Apr 22, 2012

Spartans Baseball Take Two of Three Against Minnesota

MSU Baseball
By Sean Gagnier
After a rain soaked Friday forced a double header on Saturday the Spartans and Golden Gophers of Minnesota split the twin billing with Michigan State winning on a walk-off in game one before having their five game winning streak snapped in game two. On Sunday, the Spartans shook off their loss and beat the Gophers in the 10th inning on a Torsten Boss walk-off allowing the Spartans to win two out of three games on the weekend.

Saturday - Double Header

The first game of the double header featured some of the best pitchers, starting and relievers, in the Big Ten. Michigan State had Tony Bucciferro on the mound going against Minnesota's TJ Oakes. Oakes entered the game ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten in ERA, IP and wins.

Minnesota struck first in the game when they strung together three hits in the first inning and were able to plate a runner, but the Spartans Jordan Keur tied things up in the bottom of the third inning with an RBI single.

Michigan State got to Oakes in the fifth with two outs when Ryan Jones singled to center field and was able to scamper around the bases and score on a Boss double to left field. After a shaky first inning, Bucciferro was able to toss four scoreless innings for the Spartans, allowing them to get out to a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning.

The Gophers tied the game at two in the sixth when catcher Matt Halloran singled in a run. Minnesota was able to chase Bucciferro from the game in the seventh when they loaded the bases with two outs. Spartans coach Jake Boss, Jr. gave the ball to Jeff Kinley to get his team out of the jam. Kinley did his job and got the next batter to ground out to end the inning.

Oakes also left after throwing 6.2 innings; he left runners on first and second with two outs for his reliever who was able to get Boss to pop out to end the threat.

Kinley and Gophers reliever Tom Windle both continued the pitchers duel into the 11th inning when Joel Fisher singled with two outs to put Spartans on first and third. Minnesota turned to their closer Kevin Kray to stop the rally but he walked Jones, loading the bases. Then Boss was able to draw a five pitch walk that forced in the game winning run.

The win was the Spartans third walk-off of the season, the fifth win of the season for Kinley and expanded Michigan State's extra innings record to 5-0.

Game two did not go the Spartans way. Michigan State, looking for their sixth win in a row, jumped out to a early 1-0 lead in the first inning. Ryan Krill, continued to shine in his freshman season when he drove in an RBI in the first with a ground out. The Spartans struggled to bring runners home in the early innings, leaving four runners on in the first two innings.

Krill's RBI would be the only run the Spartans would get until in the late game as they struggled to get anything going against Minnesota's DJ Snelton. The Gophers would bounce back in the second inning and plate two runners before adding two more in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead.

After a shaky first two innings Snelton settled in and faced the minimum through the next four innings. In the seventh the Spartans were able to scratch across another run when Jimmy Pickens was able to ground out to the right side of the infield.

Snelton completed the game, his first of the season, while throwing 121 pitches, allowing seven hits and fanning three. His counterpart, Andrew Waszak allowed just four runs through 5.2 innings, but his offense wasn't able to bail him out and he suffered his third loss of the season, making his record 4-3.


In another extra innings game, the Spartans counted on Torsten Boss once again as he drove in the winning run on an RBI single to lift Michigan State over Minnesota in the rubber match of the series by a score of 5-4.

Extra innings have been good to the Spartans this year, with Sunday's victory being the fourth walk-off win of the season and second of the series for the Spartans. Michigan State's bats were hot on Sunday, racking up 15 hits, lead by Jordan Keur who matched a career high four hits on the day.

Minnesota scored twice in the eighth to tie the game at four, then Michigan State loaded the bases with no outs for the second straight inning, but came up short in both instances. Jimmy Pickens attempted to break the tie with two outs in the eighth when he made a break for the plate on a fly ball to center, but Gopher's center fielder Jake Bergren cut him down at the plate to end the inning.

In the 10th inning the Spartans once again filled the bases with no one out when Pickens launched a deep hit to right-center field, but as he was rounding first base he ran into Gophers first baseman Dan Olinger. The collision with Olinger sent Pickens stumbling but he was able to round second base and dig for third where he was thrown out. The umpires called Olinger for interference however, and awarded Pickens third base on the play.

Joel Fisher hit a hard liner between the shortstop and third baseman, but Gophers SS Matt Puhl was able to knock it down before it got out of the infield and held Pickens at third while Fisher reached first on the infield hit. In the next at bat, Ryan Jones was able to hit a pop up that dropped just in front of the Minnesota left fielder; it allowed Fisher to advance to second and Jones to reach first but was not deep enough to score Pickens.

With the bases loaded and no outs Boss stepped to the plate. He had worked a five pitch walk to score the game-winning run in the first game of the double header on Saturday and now he looked to do the same. On the first pitch Boss saw he connected with it and drove it to left-center field to score Pickens and give Michigan State the 5-4 win.

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