EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State baseball team put on an offensive clinic Friday afternoon with 18 hits as the Spartans rolled past Northwestern, 11-6, in the final home game of the season at Kobs Field.
Senior catcher Sean Walker came up big for MSU, going 3-for-4 with a career-high six RBI, including a grand slam in the six-run Spartan fifth inning. Junior center fielder Dennis Jones also had a career day with a 5-for-5 performance at the plate.
With the win, MSU improves to 20-24 (10-14 Big Ten), while the Wildcats fall to 14-33 (5-20).
The 18 hits were one short of a season high for MSU, as the Spartans slugged out 19 hits in a 22-1 win over Saint Joseph's back on March 4. Walker collected a season-high three hits, which also tied his career high. The slugger from Round Lake, Ill., had drove in five runs on two occasions in his Spartan career, but in his last appearance at Kobs Field, Walker delivered one of his finest offensive performances in a Green and White uniform.
Entering the bottom of the fifth inning, MSU trailed, 6-5, after the Wildcats scored five runs on five hits in the top half of the frame. The Spartans bounced right back, however, plating six runs to reclaim the lead, 11-6. Steve Gerstenberger, who went 3-for-6, drove in the first run with an RBI single to score E.J. Daws. A walk to Brandon Doherty loaded the bases, and up stepped Walker. On a full count, Walker drilled a line shot over the left-field fence, good for the second grand slam in his career.
"All season long, I've almost gotten the big hit, so it feels good to finally come through," said Walker. "It was great to get a grand slam and turn the game around."
Walker finished with six RBI, as he also hit a run-scoring single in the first and a sacrifice fly in the third.
After the six-run fifth, the Wildcats were kept off the board as the Spartan pitching staff allowed just four hits in the final four innings.
"That was a huge game for us," said MSU head coach David Grewe. "We needed to win, and it was a great start to the weekend. You have to battle every inning. That's what I'm trying to teach these guys, to never give up, and try and win every inning of every game, and we did that today. We had a lot of what I call `get-back runs'. Instead of `give-back runs' when you score a lot and then give them right back, we got a lot of `get-back runs' where they scored and we got them right back. It was a good finish to Kobs Field this year."
Craig Brookes pitched 5.1 innings to earn his fourth win of the year and the 17th of his career, which ties him with six other Spartan pitchers for seventh place in the MSU record book. Brookes (4-5) gave up six runs, five earned, on nine hits and three strikeouts.
The Spartans chased Northwestern starter Dan Schwartz in the first inning, scoring three runs on four hits. Friedland, who had three RBI for the second time this week and fourth time of the season, hit a two-run double in the first after Walker's RBI single.
MSU added two runs in the second inning to build a 5-1 lead before the Wildcats rallied for five runs in the top of the fifth to make it 6-5 in favor of Northwestern.
Matt Diedrich (2-3) took the loss for Northwestern, giving up five hits and two runs, one earned, in 2.1 innings pitched.
The series continues Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader at Oldsmobile Park, beginning at 3:05 p.m.