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Michigan State baseball captures series victory versus UNLV

The Spartans leave Las Vegas with a 3-1 record.

Lucas Peltier, Michigan State Athletics

An 11-7 win over the the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels on Sunday sent the Michigan State baseball team home happy, as the Spartans begin the 2022 season with a 3-1 record.

MSU was off to a rough start in a non-offensive game on Friday, which ended with a 4-2 loss. There wasn’t much to speak of for the Spartans’ two runs, as only sophomore Jack Frank (assuming the role of designated hitter) and junior outfielder Casey Mayes had more than one hit.

UNLV’s pitching was electric. Senior Josh Ibarra had the start and the win for the Rebels, going five innings with four strikeouts and one earned run. Junior Nick Rupp pitched two-plus innings for UNLV as well, striking out four players without allowing a run. Junior Hayden Nierman nailed down the save.

On Michigan State’s side, senior Zach Iverson pitched four innings, struck out a career-high seven batters and allowed just one run. Redshirt junior Wyatt Rush took the loss, as two errors ended up allowing three unearned runs to score.

The Spartans took a sweep in a double-header on Saturday. After a 10-6 victory in the earlier game, Michigan State won the nightcap 12-6.

In the day game, a five-run seventh inning propelled MSU to victory. Sophomore infielder Mitch Jebb was 2-for-3 with a double, two walks and three runs scored. Junior outfieled Zaid Walker homered and had three RBIs, including one in the big seventh inning.

Junior right-hander Conner Tomasic was awarded the win in relief, taking over in the fifth inning. He pitched the entire last half of the game, struck out eight batters and allowed four earned runs. UNLV’s Troy Balko, a junior, suffered the loss. He pitched two innings and allowed five earned runs.

In the nightcap, MSU got off to a hot start on sophomore infielder Brock Vradenburg’s second-inning grand slam. Vradenburg scored two more in the seventh inning after a single to left field, pushing MSU’s lead to 7-2.

Offense was not in short supply on Saturday night. Jebb, Mayes, redshirt freshman catcher Christian Williams and Vradenburg all had home runs.

Freshman Ryan Szczepaniak had the win, pitching five innings and allowing two earned runs. He struck out seven batters. Redshirt freshman Dominic Pianto finished the game, getting the save.

In the series finale on Sunday, it was a comeback story for Michigan State. After opening with a four-run first inning, UNLV later took the lead, and MSU found itself playing catchup.

Sophomore right-hander Harrison Cook only went three-and-one-third innings, striking out three batters, walking three others and allowing four earned runs. Junior transfer Andrew Carson took over for Cook and finished the inning unscathed. However, after five batters in the fifth, Carson was out after giving up three runs and MSU’s lead.

In relief, sophomore Kyle Dunning was a savior. His clutch three-inning performance and nasty curveball bought time for Michigan State’s resurgence. After threatening every inning, sophomore infielder Dillon Kark’s solo home run allowed the Spartans to break through and tie the game at 7-7 in the eighth inning. MSU would add two additional runs in the eighth. Then Vradenburg homered in the ninth inning and pushed MSU’s lead out to 11-7.

Graduate pitcher Kyle Bischoff closed the game, and the series, capping off a gritty victory for Michigan State.

MSU starts the 2022 season at 3-1 and winning the first series of the year against UNLV. The Spartans take on Abilene Christian on the road next weekend for a four-game set.