The months of April and May have so far not been kind to the Michigan State Spartans baseball team. That said, MSU found some offense in the final game of the previous series against Michigan, and the Green and White were hoping that the momentum would carry over against Ohio State in Columbus.
While the Spartans did not earn a sweep, MSU did win two-of-three games against the Buckeyes and have now won three of the past four games overall.
In the series opener on Friday, the Spartans got on to the scoreboard first in the top of the second inning. The rally started with a single and a pair of walks to load the bases. Senior designated hitter Andrew Marrow then hit a sacrifice fly ball to center field, which scored lead-off batter, freshman short stop Mitch Jebb, from third base. Two batters later, third baseman Dillon Kark cleared the bases with a three-run home run to bring the score to 4-0, Spartans.
The scoreboard was unchanged until the bottom of the fourth inning, when Ohio State led off with a home run, and then followed that up with a double and then a single to score another run and cut the Spartan lead in half, 4-2. But, Spartan starting pitcher, junior right-hander Mason Erla, was then able to retire three of the next four batter to get out of the inning with no further damage.
When the Spartans came up to bat in the top of the fifth inning, they were able to get those two runs back. Freshman second baseman Trent Farquhar started things off with a lead-off double. He crossed home plate one batter later when sophomore right fielder Zaid Walker also doubled. Walker proceeded to steal third base and then scored on a fielder’s choice by Mitch Jebb to bring the score to 6-2.
In the top of the seventh inning, the Spartans further extended their lead. Once again, Farquhar got things started, this time with a lead off walk. Walker then singled to advance Farquhar to third base. Farquhar went on to score on a wild pitch.
Senior center fielder Joe Stewart reached first base due to being hit by a pitch, and then Jebb hit a sacrifice bunt to advance Stewart and Walker to second and third base. Next up was senior left fielder Bryce Kelley, who hit a two-RBI single and then stole second base a few pitches later. Andrew Marrow then hit a single to left center, scoring Kelley, and bring the score to 10-2 in favor of MSU.
The Spartans were done scoring for the evening, but the Buckeyes attempted to rally late in the game. In the top of the eighth inning, Spartan junior left-handed relief pitcher Jesse Heikkinen took to the mound. But, his time there was short. After giving up one run on a walk and two singles, Michigan State head coach Jake Boss went to his bullpen again, this time for sophomore right-hander Wyatt Rush. While Rush did give up another run off of a RBI-single, he retired the next two batters to halt the damage and with the score 10-4.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Buckeyes attempted to rally one more time. Rush gave up two doubles and a single, sandwiched around a strikeout. The Spartans then gave up a sacrifice ground ball to bring the score to 10-6.
After giving up a walk to put two men on, Coach Boss made a pitching change again, this time for redshirt freshman right-hander William Christophersen. He gave up an RBI-double to the first batter that he faced, but struck out the next Buckeye to end the game with a final score of 10-7, and earned his first save of the year.
Mason Erla (4-5) earned the win with yet another strong outing for the Spartans. He allowed just five hits and two runs over seven innings, and tallied six strikeouts along the way.
!!— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 15, 2021
Final score from Columbus:
Michigan State 10, Ohio State 7
-D.Kark 1st career HR, 3 RBI
-M.Erla 7.0 IP, 6 K
-Z.Walker 2-5, 2 R, RBI
-T.Farquhar 2-4, 2 R#VictoryForMSU
⚾️#GoGreen | @KarkDillon pic.twitter.com/WQhXVImRDj
The Spartans and the Buckeyes combined for 17 runs and 22 hits on Friday night. On Saturday, the offensive production was significantly lower.
Through four total innings both teams had just two hits apiece. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Spartans were finally able to break the deadlock. Andrew Marrow got things started with a lead off single, and then sophomore first baseman Reese Trahey reached first base due to a walk. Dillon Kark then completed a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third base.
But, Marrow got a bit too greedy. He tried to score on the play and was thrown out at the plate. Fortunately, the next Spartan batter, catcher Aaron Proctor, hit a two-run home run to clear the bases and put the Spartans up 2-0. That would be all the offense the Green and White would need.
Adam Proctor smashes his first HR of the season. IT's also his team-leading 12th of his career with a 2-run blast to deeeeeeeep right field to give MSU a 2-0 lead at OSU.— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 15, 2021
⚾️#GoGreen | #ProctorSmash pic.twitter.com/iNhicHMAui
The Buckeyes did threaten to score a few times in the later stages of the contest. In the bottom of the sixth inning, OSU led off with a single, but proceeded to hit into a double play. In the bottom of the seventh inning, the Buckeyes had runners on first and second due to a pair of walks from Spartan sophomore right hander starting pitcher Burrell Jones. But, William Christophersen once again was called in from the bullpen and struck out the next batter to end the rally.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, a Buckeye made it to third base after being hit by a pitch, advancing to second on a wild pitch, and then to third on a fly ball. But, a strikeout ended that threat as well.
Finally, in the bottom of the ninth inning, Coach Boss brought in senior right hander Sam Benschoter to close things out. While Benschoter did give up a single, he also struck-out the final Buckeye to end the game, preserved the shut-out, and earned the save, his first of the year. Starting pitcher Burrell Jones (2-0) was credited with the win after allowing just one hit over 3.1 inning pitched.
!!— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 15, 2021
Michigan State 2, Ohio State 0
-Spartan pitching combines for 4th shutout of season: J.Bennett/B.Jones/W.Christophersen/S.Benschoter
-A.Proctor smashes 1st HR of season/11th of career as part of 2-3 outing#VictoryForMSU
On Sunday, the Spartans returned to the diamond looking for the series sweep. For a few innings, it looks like they just might get it.
The Green and White got on the scoreboard first once again in the top of second inning. Mitch Jebb opened the inning with single to right field. He advanced to second on a wild pitch, and then he scored the first run of the game, thanks to an RBI-single from freshman first baseman Brock Vradenburg. However, the Buckeyes were able to match the Spartans with an RBI-single of their own in the bottom of the second inning to tie the score at one all.
In the top of the third inning, the Spartan broke the tie when Adam Proctor hit a lead-off solo home run to make the score 2-1. Two innings later, Proctor came up to bat again and hit a double to right field. Proctor crossed home plate one batter later when Trent Farquhar hit an RBI-single to extend the Spartan lead to 3-1.
But, the hometown Buckeyes were not about to be swept without a fight. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Ohio State strung together a trio of singles that allowed them to tie the score at 3-3. The score remained tied until the bottom of the seventh inning, when OSU took the lead thanks to another RBI-single.
Then, in the bottom of eighth inning, the Buckeyes added three more runs thanks to a series of two walks, two singles, and a pair of sacrifice ground balls. When the Spartans came to bat in the top of the ninth inning, they trailed 7-3.
In the ninth, the Spartans managed to load the bases by virtue of a lead-off single from Bryce Kelly and a pair of walks, but with the tying run at the plate, Farquhar struck out to end the game. Spartan starting pitcher Sam Benschoter (3-4) gave up seven hits and four runs over 6.2 innings and was credited with the loss. But, he did pick up seven strikeoutss to bring his total for the year to 70, which leads all Spartan pitchers.
Final score from Columbus:— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 16, 2021
Ohio State 7, Michigan State 3
MSU wins series, 2-1
-A.Proctor 2-3, HR, 2 R, RBI
-B.Vradenburg & T.Farquhar 1-4 RBI
-S.Benschoter 6.2 IP, 7 K
Despite the loss on Sunday, the Spartans won the series and improved their record to 15-23 for the season, which puts MSU in 11th place in the Big Ten standings. Adam Proctor did not play on Friday, but led the Spartan offense on Saturday and Sunday, going 4-for-6 with two home run and two double and accounting for three runs, three RBIs, and a walk. Proctor now has 13 career home runs, which is the most of any current Spartan player.
Next weekend the Spartans travel to Piscataway, New Jersey for the final road series of the season at Rutgers (18-17). It will be a chance for the Spartans to edge closer to .500. 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.