As many MSU students celebrated the culmination of their efforts during spring commencement Saturday afternoon, it was long-awaited pinnacle of academic achievement for thousands in the East Lansing community.
Yet the MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. and the MSU baseball team didn’t have much to celebrate.
A day after the Spartans (25-14 overall, 8-6 Big Ten) seemingly could do no wrong in a 12-3 drubbing against Illinois, a pair of big innings and general inconsistency for much of the afternoon at the plate allowed the Fighting Illini (28-14, 9-8) to steal a 7-3 victory at McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field.
Despite registering a career-high 10 strikeouts, the Spartans couldn’t capitalize at the plate with junior starting pitcher David Garner in the game and allowed a four-run eighth inning to close the door, powering Illinois to a win in the middle game of a three-game series.
“We got off to a bad start and I don’t know if it was a physical or a mental thing with David but he was pretty good in the first inning and not very good in the first inning,” Boss said. “We left some opportunities out there offensively. I thought we got a little too worked up in big situations but you know, we had a chance to make a play in the eighth with the leadoff hitter and we didn’t. We need to execute pitches better too.”
Garner got off to a rough start Saturday, allowing three runs on two hits in the first inning and getting the Fighting Illini off to the start they were looking for after a shaky game to open the series.
The Spartans clawed back in the third inning starting with a single by freshman left fielder Cam Gibson.
After stealing second base, Gibson came around to score on a single by sophomore shortstop Ryan Richardson. Not long after, Richardson scored on a single by sophomore designated hitter Blaise Salter to pull MSU within a run.
MSU tied up the game in the bottom of the fourth, as sophomore first baseman Ryan Krill — who reached base on a walk — scored on a bases-loaded walk to Richardson.
After battling back and forth through the middle innings, the Fighting Illini sent nine men to the plate to open up a four-run eighth inning and put the game out of reach.
For Boss, the disappointment came in missed opportunities.
The Spartans left nine men on base in the game, including several times with the bases loaded while also walking nine throughout the course of the game.
“We had based loaded I think twice and came away with nothing or not much,” Boss said. “We got some guys up in situations where we panicked maybe a little bit or a little overanxious and back to swinging at pitches we’re not able to hit hard.”
In the final Big Ten home game of the season, the Spartans host the rubber match against Illinois at 1:05 p.m. Sunday at McLane Baseball Stadium.