DeLand, Fla. - Senior outfielder Dennis Jones hit a two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning and Michigan State capitalized on five Stetson errors as the Spartan baseball team defeated Stetson, 6-4, at Melching Field Friday night in the season opener for both teams. The victory is key for MSU, as Stetson went 42-21 last year and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Freshman pitcher Kurt Wunderlich pitched two shutout innings of relief to get the win in his MSU debut.
Jones went 2-for-5 with three RBI to lead the Spartans, while Justin Potes, Jonathan Roof and Eli Boike each had two hits. Senior starting pitcher Mike Montery gave MSU a solid outing, working 6.1 innings of three-hit baseball. He allowed just two runs and struck out five.
"For game one of our 55-game season, that was one of the most unbelieveable performances we could have had," head coach David Grewe said. "We battled adversity and came back to win a tough game. That shows the character we feel this team has. I couldn't be prouder of this team."
With the game tied, 4-4, in the 10th, freshman Brandon Eckerle reached on a throwing error by Stetson reliever Ian Thompson. Eckerle moved to second on a sacrifice by designated hitter Eric Roof, setting the table for Jones to smash a 2-0 pitch from Thompson over the left-center field fence. Wunderlich finished the Hatters off with a scoreless 10th inning.
The Hatters got on the board first when outfielder Aaron Crittenden hit a solo home run to center in the bottom of the second.
The Spartans put Stetson starting pitcher Jake Hitchcock in trouble for the first time in the top of the fourth. With one out, Day lifted a fly ball down the left-field line, which Stetson's Justin Bass dropped. Day ended up at second on the error. Potes then singled to center to bring Day home. Next, designated hitter Eric Roof reached base to give MSU runners on first and second with one out. Hitchcock battled back, however, striking out the next two Spartans to hold the MSU rally to one run.
Stetson regained the lead 2-1 when Bass doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch by Monterey. A Crittenden sac fly would score Bass just moments later.
The Spartans anwered with a pair of runs in the top of the eighth, once again sparked by an error. Stetson leftfielder Frank Florio dropped a high fly ball hit by third baseman Steve Gerstenberger, who quickly advanced to third on a sac bunt by second baseman A.J. Achter. The next batter, Day, slapped a grounder to Hatter shortstop Robert Crews, who bobbled the ball, allowing Gerstenberger to score to tie the game 2-2.
Two more Stetson errors in that same inning - a fielding error by Crews and a throwing error by Hatter catcher Josh Clendenin - allowed Michigan State to put runners on second and third with one out. Jones then slapped a single on the left side of the infield to drive in Day and give MSU a 3-2 lead.
The Spartans would extend the lead to 4-2 in the ninth. Freshman shortstop Jonathan Roof doubled down the rightfield line to lead off the frame. Roof would advance to third on a groundout by senior Evan Friedland. Gerstenberger then reached on a bunt single, and Roof kept the inning alive with an alert baserunning play. As Gerstenberger reached first on the bunt single, Roof slid safely back into third to give MSU runners at the corners. Freshman A.J. Shindler then drove in Roof with an RBI groundout.
Down 4-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth, Stetson wasn't finished. Crews singled to lead off the inning and Jeremy Cruz hit a two-run home run to tie the game 4-4. Stetson would load the bases against Wunderlich, who entered in the ninth for A.J. Dunn. Down 3-0 in the count and with a near-capacity crowd on its feet, Wunderlich threw three straight strikes to send the game into the 10th inning.
Michigan State will take on Big 12 pre-season favorite Missouri Saturday at 1 p.m.