The opening weekend of game action yielded a few lessons for the MSU baseball team.
After several weeks of indoor practice, the Spartans (1-1 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) split a pair of games in the first weekend of play in Greenville, S.C., losing 3-2 to Furman on Friday before defeating Northwestern 7-4 on Sunday.
However, the team fought an uphill battle in both games, struggling to build consistency on offense along with fielding three defensive errors in two games.
Following a strong week of practice, head coach Jake Boss Jr. said the team needs to focus to be more defensively sound as they return to Greenville this weekend for the First Pitch Invitational.
“Hopefully we can sure some things up defensively, you know,” Boss said. “I don’t know if that’s just a by-product of being inside and the first time out last weekend or what but I think we need to pay better attention to detail and be a bit more focused in what we do and I think the defensive stuff will take care of itself.”
One area of praise from the opening weekend came with the performance of the team’s pitching staff, both starters senior Andrew Waszak (0-0, 1.50 ERA) and junior David Garner (1-0, 6.00 ERA) and the team’s bullpen.
Waszak was solid in the team’s opening weekend, pitching six innings of work and scattering five hits and two runs in a no decision while Garner finished after six innings and surrendering three earned runs.
“Both (Waszak and Garner) came in and threw strikes,” Boss said. “They threw multiple pitches for strikes, they got ahead in the count. You know, really the only time David struggled was when he had to sit for that long inning (against Northwestern). It can be tough when you have to sit for that long.”
When Boss called on freshman closer Justin Alleman on Opening Day against Furman, the young pitcher let his nerves get the best of him, blowing the save in just 14 pitches.
Yet after a breakdown against Furman, Boss said Alleman was a bright spot in the win over Northwestern, striking out three of four batters and becoming a solid force at the end of the bullpen.
A former Michigan Mr. Baseball, Alleman said he expects the best of himself and the bullpen this week, given the events and lessons learned in the previous weekend.
“I was a little bit (nervous against Furman),” Alleman said. “I thought I was going to come in earlier, but (junior pitcher Jeff) Kinley got two outs right away so I assumed I was coming in. I was a little nevous, a little shy.”
Waszak and sophomore Mick VanVossen each will get a start Friday as the team starts the weekend with a double-header beginning at 1 p.m. against Western Carolina (3-1) and wrapping up the day with a 5 p.m. game against Cincinnati (0-3). Garner is on the hill for a Saturday rematch with Furman (2-1) before the team concludes Sunday against Miami-Ohio (0-2).
Lessons in mind, sophomore catcher Blaise Salter said the team is getting more comfortable playing with one another and he hopes that will show in a return to Greenville.
“The first trip was a little rough for us, it was the first time being outside and just getting the hang of things,” Salter said. “I feel like this trip, we’ll be a little more comfortable with everything and hopefully catch on with some stuff.”