The Michigan State baseball team just might be pulling out of the mid-season slump that plagued the team from early April to early May. Coming into the final road series this weekend at Rutgers, the Spartans had won three of the team’s previous four games.
While the Green and White could not quite complete the sweep of the Scarlet Knights, the Spartan bats came alive and MSU managed to win the series, two games to one. Michigan State has now won five of its last seven games with just three games remaining this season.
On Friday night, the Spartans got onto the scoreboard early and often. It all got started in the top of the first inning with a lead off single from freshman second baseman Trent Farquhar, followed by a home run from sophomore right fielder Zaid Walker to make the score 2-0 with no outs. As it turned out, that was all the scoring the Spartans would need.
But, the Spartans were not even done scoring in the first inning. Freshman shortstop Mitch Jebb and senior first baseman Bailey Peterson reached base due to errors from Rutgers, and then senior designated hitter Andrew Morrow cleared the bases with a three-run home run to left field to bring the score to 5-0.
Next up was junior catcher Adam Proctor who hit a triple. A single by sophomore third baseman Reese Trahey brought Proctor home as well, but Trahey was caught trying to steal second, which finally ended the inning with MSU leading by six.
The Spartans bashed not ☝️ but ✌️ home runs in top of 1st, as Walker knocked a 2-run shot & Morrow mashed a 3-run blast. After scoring another run, MSU had 6-0 lead in top of 1st at Rutgers!— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 21, 2021
It's 1st time this season MSU had HR in same inning.
⚾️#GoGreen | @zwalk3 | @cu_2morrow pic.twitter.com/9CK4830x4C
Neither team generated much offense for the next few innings, but in the top of the fourth inning, the Spartans added another run thanks to a walk, another Rutgers error from Rutgers, and then an RBI-single from Walker.
In the top of the fifth inning, Jebb and senior left fielder Bryce Kelley both singled and then Morrow drew a walk to load the bases. Trahey proceeded to hit a two-RBI single to center field to bring the score to 9-0, Spartans.
The Scarlet Knights managed to get onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth inning due to an RBI-single that scored a runner from third base, but that single run on five total hits was all the offense that the home team could muster.
The Spartans, however, were not quite done. In the top of the eighth inning, Senior center fielded Joe Stewart hit a two-run home run to bring the score to 11-1. Then, in the top of the ninth inning, the Spartans added one more run, thanks to a sacrifice fly ball from Trahey. The Spartans took the first game, 12-1.
Spartan starting pitcher junior right-hander Mason Erla (5-5) got the win as he allowed only one run off of four hits through six innings. He also struck out six Scarlet Knights on the evening.
!!— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 21, 2021
Final score from Piscataway:
Michigan State 12, Rutgers 1
-A.Morrow 1st HR of ssn, 2-3 3 RBI
-Z.Walker 2-5 HR, 3 RBI
-T.Farquhar 3-5 2R
-R.Trahey 2-3, 4 RBI
-J.Stewart 1-4, 2-R HR
-M.Erla 6.0 IP, 6 K, 1 R#VictoryForMSU
⚾️#GoGreen | @cu2_morrow pic.twitter.com/7EcKuK9pQH
On Saturday, Rutgers drew first blood, thanks to a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning. But the Spartans were able to grab the lead in their next turn at the plate. In the top of the third inning, the Spartans led off with back-to-back doubles from Andrew Morrow and Adam Proctor to tie the score at one apiece. A few batters later, Zaid Walker hit another home run to give the Spartans a 3-1 lead.
"Walker got all of that fastball!"— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 22, 2021
Zaid Walker sends the ball to Souvenir City with his 2nd HR in as many days, now matching his jersey # with 3⃣ HRs this season and 5th of his career!
MSU 3, RU 1 - mid 3rd
⚾️#GoGreen | @zwalk3 pic.twitter.com/KLhyIoFUiC
But, the lead was short-lived. In the bottom of the third inning, the Scarlet Knights finally found some offense. Through a combination of a pair of singles, a double, a walk, and a sacrifice fly, Rutgers managed to tie the score at three all. Then, Spartan starting pitcher sophomore right hander Jackson Bennett hit a Scarlet Knight batter with a pitch to load the bases with two outs.
At this point, Michigan State head coach Jake Boss went to his bullpen for junior left-handed reliever Jesse Heikkinen. But, Heikkinen proceeded to walk three straight batters, which gave Rutgers a 6-3 lead. Boss went to his bullpen again, this time for freshman right-hander William Christophersen, who struck out the next batter to end the rally.
In the top of the fourth inning, the Spartans cut into the lead, thanks to a solo home run from Bailey Peterson. Then, in the top of the fifth inning, the Spartan staged a mini-rally to tie the score. Proctor was hit by a pitch and then advanced to third when Reese Trahey hit a ground rule double over the fence in right center field. Trent Farquhar hit a sacrifice grounder to score Proctor, and then Trahey was able to tie the score at six all thanks to a wild pitch from Rutgers.
The score remained 6-6 until the bottom of the sixth inning. Sophomore right-hander Burrell Jones took the mound for the Spartans in relief of Christophersen, and then Rutgers immediately started another rally. The Scarlet Knights opened the inning with a pair of singles, and then cleared the bases with a three-run homer to take a 9-6 lead.
Rutgers then scored its 10th run of the game thanks in part to a single and a throwing error by Jones, which advanced the runner to third base. The run scored on a single from the next Rutgers batter.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Spartans were able to cut the lead in half with a two-out rally. Mitch Jebb and Bailey Peterson both singled, and then Bryce Kelley drew a walk to load the bases. Andrew Morrow then singled, bringing home Jebb and Peterson before Proctor fouled out to end the rally with the score 10-8, Scarlet Knights.
But, that was as close as the Spartans would get on Saturday afternoon. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Rutgers was able to load the bases due to a combination of errors from the Spartan defense and a walk. Then a passed ball, followed by a single scored three runs. After that, a batter was hit by a pitch followed by a double to score two more runs.
The score was 15-8, which is how the game ended. Spartan reliever Burrell Jones (2-1) was credited with his first loss of the year.
On Sunday, the Spartans were able to earn a bit of redemption in the rubber match to claim the series victory. MSU got off to a strong start in the top of the first inning when Zaid Walker and Joe Stewart hit back-to-back doubles to put the first run on the board. Bailey Peterson later singled to increase the lead to 2-0.
When the top of the order came up again in the top of third inning, the Spartans found success once again. This time, lead-off batter Trent Farquhar drew a walk, and then scored two batters later following back-to-back singles from Walker and Mitch Jebb. Peterson then hit another double to score Walker and Jebb, bringing the score to 5-0.
The Scarlet Knights struck back in the bottom of the fourth inning with a mini-rally of their own. A lead-off double, followed by a pair of singles, scored one run, and then another single loaded the bases. Spartan starting pitcher, senior right hander Sam Benschoter, then walked in a run and gave up another run on a sacrifice fly to bring the score to 5-3.
In the top of the fifth inning, the Spartans added a run thanks to a solo home run from Peterson. Then, in the top of the sixth inning, MSU added another run via an RBI sacrifice fly from Farquhar, which scored Adam Proctor from third base to make the score 7-3, MSU.
Rutgers was not about to go down without a fight however. The Scarlet Knights hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to trim the lead to 7-5. After a quiet seventh inning, the Spartans were able to blow the game wide open.
The Spartans opened the inning with five consecutive singles from Proctor, Trahey, Farquhar, Walker, and Stewart, which made the score 10-5. After a Jebb fly out, Peterson cleared the bases with a three-run home run to up the score to 13-5. Two batters later, Morrow hit a solo home run of his own to bring the tally to 14-5.
Bailey Peterson came to plate in T8th a triple shy of cycle... unfortunately he didn't get cycle... because he went triple+1!! Peterson pelted his 2nd HR of game & 3rd in last 2 days!!— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 23, 2021
It's Peterson's 2nd 2-HR game of ssn (vs. PUR 4/18).#BaileyBash
⚾️#GoGreen | @baileypete22 pic.twitter.com/phRHfbZJQ5
The Scarlet Knights did inch a little closer in the final innings to make the final score a bit more respectable, but it was too little, too late. Rutgers hit a two-RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning, and then added a single run in the bottom of the ninth inning on a sacrifice fly ball, but that was as close as they would get.
The Spartans claimed victory, 14-8. Starting pitcher Sam Benschoter (3-5) was credited with the win after eight innings of work where he gave up seven runs off of 10 hits, but also struck out seven Scarlet Knights. Fortunately, the Spartan bats provided plenty of offense.
Over the weekend, the Spartans scored a total of 34 runs off from 45 hits, 17 of which were for extra bases. Seven different Spartans hit a double over the weekend, and three Spartan hit multiple home runs: Walker (two), Peterson (three), and Morrow (three).
With the series win, the Spartans record now sits at 17-24, which is good for 11th place in Big Ten play as the season winds down. The Spartan have just one three-game series remaining, which will take place next weekend against the Iowa Hawkeyes within the friendly confines of McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, in beautiful East Lansing.
The action on Friday, May 28 is scheduled to have a first pitch at 6:35 p.m Eastern Time. On Saturday, the action will begin at 5:05 p.m. and the game will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network. The final game of the season is set for 1:05 p.m. on Sunday, May 30. It will also be Senior Day, with seven Spartans playing in their final game in the Green and White.
In addition to Saturday’s national broadcast, 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.