CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Michigan State baseball team improved to 7-1 in extra-inning games this season after defeating Illinois, 6-5, in 10 innings Saturday afternoon at Illinois Field. With the win, Michigan State upped its record to 29-15 (10-7 Big Ten) and clinched its first series win at Illinois since 2003.
“Our team just competes until the very end,” said head coach Jake Boss on MSU’s success in extra innings. “We have a core group of veteran guys who have been through this before and keep everyone calm, and our younger guys are feeding off of that.”
With the score tied at 5 heading into the 10th, Jordan Keur drew a one-out walk, then stole second to put himself in scoring position. After working himself into a full count, freshman Ryan Krill hit a grounder to Illini first baseman Jordan Parr, who misplayed the ball for an error, allowing Keur to score from second and giving MSU the 6-5 lead.
The one-run cushion was all reliever Jeff Kinley needed to close out the win. Kinley entered the game in the seventh, replacing starter Andrew Waszak, and continued his dominant pitching in Big Ten play with another stellar performance on Saturday. The sophomore left-hander from Saginaw, who hasn’t allowed a run in his last 26 innings, threw 3 2/3 shutout frames against Illinois to record his team-leading sixth win of the season.
Illinois (25-21, 8-10) did threaten in the bottom half of the 10th, as Parr reached second on a two-base error by Spartan right-fielder Jimmy Pickens with one out. After getting Thomas Shelton to strike out, Kinley walked Davis Hendrickson, placing runners on first and third and giving way to closer Tony Wieber. The Spartan closer recorded his seventh save of the season by getting David Kerian to pop out to third baseman Torsten Boss, sealing the victory for MSU.
“Jeff has been extremely valuable for us coming out of the bullpen,” Boss said. “He’s been able to come in about the midway point of games, and we’re comfortable extending him. He’s a lefty who controls the running game, has a good breaking ball, and can get out of tough situations. His goal is to get the ball to our closer (Tony Wieber), which he did tonight.”
Michigan State fell behind early for the second straight game as Parr hit a three-run homer in the first, but the Spartans responded with five runs in the top of the second. Following a two-out, bases-loaded walk to Jared Hook, Boss delivered his second career grand slam to put MSU in front, 5-3.
“Torsten had a big two-out hit for us,” said head coach Jake Boss. “The ball took a fortunate bounce off the wall, but he also hit it into the wind and to the opposite field. That was huge for us to come back and get some momentum after giving up three in the first.”
Those would be the only runs MSU would score until the decisive 10th inning.
Meanwhile, Waszak settled in after the three-run homer and blanked Illinois for the next three innings. The Fighting Illini tied it up at 5 in the fifth on a two-run Brandon Hohl single. Waszak left the game after pitching six innings, allowing five runs on eight hits while tying a season high with five strikeouts.
Offensively for Michigan State, junior second baseman Ryan Jones had his 15-game hitting streak snapped, but the Spartans did collect seven hits overall, led by Keur and Anthony Cheky, who had two hits apiece.
Michigan State will look for the series sweep over Illinois tomorrow at 2:05 p.m. ET.