WILMINGTON, N.C. - UNC Wilmington scored three runs off two hits in the bottom of the eighth inning to defeat the Michigan State baseball team, 4-3, in game two of a doubleheader on Friday (Feb. 27). The Seahawks used a career performance from starter Daniel Cropper to down MSU, 7-2, in game one. Cropper helped hold the Spartans to just five hits and notched a career-high nine Ks.
"It was a frustrating day," said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. "We didn't play particularly well in game one and UNC Wilmington is a very, very good ball club."
The Seahawks got on the board in the first inning of game one with a two-RBI double to left center field by Robbie Monday. After laboring in the first, Moody settled to retire the next five batters in order before a single and two walks in the third loaded the bases. However, a ground ball for the final out kept the game 2-0.
MSU struggled to generate offense early on as Cropper retired eight of the first nine batters he faced - including five via the strikeout - but the Spartans eventually got to him in the fifth frame. Eric Roof led off the inning with a single through the left side and two batters later Johnny Lee hit his first-career home run - a towering shot over the left field wall - to tie the game at two.
The Seahawks regained a 5-2 lead in the bottom of the fifth, courtesy of a sacrifice fly and a two-run home run by Monday, and added two more in the seventh with two runs off MSU reliever Tony Bucciferro to make the final score 7-2.
MSU's best chance to cut the lead came in the sixth but a strong wind kept a deep drive to right field by Jonathan Roof in play for the final out of the inning.
In his second start of the season, Moody (1-1) struck out three and issued three walks in 5.0 innings and surrendered five runs off six hits. Peter Wolff and Clay VanderLaan each saw their first action of the season out of the bullpen and both threw one scoreless inning.
Game two began as a pitcher's duel with Spartan starter A.J. Achter and Seahawk starter Seth Frankhoff combining to surrender just four total hits through six innings.
The only run of the game through six innings came in the bottom of the third when the Seahawks manufactured one run off one hit.
The Spartans threatened in the top of the seventh when Jonathan Roof led off the inning with a double to left center field and Eric Roof followed with a single to give MSU two runners on with no outs. However Frankhoff got the final two batters to strikeout to keep the game at 1-0.
The Green and White finally caught a break in the eighth when a single and throwing error advanced Ben Vrobel to second. Pinch hitter Jeff Holm then got his first hit of the year that scored Vrobel and tied the game, 1-1. With two outs and two on, Seahawk third baseman Matt Holt made a critical throwing error off a sharply hit ball by Eric Roof that gave the Spartans their first lead of the day as Holm and Chris Roberts came around to score on the play. Roberts had reached earlier on a deep double to right center field.
Achter left after striking out one and waking two with the score 3-1 in the bottom of the eighth. Kurtis Frymier came on in relief and got the first batter he faced to strike out before surrendering a two-run double to Cody Stanley that knotted the game at three. The Seahawks then regained the lead for good, 4-3, on a single to left field that scored Stanley.
Achter pitched brilliantly in his second start of the year - giving up just two hits in 7.1 innings of work. Achter retired the first five batters of the game and sat down 10 straight before giving up a walk with one out in the eighth.
"I didn't have my best stuff velocity-wise; I just tried to keep the ball down and throw strikes and pound the zone," said Achter.
Achter finished with three walks and three strikeouts.
"A.J. Achter pitched outstanding and he has good enough stuff to beat anybody in the country and he showed that tonight," Boss said. "I thought in the second game we played with more passion, more pride and more enthusiasm and gave ourselves a chance to win. We showed some character coming from behind but it just wasn't enough."
With rain making its way toward the Wilmington area, the two teams are now scheduled to play at 10 a.m. on Saturday (Feb. 28) with Sunday's game time still to be determined.