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LANSING — MSU baseball failed to take advantage of key offensive opportunities and fell, 3-2, Thursday night in the eighth annual Crosstown Showdown against MLB minor league foe Lansing Lugnuts at Cooley Law School Stadium.
MSU had multiple opportunities late in the game to get the tying or winning run, including a strikeout by sophomore second baseman PJ Nowak with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
MSU also had a runner on third in the eighth, but couldn’t get him home. MSU had a total of seven men left on base.
MSU now is 2-6 all-time in the Crosstown Showdown, last winning in 2011. Five of the eight games have been decided by two runs or fewer.
Tom Robson picked up the win, with five strikeouts in three innings' work. Senior pitcher Mike Theodore recorded the loss, giving up two runs, one earned, in the start.
Francisco Gracesqui came in for the final at-bat to pick up the save. He only needed one pitch before Durkin grounded out to end the game.
Normally a well-attended event, the crowd was down from past years, with its lowest attendance in the series history because of cold temperatures. The paid attendance was listed at 4,455, down more than 7,000 fans from last year’s battle.
After the game, head coach Jake Boss Jr. was more focused on the experience of his players playing in a minor league park and in front of a bigger crowd, rather than the final score on the board.
“(It was a) fun night, got just about everybody in the lineup tonight, which is important for our guys to get this experience,” Boss said. “Playing against a professional organization, quality organization and a pretty good crowd, all things considered. It’s more about the experience for our guys.”
The Lugnuts found the scoreboard first off a couple of Spartan errors in the second inning.
Lugnuts catcher Santiago Nessy was able to drive in the game’s first run following an error from junior shortstop Ryan Richardson.
The Lugnuts would then improve their lead to 2-0 when Theodore overthrew the easy out to first base, scoring Justin Atkinson.
Theodore would finish the inning strong, striking out the final two hitters to leave runners in scoring position.
MSU finally got the bats going in the top of the third, using two hits to get its first run.
Senior catcher Joel Fisher started the inning with a double to deep left center field and sophomore third baseman Justin Hovis was hit by a pitch the next at bat.
With runners on first and second, junior center fielder Anthony Cheky hit a single up the middle to drive in Fisher for MSU’s first run of the game.
After a couple scoreless innings from both teams, the Lugnuts bumped their lead back up to two runs in the bottom of the sixth. Seth Conner hit a sacrifice fly to get Jason Leblebijian home from third base to make it a 3-1 game.
MSU would respond the next inning cutting the lead back to only one run on a two-out RBI single from freshman third baseman Dan Durkin.
However, the inning would finish with a sour taste, when Nowak struck out swinging with the bases load. Nowak had a 3-0 count, but couldn’t complete the at-bat.
Senior catcher Joel Fisher had a solid night in his final Crosstown Showdown, finishing 2-2 with one run. Following the game, Fisher said the annual exhibition game is always nice because it's a more laid back setting and agood time for the whole team.
“It’s fun, it’s kind of bittersweet because its my last one,” Fisher said. “It’s just a fun thing to do. It’s nice to have a game where you don’t have to be 100 percent focused the whole time, just go out there have a little fun and mess around with the guys.”
Junior designated hitter Ryan Krill was the only other Spartan to finish the game with multiple hits, going 2-4 and a run scored.
MSU returns to the field on Saturday for a double header against Siena as part of a three-game non-conference series. The first game starts at 1 p.m.