MSU baseball loses dramatic series finale, still wins weekend series with Penn State
During the weekend, the MSU baseball team traveled out to University Park, Pa. to take on Penn State in a three-game weekend series. The Spartans managed to win two of three against the Nittany Lions and improved to a 5-1 conference record and 21-6 overall.
After improving to 5-1 during the weekend, MSU now has lone possession of first place in the Big Ten standings while University of Michigan dropped to a fourth place tie with Indiana and Maryland after losing a pair to Minnesota over the weekend and falling to 3-2 in the conference.
Game one was dominated by the Spartans, who defeated Penn State on Friday by a final score of 7-0. All nine of MSU’s hitters in the starting lineup reached via the base hit, with outfielders Brandon Hughes and Kris Simonton each leading the team with three hits. Junior first baseman Jordan Zimmerman finished the contest 2-for-2 at the plate, with a pair of walks, a run scored and an RBI to go with it to extend his hitting streak to 18 games.
From the mound, starting pitcher Cam Vieaux pitched 7.0 strong innings, only allowing five hits and one walk while striking out six. Out of the bullpen, redshirt-sophomore Dakota Mekkes and junior Joe Mockbee finished the final two innings and struck out five between them. Vieaux improved to 5-1 on the season and Mockbee picked up his fifth save of the season.
The Spartans once again emerged victorious in game two, this time by a final of 5-2. Because of inclement weather, game two, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, was cancelled and a doubleheader was scheduled for Sunday to finish out the series.
MSU scored four runs in the sixth and seventh innings to take the lead away from Penn State and that was all they would need. Junior second baseman Dan Durkin led the scoring effort, going 2-for-4 with an RBI. Outfielders Marty Bechina and Taylor Grace, designated hitter Brandon Hughes and catcher Matt Byars each had RBIs as well. Zimmerman extended his hitting streak to 19 games after finishing the first game of the doubleheader 1-for-3. Zimmerman's streak is the longest since former Spartan Ryan Krill hit for 19 games in a row last season.
Redshirt-sophomore Ethan Landon started the game for MSU — he lasted 5.2 innings while giving up two earned on six hits while walking two and striking out three. Mekkes closed the game out for the Spartans and racked up his second save of the season by only allowing one hit and a walk in the final two innings of the contest.
Game three was back-and-forth all game long and ultimately Penn State came out on top to avoid the sweep by a final score of 7-6. MSU tied the game at one run a piece in the top of the second. Penn State, however, would score three runs through the fourth and the fifth to go up 4-1, but in the top half of the sixth, the Spartans scored three to tie the game at four.
Penn State would go ahead by one in the bottom half of the sixth to take the 5-4 lead. A wild play in the the top of the eighth would put the Spartans ahead, where two runs scored off a bunt by third baseman Justin Hovis to make it 6-5. Penn State won the game in the bottom of the ninth, off a walk-off throwing error by Durkin, who threw Zimmerman off the base and a runner scored from third.
Offensively for MSU, Grace finished Sunday's nightcap 3-for-4 with three runs scored and two RBIs. Zimmerman extended his streak to 20 games on a bunt in the seventh inning. Walter Borkovich started the series finale and lasted 4.2 innings, while giving up three earned runs and four runs total. Andrew Gonzalez came in for relief and pitched into the ninth when Penn State won the game. He gave up three runs total but only one earned run.
The Spartans will take a day off on Monday before they get back into action on Tuesday, facing the University of Michigan next. Tuesday’s matchup was a late addition to the schedule and will count as a non-conference meeting between the two teams. First pitch against the Wolverines is set for 4 p.m.