The Michigan State Spartan baseball team entered this weekend’s series with the rival Michigan Wolverines on a four-game losing streak, and having lost 10 of the previous 11 games. The Spartans and Wolverines find themselves at the opposite ends of the Big Ten standings, and while the Wolverines did win the series two games to one, MSU earned a satisfying victory on Sunday afternoon to make all of the Spartan moms proud.
In Friday night’s opener, Spartans’ starting pitcher, redshirt junior right-hander Mason Erla, got into a jam early by allowing a single and walking two other batters to load the bases with no outs in the top of the first. But, Erla was able to sandwich an infield pop out between two strikeouts to retire the side.
In the top of the second inning, Erla gave up a lead off single, but then struck out the next three Wolverines. But in the top of the third inning, the Wolverines were able to get onto the board. Erla gave up a pair of doubles and a single, which altogether plated two runs for Michigan.
The Wolverines then made the score 3-0 in the top of the fourth. A single to center field scored a base-runner who had reach first base on a walk.
On offense, the Spartans struggled all evening to get anything going. Freshman second baseman Trent Farquhar led off the bottom of the first inning with a single. But the Michigan pitchers then retired 23 straight Spartan batters without a hit, stretching into the bottom of the eight inning.
In that span, MSU only managed to get two runners on base from a walk and a steal of first base due to a wild pitch. A total of 13 Spartan batters struck out through the first seven innings.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Spartans finally got onto the board to score their one and only run of the game. Sophomore infielder Reese Trahey reached second base on a fielding error by the Wolverines. Following two more strikeouts, Farquhar hit an RBI-single to make the score 3-1. Farquhar’s two singles were the only hits that the Spartans put up on the board all evening.
Michigan added two more runs in the top of the ninth on a two-RBI single to center field to make the score 5-1, which completed the scoring for the evening. The Spartans gave up a total of 11 hits, and Mason Erla was credited with his fifth loss of the season (now 3-5 overall), despite racking up eight strikeouts over his five innings pitched. Erla new career total of 225 Ks has moved him into third place in the Spartan record book.
Final score from Friday night's series opener:— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 8, 2021
Michigan 5, Michigan State 1
-T.Farquhar was 2-4 w/ RBI
-M.Erla 8 Ks in 5.0 IP
-W.Christophersen 6 Ks in 3.0 IP
Game 2 of 3-game weekend series is slated for first pitch at 3:05 pm on Saturday.
⚾️#GoGreen | @trentjf7 pic.twitter.com/szlQwU1Ezm
Saturday’s game also featured strong defense and pitching from both clubs, after some early offense. After a scoreless first inning, the Wolverines struck first blood in the top the second with a lead-off home run off Spartan starting pitcher, sophomore right-hander Jackson Bennett. Michigan then put a second run on the board with a single, a pair of wild pitches that allowed the runner to advance to third base, and then an RBI-single.
The Spartans responded in the bottom of the second inning with a run of their own. Freshman left fielder Jack Frank led off the inning with a double to left field, and then he advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Frank then scored off of a sacrifice fly ball to center field off of the bat of sophomore designated hitter Casey Mayes to make the score 2-1.
In the top of the third inning, Michigan State head coach Jake Boss brought in sophomore right-hander Wyatt Rush from the bullpen and the pitchers’ duel was on. Rush went a total of 3.1 innings without allowing a single hit. The Wolverines eventually scored one more run in the top of seventh inning off from a lead-off homer run off from Spartan sophomore right-handed pitcher, Burrell Jones.
But, the problem for the Green and White was that Wolverines’ starting pitcher, Cameron Weston, dominated the game from start to finish. He pitched all nine innings and only allowed one run and one hit while striking out nine Spartans. After the second inning, the Spartans managed just one base-runner for the rest of the contest when freshman first baseman Brock Vradenburg was hit by a pitch.
The final score in East Lansing was 3-1 and Jackson Bennett (0-1) was issued his first loss of the season.
Final score from East Lansing of Gm 2 of weekend series:— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 8, 2021
Michigan 3, Michigan State 1
-J.Frank 1-3 w/ R
-W.Rush 5 Ks in 3.1 IP relief
-B.Jones 3 Ks in 3.2 IP relief
Final game of the weekend series is Sunday with a 1:05 p.m. first pitch.
⚾#GoGreen | @jackF_22 pic.twitter.com/ziRIv3oZLY
On Sunday afternoon, the Spartan bats finally got going, and the Green and White turned the tables on the Maize and Blue.
The Spartans were in business right from first batter, as sophomore right fielder Zaid Walker reach first base due to a throwing error by the Wolverine shortstop. Freshman second baseman Trent Farquhar then singled to put two runners on base. Following a strikeout to senior center fielder Joe Stewart, Walker and Farquhar advanced to second and third off of a wild pitch.
A sacrifice grounder from freshman shortstop Mitch Jebb allowed Walker to score. Farquhar crossed home plate one batter later as a result of an RBI-single from senior left fielder Bryce Kelley, bringing the score at the end of the first inning to 2-0.
The Spartans went on to add a run in the bottom of the third inning as well. In this case, Farquhar led off the inning with a double, and scored on the next at bat due to an RBI-single from Kelley. MSU was in a position to add to the tally, but freshman designated hitter Jack Frank hit into a double play to end the rally.
Meanwhile, Spartan starting pitcher, senior right-hander Sam Benschoter, was pitching a gem. Through five innings, he had allowed just three hits and not given up any runs. Then, in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Spartans would provide all the insurance Benschoter to earn his second win the the year (2-4).
The inning started with another lead off hit from Farquhar, this time a single. This was followed up by a double from Stewart, and then Jebb drew a walk to load the bases.
It was at this point that the Wolverine pitchers and defense simply self-destructed. It started with Kelley drawing a walk to score a run. Then, Frank reached base thanks to an error form the Wolverine first baseman that also scored a run. With the bases still loaded and no outs, the score was 5-0.
The Wolverine pitchers then walked two batters and hit two more batters, which allowed the Spartan lead to balloon to 9-0 with no outs and the bases still loaded. Farquhar came to the plate for the second time in the inning, but this time he hit into a double play to take some of the pressure off from the visitors. However, a wild pitch during the next at bat scored the Spartans’ 10th run of the afternoon.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Wolverines finally got to Benschoter. They started off the inning with four consecutive singles to put two runs up on the scoreboard. But, the Spartan defense was able to get the next three batters out without allowing another run to end the rally with the score at 10-2. Neither team would score again, and the Wolverines were sent back to Ann Arbor on Sunday as losers.
Sunday’s win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Spartans, but MSU’s record overall sank further over the weekend to just 13-22, good enough for 12th place in the conference, ahead of only Minnesota.
The Spartans hit the road next weekend to visit Columbus, Ohio. MSU returns to action on Friday, May 14 with a three-game series against the Ohio State Buckeyes (17-14) who currently sit in sixth place in the Big Ten. 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 MSUSpartans.com.