to within 8-2. A walk and an error would then load the bases with two outs. But, Frank grounded out to second base to end the inning, and neither team would threaten to score again.

Both teams had nine hits for the afternoon, but the Spartan stranded a total of 10 baserunners, leading to the 8-2 loss. Spartan junior left-handed pitcher Jessie Heikkinen was credited with the loss in his first start of the season after giving up three runs, but only two hits through the fist two innings.

As a result of the 2-2 record over the weekend, Michigan State now holds an 11-11 record overall, which is good enough for eighth place in the Big Ten. The Spartans return to action this Friday for another four-game weekend slate, this time in Champaign Illinois. MSU will play a pair of games against the Illini (8-12) on Friday and Saturday.

The Spartans will then play a second game on Saturday evening against Purdue (6-15), followed yet another contest with Purdue on Sunday afternoon. The action can be followed with live stats, live audio from TCF Bank Spartan Media Network, and live streaming from Big Ten Network+ with links available at