Spartans Win Sixth-Straight Big Ten Conference Win

Michigan State Baseball (PHOTO:  MSU SID)
Michigan State Baseball (PHOTO: MSU SID)

Spartans Complete Sweep Over Wildcats With 6-5 Victory Sunday

McGuire mashes two-run HR, Lowery and McCauley shut down NU as MSU wins sixth-straight Big Ten game.

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Michigan State baseball battled back-and-forth with Northwestern Sunday, before getting a two-run home run from Zack McGuire in the eighth inning to take the lead for good, while Jake Lowery and Riley McCauley shut down the Wildcats bats in a thrilling 6-5 victory for MSU at NU’s Miller Park.

The win was the Spartans sixth-straight Big Ten Conference win as they swept their second conference series in a row. It was also MSU’s sixth-straight series win over Northwestern, with the Spartans now having beaten the Wildcats in 14 of the last 17 meetings, improving to 96-49-1 all-time in the series.

“We got a big swing today when we needed it and a big inning in the first,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “Credit their guy (Jack Pagliarini), too, he really settled into it after the first, and we got a big swing when we need it.”

Senior first baseman McGuire smashed his second home run of the weekend and fifth of the season with a two-run home run to left center field in the top of the eighth inning. All five of McGuire’s home runs this season have been of the two-run variety. McGuire ended the game 2-for-3 with three RBI, adding a one-run single in the first inning, and scoring two runs.

Senior reliever Lowery came in to pitch in a jam in the seventh with one out and two on after the Wildcats had taken a 5-4 lead with two runs and got a line-drive out and a strikeout the halt the jam, and earn the win. McCauley pitched the final two innings, getting a strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play in the eighth, then another strikeout to end the frame. In the ninth, McCauley worked around a one-out single with a flyout then a big strikeout looking to end the game and spark the Spartans’ celebration. Lowery earned his second win of the season, while McCauley picked up his second save in as many days and his second of the season and 11th of his career.

Sophomore starting pitcher Mike Mokma went a career-high 6.0 innings, firing a career-high five strikeouts.

Along with McGuire, freshman third baseman Zach Iverson was 2-for-4 with two RBI, while junior right fielder Marty Bechina was 1-for-3 with an RBI and sophomore center fielder Danny Gleaves was 1-for-4 with a run scored. Senior designated hitter Chad Roskelly was also 1-for-3 with a run scored, as he now has a 13-game hitting streak and a 16-game on base streak, both the longest of the season for MSU.

Sunday’s win was just like the first two of the weekend, decided by two runs or less, as the Spartans have now played in 12 1-run ballgames as part of 21 games decided by two or fewer runs.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Boss said. “We need our seniors to lead us and they certainly did that today. After the single then getting thrown out trying to steal in the top of the eighth, that took a lot of wind out of our sails, but Chad Roskelly, a fifth-year senior, finishes up his at bat with a single, then Zack McGuire, another senior and those guys have played a lot of baseball here, and he got the barrel out on a ball and he’s got power for his second home run of the weekend. That could not have been at a bigger spot. You need your older guys to lead you and they certainly did that today, adding in Jake Lowery with two big outs to finish the seventh and then Riley McCauley, there’s nobody else I’d rather have the ball in their hands in that situation other than Riley McCauley, he’s as good as it gets in my opinion.”

McCauley’s strikeout to end the game, sparked a celebration of the Spartan team and their fans, as nearly half of the over 700 in attendance were Green and White.

“It was great. We’ve got a lot of friends and family that are here, it’s always nice to see familiar faces when you go on the road, but there’s nothing quite like waiting for the last out and hearing the crowd making a lot of noise and everybody on their feet pulling for our guys,” Boss said. “It was really great to see. We get really good support everywhere we go, and our parents, friends and family really do a nice job of supporting us.”

Just like Friday’s series opener, the Spartans bolted out of the gates, plating four runs in their first at bat on Sunday, with sophomore left fielder Bryce Kelley leading off with a walk and Roskelly later following by getting hit by a pitch. McGuire then laced an RBI single up the middle to plate Kelley, and Gleaves followed with a bunt single to load the bases. Iverson was next up and he roped a two-run single to right, driving in Roskelly and McGuire. Bechina followed with a safety squeeze sacrifice bunt for an RBI to put MSU ahead, 4-0.

The Wildcats quickly tried to counter, getting two on with only one out in the bottom of the first, but a 6-4-3 double play got Mokma out of the early jam.

Northwestern was able to plate a run in the bottom of the third, sparking a two-out single by Alex Erro, then a walk to Willie Bourbon, before an RBI single by Jack Claeys to pull the home team within 4-1.

After that, both pitchers settled in, with Mokma retiring Northwestern in order in the fourth and fifth inning, while Wildcat starter Jack Pagliarini set the Spartans down in three-up, three-down fashion in the third, fourth and fifth frames.

Northwestern broke through with a pair of solo home runs in the bottom of the sixth by Bourbon and Charlie Maxwell, as the home team closed to 4-3.

In the seventh, Northwestern rallied off reliever Mitchell Tyranski, with Bourbon belting a two-run single to give the Wildcats the lead. Lowery came on with two on and only one out and shut the door on the Wildcat rally, setting up McGuire and McCauley’s late-inning heroics.

MSU faces off with Eastern Michigan at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, on Tuesday, April 24 at 6:35 p.m.

The Spartans-Eagles battle is full of coaching connections, as MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., was the head coach at EMU for one season in 2008, MSU assistant coach/pitching coach Mark Van Ameyde was head coach at EMU from 2014-17, before returning to MSU, Spartan volunteer assistant coach Jordan Keur was also an assistant at Eastern Michigan for the 2015 season under Van Ameyde after playing for him at Michigan State. EMU interim head coach Eric Roof is in his fourth season at Eastern Michigan, after serving as a volunteer assistant under Coach Boss at MSU for two seasons (2013-14), and was a three-year letterwinner at Michigan State (2007-09), playing under Coach Boss. Current EMU pitching coach A.J. Achter was also a three-year letterwinner for the Spartans (2008-10), and was teammates with Roof under Coach Boss. Achter went on to have a three-year career in Major League Baseball as part of eight years in professional baseball.

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