The MSU baseball team made their last home game of the 2013 season a memorable one, beating Eastern Michigan 6-3 with the help of a two-run home run in the third inning by sophomore right fielder Jimmy Pickens.
With the win, the Spartans (28-14 overall, 9-6 Big Ten) close out another home season at McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field and now open up an eight-game road trip to finish out the regular season.
“Good win — they are all good,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “Eastern is a scrappy ball club and they play hard; we knew we were going get that out of them today.”
Junior pitcher Chase Rihtarchik got himself into trouble early when a hit batter scored the Eagles’ first run off a sacrifice bunt and a pair of singles — the RBI single coming from third baseman Marquise Gill.
The Spartans fought back in the bottom of the third, with two outs and a full count, Pickens got out ahead of a slider and hit a shot over the right field wall into the Red Cedar River, giving MSU a 2-1 lead.
“I think it gave us a good lift, they got on the board early,” Pickens said. “We came out a little soft and not ready to play. It’s good to get a hit like that and get everything going.”
Pickens’ home run brought life to the No. 9 hitter’s bat, freshman infielder Justin Hovis. Looking to give the Spartans some cushion, Hovis came up with a big two-run double in the bottom of the sixth to take a 5-2 lead over the Eagles.
“Justin Hovis has struggled most of the year but is starting to see the ball a little better,” Boss said. “He had a big hit today that brought in a couple runs.”
Rihtarchik earned his fifth win of the season, allowing only six hits and two earned runs. He also had two strikeouts, three walks and one hit batter in the game.
Senior pitcher Trey Popp said that his fastball was really working and that made his off-speed stuff look even better.
Popp came in for relief in the top of the sixth inning and earned his first save of the year. He gave up only one hit with two strikeouts in over three innings of work.
“As a senior, one of your leaders, you expect (Popp) to go out and throw well in his last home game,” Boss said. “He proved that he could get out a jam and clean up someone else’s mess when we brought him in.”
MSU travels to Iowa on Friday for a weekend series against the Hawkeyes with the first game set at 7:05 p.m.