After getting swept by Michigan last weekend, the MSU baseball team got back on the right path with a 10-1 win against Western Michigan on Tuesday afternoon.
Junior third baseman Joel Fisher led the Spartans (18-11, 2-4 Big Ten) offensively going 2-3 with three RBIs and a pair of runs scored.
Junior pitcher Case Rihtarchik picked up his fourth win of the season by going seven innings, and allowing one run on three hits while walking none and striking out two. He threw 74 pitches, 49 of them for strikes.
“Better day today, no doubt,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “We’ve still got a long way to go, and we have a lot to work on. We showed some signs today. We had some better at bats. Consistency still throughout the game, but when you put 10 runs up, it’s a good day.”
MSU put up five runs in the first inning, which saw freshman outfielder Cam Gibson get two hits and Western Michigan starting pitcher Will Nimke leave after just two-thirds of an inning.
Rihtarchik said the offensive explosion in the first inning puts him in a different mindset when he took the mound in the second inning.
“You’re not going up there trying to strike everyone out when you know they just had a big inning, so it definitely brings your confidence up a little bit,” Rihtarchik said. “If I can pitch to contact and get some ground balls, you don’t have to worry about doing it yourself. It’s definitely big to pitch with a lead.”
The five runs scored in the first inning were more than the Spartans had scored in any game at McLane Baseball Stadium this season.
Sophomore outfielder Jimmy Pickens said after Western Michigan put up one run in the top of the first inning, the five runs in the bottom half of the inning allowed him to go out and have more fun.
“It takes off a lot of pressure,” Pickens said. “It gave us a little cushion, but it allows us to play loose and it’s easier to play the game when you’re not behind.”
Pickens said it also was good to see both the top and bottom of the lineup come through and get quality at-bats.
MSU got another run in the fourth inning, then added their final four runs of the game in the sixth inning that saw the Spartans go through another pair of Bronco pitchers.
Boss said they talked about playing with more focus and effort after their loss against Michigan on Sunday, and he was happy to see the team bounce back.
“Credit our guys, it was a tough weekend (against Michigan) and we had a pretty good focus today, especially early in the ball game,” he said. “We had some more energy early in the ball game and played the game with a little more passion, which is what we needed to do.”
Next up for the Spartans is the seventh-annual Crosstown Showdown at 7:05 p.m. Thursday against the Lansing Lugnuts at Cooley Law School Stadium.
Boss said it can be a long season, but this is the type of win that can right the ship and get the team rolling.
“We showed (mentally) some character,” he said. “We’re not there yet, and one day doesn’t make or break an entire season just like one weekend doesn’t either, but our focus was about getting better today and playing a complete ball game. I think our guys answered the call.”