|Tom Kelly / Gang Green|
The Spartans headed down Michigan Ave. on Thursday night to take on their in-town counterparts, the Lansing Lugnuts, Single-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, in the sixth annual Crosstown Showdown. Thursday was not the Spartans night as the Lugnuts beat them 7-0 after six innings of two hit ball.
Each season the Crosstown Showdown draws more people, in its first season a few thousand people attended the exhibition match between the two squads but on Thursday 12,997 people took in the game. It was the first game for the Lugnuts in Lansing fresh out of spring training in Dunedin, Fla. and an exhibition match for the Spartans between their Wednesday night game against Eastern Michigan and a weekend series with Michigan.
Despite the game not officially meaning anything on the stats sheets both teams played for hometown bragging rights and what looked like a pitchers duel through six innings turned into a seven run blowout for Lansing. The Lugnuts now hold a 4-2 series lead in the Crosstown Showdown over the Spartans.
The game was slow for six innings with both teams getting only one hit each, but the Lugnuts rallied for seven runs on six hits in the bottom of the seventh inning. Michigan State had Tim Simpson start on the rubber, making his first start after 43 previous appearances out of the bullpen. Simpson gave the Spartans two scoreless innings with two strikeouts.
Lansing countered with Aaron Sanchez, a 2010 supplemental first-round MLB draft pick and a Top 10 prospect for the Blue Jays. He pitched the first inning and fanned two Spartans while walking two.
Jesse Hernandez then took the ball for the Lugnuts and threw five scoreless innings with four strikeouts. Michigan State had a revolving door on the mound with Chad Nielson seeing action in the third and fourth inning and Cody Huge, Chase Rihtarchik and Mike Mestdagh each tossing an scoreless inning.
Lugnuts hitters got to Spartan pitchers in the seventh when Chris Schaeffer led of the inning with a single and was followed by a Bryson Namba double to right. With runners on second and third, Markus Brisker singled two center, scoring two. Kenny Wilson, in a return stint with the Lugnuts, doubled down the right field line scoring two more runs, making the score 4-0.
Jonathan Berti then singled to center to drive in two more RBI extending the Lugnuts lead to 6-0. Pierce Rankin finished the rally with an RBI groundout to put Lansing on top 7-0.
Lansing pitching held the Spartans to just two hits on the day, with Anthony Cheky getting a single in the fifth and Ryan Krill reaching on a single in the ninth.