Spartans Ground No. 24 Hawkeyes, 9-4, Saturday

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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michigan State baseball scored in six of the nine innings on the way to a 9-4 Victory for MSU over No. 24 Iowa Saturday afternoon at Iowa’s Banks Field, leveling the Big Ten Conference weekend series at a game apiece.

Saturday’s start time was delayed 30 minutes due to rain, but that didn’t seem to phase the Spartans, who plated a run in the top of the first on the way to a 4-0 lead in the third. Michigan State plated a run in the sixth, two in the seventh and one each in the eighth and ninth frames. MSU’s nine runs was its season-high in a Big Ten game, topping the previous of eight runs in back-to-back games vs. Northwestern April 26-27.

Michigan State had 10 hits on the day, with eight of the starting nine tallying at least one hit. The 10 hits Saturday gives MSU double-digit hits in three of the last five games as part of the 16th time overall this season.

“Our guys swung the bat really well today, they took advantage of a couple opportunities, and I thought we were able to keep coming at them. We scored in six of the nine innings and were very consistent today, which is good for us. We were able to get runners on base and drive them in, so it was a pretty good day offensively for all of us,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said.

Senior catcher Nic Lacayo was 2-for-4 for his second game in a row, added two RBI on a two-run double in the seventh inning.

“Nic had a great at bat with the double there in the seventh. He was up in the count at 2-0, took two strikes, and then was able to get the barrel of the bat to the ball and hit it where it was pitched and go down the right field line,” Boss said. “That was a huge double with two RBI for us, and that gave us a little bit of breathing room.”

Lacayo’s fellow senior, outfielder Dan Chmielewski joined him with two hits, going 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Junior outfielder Bryce Kelley was 1-for-3 with an RBI on a squeeze bunt, adding a run scored. Senior infielder Marty Bechina was 1-for-5 with a run scored, while fellow senior infielder Royce Ando was 1-for-3 with an RBI.

Freshman outfielder Zaid Walker was 1-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored. Junior designated hitter Bailey Peterson was 1-for-4 with two runs scored and a stolen base. Junior infielder Andrew Morrow was 1-for-1 with a run scored, but was on base all four times at bat, drawing three walks. Freshman infielder Reese Trahey came on as a pinch runner for Morrow and scored a run on Kelley’s squeeze bunt.

The Spartan offense was matched by solid pitching, starting with junior Mitchell Tyranski, who went 6.0 IP, scattering five hits while yielding three runs, two of them earned, and struck out six in earning his third-straight win. Tyranski has rung up five or more strikeouts in all nine starts this season as part of doing so in 10 appearances this season.

“Mitchell really grinded it today. I don’t think he had his best stuff, and I think he’d tell you he didn’t necessarily have his best stuff today, but he’s a competitor and he was able to gut it out for us and keep us right there. We had the lead really the whole way and he was able to get out of jams and throw strikes when he needed to and make pitches when he needed to; and I think that’s the mark of a true competitor is how you execute when maybe you don’t feel at your best or your stuff isn’t at its best, or you don’t quite feel up to 100 percent. I credit a lot to Mitch because he just kept grinding and figuring out ways to get guys out,” Boss said.

Tyranski was relieved by freshman Colton Panaranto in the seventh. Panaranto threw the last 3.0 innings, yielding just one run on three hits with one punchout, earning his first save of the season.

The Spartans jumped out to a 4-0 lead Saturday, after getting down 4-0 early in Friday’s series opener. MSU and Iowa will play the rubber match of the series on Sunday in a 2:05 p.m. ET / 1:05 p.m. CT first pitch.

“It was good to get out early, with one in the first and three in the third was important for us, then add to it late,” Boss said. “That’s a very good ballclub over there in Iowa, they’re ranked in the Top 25 in a couple polls and they’re on the verge of a berth in the NCAA Regionals depending on how they play in the next couple weeks, so they have a lot to play for. We know we’re going to get a great effort out of those guys tomorrow and we’re going to have to be ready to go.”

The Spartans got on the board in their first at bat, as Chmielewski led off the game with a double down the right field line on the second pitch of the game. Two batters later, Ando plated Chmielewski with a single to right center and the visitors had a 1-0 lead, staking Tyranski to an early lead before he even took the mound.

Tyranski took the lead and maintained it, working around a two-out double by getting a flyout to Walker in right to end it.

In the third inning, the Spartans loaded the bases with one out after singles by Morrow and Bechina, sandwiched around junior Kelley getting hit by a pitch. MSU then scored three runs without the ball leaving the infield, as with Ando at the plate, Iowa starting pitcher Cam Baumann was called for a balk to plate Morrow, then the next pitch was wild and Kelley scampered home. After Ando walked, Walker reached on a fielder’s choice to short, driving in Bechina. A flyout ended the Spartan rally, but not before they had a 4-0 lead.

Iowa cut the MSU lead in half in the bottom of the fourth, after Izaya Fullard led off with a double, then Austin Martin tripled to center to plate Fullard. Tyranski then induced a groundout to drive in the second run, but then chalked up back-to-back strikeouts to send the inning, and the Spartans held a 4-2 advantage.

The Hawkeyes got within a run at 4-3 in the fifth, Hawkeyes take advantage of two MSU errors to plate an unearned run with one out. Tyranski gets out of inning with pair of fly outs.

That would be the closest the home team would get as MSU added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by Chmielewski, driving in sophomore infielder Zach Iverson, who reached on a fielder’s choice. The Spartans tacked on two more in the seventh on Lacayo’s two-run double down the right field line and into the corner, driving in Walker and Peterson who both singled, to open a 7-3 lead for the Spartans.

In the top of the eighth, MSU added another run on a suicide squeeze bunt by Kelley, driving in freshman infielder Reese Trahey, coming on as a pinch runner for Morrow after he walked, giving the Green & White an 8-3 advantage. The lead swelled to 9-3 in the ninth on an Iverson sac fly, plating Peterson who walked, stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch, scoring on Iverson’s fly out to center.

Iowa got a run back in the bottom of the ninth, on back-to-back hits on a single by Connor McCaffery and a double by Ben Norman, but Lorenzo Elion’s line drive was snared by Panaranto, who spun and fired to Ando at second to double up Norman at second and seal the Victory for MSU.

The Spartans and Hawkeyes wrap up their weekend series with the rubber match in Sunday’s series finale at 2:05 p.m. ET/1:05 p.m. CT.

Fans can also follow Spartan baseball action through “Live Stats,” “Listen Live” and “Watch Live” links found at MSUSpartans.com. The games will be video streamed on BTN2Go, and will also be carried on the Spartan Sports Network live audio stream. The broadcast will be available exclusively at SpartanSportsNetwork.com and on the network’s 24/7 app for mobile devices (available on iTunes and Google Play). Broadcast veteran Scott Moore calls the action alongside former MSU manager/bullpen catcher David Greenberg in select games.

Any schedule updates due to weather will be announced on www.MSUSpartans.com and on twitter @statebaseball.