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Michigan State baseball: Spartans rebound nicely in Cambria Classic, but leave more to be desired

The Spartans are currently 5-6 after missing big opportunities late in games.

Eric Miller/Michigan State Athletic Communications

The Michigan State baseball squad took two of three ganes this past weekend at Minnesota’s U.S. Bank Stadium. After an impressive 11-2 victory against Kansas on Friday, MSU fought No. 12 Notre Dame to a 2-1 loss. The Spartans then finished with a nice 9-3 win against West Virginia on Friday.

Kansas redshirt senior Cole Larsen had a tough outing Friday against the Spartans, rare for him. In four innings, Larsen allowed 12 hits and allowed eight runs. Meanwhile, Michigan State’s Nick Powers only allowed two hits in six innings and didn’t allow a single run.

MSU’s offense was clicking all day. Zaid Walker had a two-run homer in the top of the second inning and later scored Casey Mayes. Walker led MSU with three RBIs. Trent Farquhar, Brock Vradenburg, Jack Frank and Dillon Kark were among others helping on offense.

The second game was hard-fought to No. 12 Notre Dame. It’s a shame that MSU took the loss after the outing that pitcher Zach Iverson had. He went seven innings and allowed two hits. Unfortunately, those hits were both able to score. Notre Dame sophomore TJ Williams doubled in the fifth inning and advanced to third base on an error. Later in the inning, he scored on a sacrifice fly from senior Brooks Coetzee III. Notre Dame’s winning run was scored when senior Jack Brannigan hit a solo shot to left field in the bottom of the seventh.

The Irish’s pitching was exceptional as well. Graduate pitcher John Michael Bertrand threw seven innings of one-run ball, and allowed six hits, but hardly any damage. One walk and one run were allowed. He was awarded the run while graduate student Ryan McLinskey nailed the save.

In a 9-3 victory against West Virginia, Michigan State freshman pitcher Ryan Szczepaniak was on full display. He threw five innings, allowed three hits and one run, and struck out four batters. For his effort, he was named the Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week. Szczepaniak is the first Big Ten freshman with two wins in the 2022 season.

A win against WVU was a solid one, for what it’s worth. The Mountaineers were 7-3 before playing the Spartans, and received votes in several national polls. Perhaps the star of the game was Mitch Jebb, who had four RBIs on four separate hits. He went 4-for-5 at the plate and was just a home run short of hitting for the cycle.

Earlier this week, MSU arrived in Greenville, South Carolina for the First Pitch Invitational this weekend. The Spartans will take on Cincinnati, Western Carolina and Kansas (again). Before that, MSU faced off against the undefeated No. 19 Clemson Tigers (11-0) on Wednesday.

Unfortunately for the Spartans, Clemson continues to roll. In what happened to be another tightly-contested game, MSU gave its all. The game was tied 1-1 heading into the eighth inning, but the Tigers scored two unearned runs in the top of the inning.

Clemson had a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth. MSU scored Walker on a hit by Peter Ahn, forcing the Tigers to make a pitching change. Clemson’s Jay Dill nailed down the save and kept the program undefeated.

For Michigan State, the team falls to 5-6, but half of its losses came in a sweep to Abilene Christian. The Spartans have the First Pitch Invitational as its last neutral-site games before a home-opener the following weekend against Houston Baptist.

As for MSU’s opponents at the First Pitch Invitational, Cincinnati is 6-5, but has some high-scoring games. In one contest against Florida Gulf Coast, the Bearcats came away with a 16-15 win. A few days ago, Cincinnati defeated Northwestern 16-5. This week, however, Cincinnati lost to Indiana, 7-0, its first shutout loss of the season.

Western Carolina is 6-7, but has opened the season on an interesting note. In its first four games, Western Carolina decimated Niagara in a four-game sweep, outscoring the Purple Eagles 72-12. Then, the Catamounts lost to USC Upstate, suffered a sweep to Illinois State, then lost to Middle Tennessee. However, WCU is 2-2 in its last four games with wins against Stony Brook and Presbyterian.

Kansas had a rare bad outing from Larsen against MSU, but the Jayhawks have more to prove against the Spartans in the next go-round. Kansas is 6-6 and rides a three-game winning streak heading into the weekend. While the team didn’t win against either Michigan State or Minnesota, it finished the Cambria Classic with a victory against Illinois.