After 18 innings of play, the Spartans are proved to be physically and mentally tough
One of my little league baseball coaches once told me that baseball was just as much a mental game as it was physical. This was much so the case for the MSU baseball team on Saturday, when they hosted Rutgers to open up Big Ten play.
What was originally intended to be a three-game weekend series against the Scarlet Knights, the two teams agreed to postpone the game on Friday and play a doubleheader on Saturday due to unplayable field conditions caused by inclement weather.
So for nearly six-and-a-half hours, these two Big Ten schools duked it out both physically and strategically with the Spartans coming away victorious in both contests.
“Right now we’re all kind of fresh, but a doubleheader definitely wears on the body,” junior infielder Jordan Zimmerman said. “You’ve really got to be cautious of staying warm and loose in between innings and stuff like that… You have to mentally overcome it and convince yourself you’re only playing one (game).”
MSU’s doubleheader sweep against Rutgers puts them at 17-3 overall and 2-0 in the conference, with both records leading the Big Ten. Coming into the weekend of play, the Spartans ranked in the top ten nationally in both batting average (.325, 6th) and earned run average (2.15, 8th) — the only team in the nation to do so.
On Saturday, MSU found major hits from junior left fielder Taylor Grace and freshman shortstop Royce Ando. Grace started both games and finished the day 4-for-8 and was accounted for four of the 10 runs MSU scored against Rutgers. Ando also started both games and he hit a combined 3-for-8 on the afternoon with one run and one RBI.
Long days like Saturday can be taxing on both the mind and body, but the Spartans came into the doubleheader very well-prepared, knowing that it was going to be a grind.
”The thing is it’s hard on the body and everything,” Grace said. “But we have a great weight training coach here and she definitely gets us into shape. She prepares us for things like (doubleheaders) in case they have to happen, so it’s always nice to have that.”
The Spartans have gotten offensive production from all parts of the lineup, and especially key players that were considered to be question marks at the beginning of the season — like Grace and Ando, but now head coach Jake Boss Jr. knows exactly what his team is capable of.
“It was a long day for sure,” Boss said. “But I’m really proud of our guys for really competing for 18 innings… We knew we were going to get a great effort out of Rutgers, and that’s not going to change, that’ll happen again tomorrow. Our guys answered the bell every time they needed to and it’s nice to come away with two wins.”