Spartan baseball throttles Central Michigan in 2017 home opener
Junior southpaw Keegan Baar’s day was cut short for MSU’s home opener, but once again the bats came alive as the Spartans defeated in-state rival Central Michigan University on Tuesday, 11-2.
MSU (12-5 overall) used the mid-innings relief of senior Walter Borkovich and two outfield assists to beat the Chippewas (8-12 overall). Borkovich picked up a win and improved to 4-0 on the season. Right-handed pitcher Zach Kohn started the game for Central Michigan and suffered his second loss of the year.
“It’s definitely good to be back and play in front of a home crowd for at least a couple of innings,” redshirt-sophomore first baseman Alex Troop said. “It’s always fun to be back here.”
After Baar retired the side in the first, the Spartans started the bottom of the first with four straight hits to take a 2-0 lead. Junior designated hitter Zack McGuire flew out to center later in the inning but scored the sophomore third baseman to extend MSU’s lead another run.
The Chippewas retaliated in the next frame and cut a run off MSU’s lead. Catcher Evan Kratt led the inning off with a single, and designated hitter Robert Greenman reached on an error. Baar then allowed back-to-back walks, scoring Kratt and making it a 3-1 game. Central Michigan, however, left the bases loaded after shortstop Alex Borglin and second baseman Jason Sullivan were retired.
“I really think we swung it well early,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “It’s kind of come and gone the last week, week and a half and so it was good to get back on track today.”
After two innings of work, Boss pulled Baar, and Borkovich filled in for the next two innings.
Baar allowed five hits and an unearned run on 39 pitches.
“Ideally we wanted to get probably four innings out of him,” Boss said. “But I think there are key moments in ball games where the game could be won or lost. That’s not always the eighth or ninth inning. We were at a point where I thought it was the right move to go to Walter, and it worked out.”
MSU added another run in the third after Marty Bechina scored on a single to left hit by McGuire. Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando, freshman leftfielder Bryce Kelley and junior center fielder Brandon Hughes all scored in the bottom of the fourth to give the Spartans a 7-1 lead.
Kohn was knocked out by the Spartans after the fourth inning. He allowed four earned runs on three walks and eight hits. The other three runs scored by MSU during Kohn’s outing were unearned.
Borkovich allowed two hits and struck out one in two innings on the mound. After the fourth, Boss handed the game to the underclassmen pitching staff.
Freshman right-hander Mitchell Tyranski faced three batters and recorded two outs before handing it to redshirt-sophomore Nathan Witt. Witt pitched 1.1 innings without giving up a hit, allowing a pair of walks and struck out two.
MSU tacked on another run in the fifth when a single from Kelley scored Ando to make it 8-1. The Spartans dealt the final blow in the eighth after five consecutive hits generated three more runs.
After Tyranski and Witt got their reps, senior right-hander Joe Mockbee tossed one inning without giving up a hit and struck out two. Mockbee then handed the reins to redshirt-junior righty Jake Lowery. After allowing a double to infielder Nick Stokowski, Lowery walked the next two batters and hit Borglin to score Stokowski.
Sophomore right-hander Riley McCauley picked up Lowery’s slack and struck Sullivan out swinging to end Central Michigan’s bases-loaded threat. McCauley went back out for the ninth and allowed a leadoff single to right fielder Daniel Robinson before retiring the side in order to close out the game.
“We ran a lot of guys out there on the mound,” Boss said. “I thought the pitching was kind of OK today. It wasn’t great. We’ve certainly pitched better. … We’re deep enough in our bullpen that we can afford to do that now.”
MSU will travel out to Champaign, Ill. to open up Big Ten conference play against the University of Illinois for a three-game series. First pitch for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
“It should be a good test for us this weekend,” Troop said.