Spartans Top Terps, 4-2, Friday In Thrilling Opener
MSU wins sixth-straight, 10 of last 12 as bullpen shuts down visiting Maryland
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State baseball doubled up Maryland, 4-2, Friday afternoon at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field in the opener of a key Big Ten Conference series. The Spartans have now won six in a row and 10 of their last 12.
A national television audience on Big Ten Network also saw MSU win its seventh-straight Big Ten Conference contest, improving to 7-5 in B1G play as well as 16-21 overall with the season-long six-game win streak. Maryland is now 17-24 overall and 3-9 in conference competition. The Spartans’ win snapped a three-game losing streak to the Terrapins in the series history, avenging last year’s sweep in College Park and pulling MSU within 6-3 all-time.
Friday’s win kept MSU in the top seven of the B1G standings, as the Spartans have continued to climb up the conference table and in the hunt for a top-eight finish and a berth in the Big Ten Tournament.
“It’s a good win, anytime you can win on Friday in this conference, it’s obviously a really good win,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “It’s a talented ball club over there that had their way with us a year ago, so it was good to win game one good to defend our home turf. We obviously have a long way to go in the series, but I thought we played well today.”
The 2-run advantage was also Michigan State’s fifth game in a row decided by 1-2 runs and ninth in the last 10 games, as part of the 23rd such game this season, which is tied for the most in the country. The Spartans have won 10 of their last 12 games, which started after an eight-game losing skein.
“This is an awesome group of kids that continue to work hard, even when it was going bad. It’s tough when you hit the skids like that but at the same time they come with a great attitude every day and that’s how they are,” Boss said. “So obviously it’s fun when you’re in the throws of a little bit of a winning streak and that’s a good time for everybody. But I think this group has come to the field every day regardless of how the last day went with the same attitude, so it’s been fun.”
The Spartans were led at the plate by their three outfielders, who combined to go 4-for-9 with two RBI and two runs scored. Sophomore center fielder Danny Gleaves led the way going 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored, while sophomore left fielder Bryce Kelley was 1-for-3 with an RBI and junior right fielder Marty Bechina was 1-for-4 with a run scored.
Senior designated hitter Chad Roskelly and sophomore second baseman Justin Antoncic were both 1-for-4, keeping streaks intact. Roskelly ran his hit streak to 15 games and his on-base streak to 19 games, both the longest of the season for MSU. Antoncic is right behind with a 17-game reached base streak. Roskelly added an RBI, while Antoncic scored a run.
“It was good to see efficient offense today,” Boss said. “We took advantage of some opportunities. We hit a couple balls hard but didn’t have anything to show for it, but we just chipped away. One here, one there and defensively I thought we were really, really good and our bullpen was lights out today. You want those guys at the end of game playing with some confidence and they are so it was a good day.”
After senior starting pitcher Ethan Landon went 5.0 innings, holding the Terps to just three hits and two runs, only one earned, with four strikeouts, the Spartans turned the game over the bullpen, who didn’t allow a hit the rest of the game.
Senior Jake Lowery came on in the sixth with runners on second and third with nobody out and got out of the jam with only one run scored. Lowery fired two strikeouts. Sophomore Mitchell Tyranski pitched a three-up, three-down eighth inning with one strikeout, while junior Riley McCauley worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth, ringing up two strikeouts before a deep flyout to left ended the game.
“It worked out great for us today,” Boss said about Lowery, Tyranski and McCauley shutting down the Terps. “I give Jake a lot of credit; he got us out of a big situation: second and third with nobody out and to only allow one run was huge for him and for our ballclub. We’re going to need those guys again tomorrow and maybe even Sunday, so to be able to keep them on a short leash today, all three of them pitched really well and all three of them should be available tomorrow, so yes, it worked out about as good as it could have.”
The Terps got on the board first with a run in the top of the second stanza, with Zach Jancarski coming around to score on an RBI single by Taylor for a 1-0 lead for the visitors.
MSU’s deficit didn’t last long, as the Spartans tied it up with a run in the home half of the frame, as senior first baseman Zack McGuire sparked the rally getting hit by a pitch to open the inning and moving to second on a groundout. After a passed ball moved McGuire to third, Gleaves laced a Texas-leaguer single to center to plate McGuire and level the score at a run apiece.
Maryland threatened to break the tie in the top of the third, but a quickly turned 5-4-3 double-play on a nice snare by freshman third baseman Zach Iverson thwarted the Terps’ rally. Iverson snared a hot shot off the bat of Maryland’s AJ Lee, threw to Antoncic at second, who turned and fired to McGuire at first.
“That was a big play there, we walked the lead off hitter so you’ve got a runner on first base, nobody out and kind of the heart of their order up, which is a group that has been dangerous in the past, and it was a first pitch fastball and Zach Iverson made a great play made a good feed and threw the ball with some pace to it and Justin Antoncic made a good turn and showed some arm strength there and got it to Zack McGuire, so that was a big play in the game, for sure.”
Antoncic fueled MSU’s third-inning scoring with a double off the wall down the right-field line. He came in to score on Roskelly’s RBI single just inside third base to put MSU ahead, 2-1.
The Spartans scored for the third-straight inning with a run in the fourth frame, with Bechina leading off with an infield single. Bechina later came around to score on an RBI groundout by senior shortstop Kory Young and the home team went on top, 3-1.
Maryland threatened in the sixth, leading off with a walk and a double by Kevin Biondic, putting runners at second and third without any outs, chasing Landon. The first Terps’ batter to face Lowery was Will Watson, who tried to lay down a squeeze bunt, but Lowery fielded his position, scooping the ball up with his glove and shoveling it to freshman catcher Adam Proctor at the plate to tag the runner. Watson then stole second and Biondic scored on an error on the play. However, Lowery induced a popup for the second out and then slammed the door on the rally with a three-pitch strikeout.
After the stretch, the Spartans plated a run in the home half of the seventh as Gleaves led off with a single up the middle. Young sac bunted Gleaves to third and Kelley doubled to right center to plate Gleaves and put the Spartans ahead 4-2 for the final scoring.
MSU and Maryland continue their B1G series on Saturday and Sunday, both with 1:05 p.m. start times. Any schedule updates will be announced on www.MSUSpartans.com and on twitter @statebaseball.
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