The road has been a tough place for the Michigan State Spartans baseball team so far in 2021. The Spartans were hoping to turn things around with a road trip to State College to face the Penn State Nittany Lions, but MSU left town on Sunday having been swept. The Spartans have now lost seven-straight Big Ten road games.
The Friday night series opener was a back-and-forth, competitive affair. The home town Lions got on the board first with a two-hit, two-run second inning. Then, in the top of the third inning, the Spartans cut the lead in half by scoring a run on a fielder’s choice ground ball with the bases loaded.
In the top of the fourth inning, the boys in Green and White took the lead with a two-hit, two run inning. First, redshirt freshman catcher Gabe Sortes scored from second base off of a single from the bat of sophomore first baseman Reese Trahey. Then, freshman second baseman Trent Farquhar returned the favor by sending Trahey home from second with another RBI single.
But, the lead was short lived. Penn State tied the score, 3-3, thanks to a pair of doubles in the bottom of the fourth inning. The Lions then took the lead, 5-3, in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to a double, a single, a walk, and a throwing error on the defense.
The Spartans got a run back in the top of the seventh inning, thanks in part to a throwing error by Penn State. But, the Spartans gave that run back in the bottom of the seventh inning due to a series of hit or walked batters from the Spartan relief pitchers, right-handed freshman Dominic Hann and right-handed redshirt sophomore Wyatt Rush.
But, MSU kept fighting. In the top of the eighth inning, a two-out triple by sophomore designated hitter Casey Mayes, followed by a single Reese Trahey cut the lead to 6-5. However, Penn State put another run onto the board in the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to a lead-off walk, followed by a double and a single.
In the Spartans’ final inning, the Green and White were able to put yet another single run onto the scoreboard. Farquhar led off the inning with a walk. A run scored a few batters later, thanks to back-to-back singles by senior left fielder Bryce Kelly and freshman pinch hitter Jack Frank. With two men on base, Penn State was able to close out the Spartans with a fly ball and a strike out to end the game with a final score of 7-6.
The Spartans out-hit the Lions, 10-to-eight, but also stranded a total of nine base-runners. Redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Mason Erla (3-4) was credited with the loss.
Final score from State College:— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 1, 2021
Penn State 7, Michigan State 6
-Reese Trahey went 2-4 w/ 2 RBI, 1 R
-MSU's 7th 1-run contest this season
-MSU's 12th game with double-digit hits
Game 2 of Spartans vs. Nittany Lions Saturday at 1 pm.
⚾️#GoGreen | @reese_trahey pic.twitter.com/Uh4JEorP3A
It is hard to describe what happened on Saturday. I will just say that it went very, very poorly for the Spartans, right from the beginning.
In the bottom of the first inning, Penn State blitzed the Spartans with 10 runs off of eight hits. Starting pitcher freshman left-hander Nick Powers was yanked by Spartan head coach Jake Boss after giving up two runs off of two hits and after suffering an injury. Powers also hit a Penn State batter with a pitch, walked two others, and threw a wild pitch.
Relief pitcher sophomore right-hander Burrell Jones did not do any better. In fact, he gave up two doubles and four singles out of the seven batters he faced. By the time he was replaced by junior right-hander Jordan Beatson, the score was 9-0. The Lions scored a 10th run off a a wild pitch just for good measure.
Penn State went on the add a single run in the bottom of the second inning, and then once again poured it on in the bottom of the third inning with seven more runs off from seven hits, including two home runs. The score was 18-0 and the rout was on.
It was quiet for two full innings until the bottom of the sixth inning when Penn State added five more runs on three hits and an error to bring the score to 23-0.
In the bottom the seventh inning, the Spartans finally got onto the scoreboard with a two-out rally that put two runs onto the board. Senior pinch hitter Trevor Hopman singled to get on base, and then freshman third baseman Dillon Kark singled to advance Hopman to third base. With runners at the corners, junior catcher Adam Proctor hit a two-RBI single to bring the score to 23-2.
But Penn State wasn’t quite done scoring yet either. The Lions scored three more runs off from two hits in the bottom of the seventh inning and then added a final “insurance” run in the bottom of the eighth inning to bring the score to 27-2.
The Spartans put up two runs off of two hits in the top of the ninth inning to close out the scoring. Penn Sate won by a final score of 27-4. Yikes.
Sunday’s series finale did not have quite as many fireworks. Penn State got on the board first with an RBI-double to make the score 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. The scoreboard was stuck on those numbers for the next three innings.
In the top of the fifth inning, the Spartans were able to take the lead. The rally started with first baseman Reese Trahey drawing a walk and catcher Adam Proctor reaching first base after being hit by a pitch. Second baseman Trent Farquhar then drove Trahey home with an RBI single.
Senior center fielder Bryce Kelley reached base on an error from the Penn State second-baseman (which also scored Proctor). Finally, sophomore right fielder Zaid Walker singled to left center, which drove home Farquhar to bring the score to 3-1.
The Spartan lead was once again short-lived, however, as a two-run RBI double by Penn State in the bottom of the fifth inning tied the score at three runs apiece.
Penn State went on to add a run in the bottom of the sixth and another in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Spartans did not plate another run, though they had their chances.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Spartans had two base-runners with two outs, but Proctor stuck out to end the inning. Similarly, the Spartans got two base-runners on in the top of the seventh inning, but a fly out to center field by senior designated hitter Joe Stewart brought that attempted rally to an end.
After stranding another runner in the top of the eight inning, the Spartans led off the top of the ninth with a single and a walk to put two base-runners on with no outs. But, Zaid Walker struck out, Bryce Kelley was thrown out at second base on a fielder’s choice, and then Joe Stewart struck out swinging to end the inning and the game with a final score of 5-3.
Freshman left fielder Jack Frank led the Spartans with three hits, tying his career high, as starting pitcher, senior right-hander Sam Benschoter (1-4) was credited with the loss.
Final score from State College:— Michigan State Baseball (@statebaseball) May 2, 2021
Penn State 5, Michigan State
-J. Frank season-high 3 hits, tying career-high, finishing game 3-5
-T. Farquhar 2-5, RBI, R
-D. Kark 2-4
Spartans return home to host Michigan, Friday-Sunday, May 7-9.
⚾️#GoGreen | @jackf_22 pic.twitter.com/f8OlorhHGy
The Spartans return home to lick their wounds after having dropped 11 of their last 13 contest to drop to 12-20 overall in this Big Ten-only 2021 season. The loss drops the Spartans to 12th place in the conference, ahead of only Minnesota (4-26).
Next weekend MSU will attempt to get back to its winning ways with a three-game home series against the rival Michigan Wolverines. The Maize and Blue are 20-9 on the season and are currently tied with the Indiana Hooisers at the top of the Big Ten standings. 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.