EAST LANSING, Mich. -- A five-run fifth inning capped by a two-run sacrifice squeeze bunt boosted Michigan State baseball to a 5-3 win over Big Ten leading Indiana Sunday afternoon in the opener of a doubleheader at sun-bathed McLane Stadium at Kobs Field.
The Spartans fell to the Hoosiers, 11-2, in the second game. Sunday’s first win snapped IU’s nine-game winning streak, as Indiana entered the weekend leading the conference standings, and maintained the spot atop the league ladder.
“It was a really good win in game one, with a come-from-behind win,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “I thought our guys showed a lot of character. We executed when we needed to; I thought guys executed the plan very well. Great job, huge play on the bunt. Not only get the squeeze down but Bryce Kelley did a tremendous job of base running, never broke stride and scored. To not only take the lead by two, but on a play like that, it was a huge momentum play for us. The bullpen was really good in game one, and a good win. Unfortunately game two we couldn’t keep the momentum going. Credit to their lefty (IU pitcher Andrew Saalfrank). That kid was really, really good. I thought two types of breaking balls that we just had a tough time seeing the ball out of his hand.”
With runners on second and third and only one out in the bottom of the seventh, junior infielder Justin Antoncic laid down a textbook sac bunt just to the right of the pitcher’s mound and junior outfielder Bryce Kelley, who was the Spartan on second, was off with the pitch and scampered around third to score behind senior outfielder Dan Chmielewski for a 5-3 MSU advantage, rallying from a 3-0 deficit.
IU scored two in the sixth and one in the top of the seventh, before the Spartan rally in the home half of the seventh.
In the second game, the Hoosiers scored two in the first, two in fourth, one in the sixth, before hanging four in the eighth and two more in the ninth. The Spartans got a run in the sixth on sophomore catcher Adam Proctor’s solo home run into the Red Cedar River beyond the right field wall. MSU plated another run in the bottom of the eighth on a bases-loaded RBI walk by senior infielder Royce Ando.
Kelley was 1-for-4 with two-run double and a run scored in game one, scoring the fifth run of the five-run seventh that proved to be the insurance run for the Spartans.
Kelley led off the second game with a single to center for his lone hit game two, and stole second. It was his Big Ten leading 15th swipe of the season. Kelley now has 61 swipes for his career, moving into a tie for No. 3 on MSU’s career stolen base list with Brandon Eckerle (2008-11).
While Antoncic didn’t register an official hit, he did have the pair of RBI on the two-run sac bunt.
Chmielewski was 2-for-3 with an RBI and the run scored. Ando was 2-for-4, while senior designated hitter Nic Lacayo was 1-for-3 with a run scored and sophomore infielder Zach Iverson was 1-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
Proctor smacked his team-leading sixth home run of the season with a solo shot in the sixth inning of game two. Proctor blasted the first pitch he saw into the Red Cedar River with a shot high into the trees and just inside the right field foul line.
That was one of only two hits by the Spartans in the second game, as Kelley had the other on the single to lead off the game.
In the opener, junior lefty Mitchel Tyranski went 6.2 IP, ringing up nine strikeouts, scattering six hits and yielding three runs around two walks. Tyranksi’s nine Ks came on the heels of last Sunday’s career-high 10 punchouts and he now has 42 strikeouts in his last six games.
Junior right-handed reliever Indigo Diaz came on and pitched the final 2.1 IP to earn the win. Diaz fired four Ks, including striking out the side around a double in the eighth inning.
The Spartans used seven different pitchers in the second game, including the Spartan debut of junior Danny Gieselman.
Tyranski was mowing through the Hoosiers, ringing up nine strikeouts through five innings, including striking out the side after a leadoff double in the fifth.
MSU’s bats were equally quieted by IU starting pitcher Tanner Gordon. Despite drawing a hit by pitch in the both first and second inning, the Spartans did not get their first hit off Gordon until the fourth on single by Ando. In the bottom of the fifth, Chmielewski smacked a comebacker that deflected off Gordon’s throwing arm on his right side for a single. After getting attention from the IU athletic trainer, Gordon remained in the game.
The Hoosiers broke through in the top of the sixth, after a leadoff single by Matt Gorski. Matt Lloyd laced a double off the base of the wall in deep center to plate Gorski. After a groundout moved Lloyd to third, Cole Barr plated Lloyd with a sac fly to center, and a 2-0 IU advantage.
Indiana added a run in the top of the seventh on a solo home run by Justin Walker and a 3-0 lead. After a two-out walk, MSU brought in junior right-hander Indigo Diaz to relieve Tyranski, and Diaz got a fly out to end the frame.
After the stretch, the Spartans started their rally. Lacayo sparked it with a single to center and moved up to third on a double by Iverson, then Proctor walked to load the bases. Chmielewski followed with an RBI single to center, then Kelley laced an bloop double down the right field line to drive in Proctor and Iverson.
That brought Antoncic to the plate and he tapped a beautiful sac bunt just to the right of the pitcher’s mound, and as IU pitcher Connor Manous flipped to first, Kelley darted around third and scored to complete the two-run sac bunt play and give the Spartans the 5-3 lead.
In the eighth, Diaz struck out the side around a one-out double, chalking up three swinging strikeouts.
MSU got one on in the bottom of the eighth on an Ando single and stolen base, but the rally fizzled.
Diaz induced back-to-back fly outs to Kelley in right before chalking up a called strikeout to end the game with the victory for MSU.
In the second game of the twinbill, Indiana bolted out of the gates with a two-spot in the top of the first on a two-run home run by Matt Gorski.
The Hoosiers doubled their lead in the fourth, when Elijah Dunham came to bat with the bases loaded and smacked a double off the berm in right center and a 4-0 IU lead. Indiana re-loaded the bases before Spartan starting pitcher Caleb Sleeman got out of the jam with a fly out to Kelley in left to end the inning and leave the bases full of Hoosiers.
The visitors added a run in the top of the sixth on a solo home run into the trees by Walker, his second HR of the day after entering the weekend without a round-tripper, and IU had a 5-0 lead.
Michigan State got a run back in the home half of the sixth after Proctor crushed the first pitch he saw and deposited it into the Red Cedar River beyond right field with a solo home run, to pull MSU within 5-1.
Indiana broke the game open in the top of the eighth. The Hoosiers plated four runs on just two hits and took advantage of three walks and two MSU errors, facing three different Spartan pitchers in the frame, to take a 9-1 lead.
The Spartans plated a run in the bottom of the eighth, as Chmielewski started the rally with a leadoff walk, Kelley followed with a walk of his own, but was later erased on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Antoncic. Senior infielder Marty Bechina then got hit by a pitch to load the bases. That brought Ando to the plate and he drew an RBI walk before a strikeout ended the rally.
IU scored two more in the top of the ninth on a two-run home run by Wyatt Cross to complete the scoring.
MSU continues its season-long nine-game homestand with five games next week, playing in-state foe Oakland on Tuesday, April 23 then Toledo on Wednesday, April 24, both at 6:35 p.m., under the lights at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field.
The Spartans then return to B1G action hosting Northwestern in a three-game weekend series Friday-Sunday, April 26-28, playing the third-straight night game with Friday’s series opener at 6:35 p.m. Saturday’s second game is slated for a 4:05 p.m. start time before Sunday’s series finale at 2 p.m. in a nationally televised game on Big Ten Network.
“We love playing at home. Tuesday and Wednesday’s games are going to be big games and then Northwestern coming in is a big series,” Boss said. “We’re in a position right now where we’ve just got to hunt the positive and try to build off of that we’ve got to learn from some of the things we did this weekend both on the positive and the negative side of it, but really have to take an approach where we’re trying to get better. As cliché as it is, it’s got to be really process-oriented, otherwise we’re not going to get any better.”
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.