Freshman Sleeman wins first career start in 11-1 blowout against Toledo
It took the Spartans over five weeks to win a midweek matchup, but that streak came to an end on Wednesday after MSU defeated the University of Toledo at McLane Baseball Stadium, 11-1.
MSU (21-16 overall) also snapped a five-game losing skid with the win over the Rockets (14-27), who drop their fourth consecutive game. MSU coach Jake Boss Jr. said the approach at the plate has been better than it has been in recent games.
This game is exactly what the doctor ordered.
“We haven’t had a midweek win in a while,” Boss said. “It feels good. We needed this one in a bad way. We chipped away early and we broke it out in the eighth. Overall it was a good win for us.”
Redshirt-freshman Caleb Sleeman made his first career start for the Spartans. In only his sixth appearance of the season, the 6-foot-2 right-hander earned a win in his first decision of the season after allowing two hits through a four inning outing while striking out four without walking a batter.
“I was very pleased with what I saw out of Caleb today,” Boss said. “We’ve been switching some stuff up midweek wise, but he did exactly what he needed to do.”
Sleeman’s only blemish came in the second after giving up a home run to first baseman Dalton Bollinger to lead off the inning. Nerves aside, Sleeman said it felt rejuvenating to take the mound as a starter for the first time in his collegiate career.
“I wouldn’t say I had jitters, but I was excited,” Sleeman said. “This is something I’ve been working towards for a long time. I just went out there and did what I did.”
Junior first baseman Zack McGuire came around to score and tied the game 1-1 in the bottom half of the second. McGuire scored from second on back-to-back errors, but Toledo starter Joey Prechtel worked himself out a bases loaded jam to prevent further damage.
MSU took the lead an inning later when freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley came around to score when redshirt-sophomore Alex Troop poked a single to right. MSU’s bats perked up again in the 5th to score junior center fielder Brandon Hughes.
Sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski hit his fourth home run of the season to lead off the 6th and extend MSU’s lead 4-1. Two innings later the Spartans pushed across seven runs on just three hits to break open an 11-1 lead. MSU sent 11 men to the plate and Toledo went to the bullpen on four separate occasions.
Kelley led the 13-hit barrage with a 4-for-5 day accompanied with two RBIs and two runs scored.
“We have the lineup where that can just happen in any inning,” Durkin said. “We were seeing the ball well and getting guys on through walks.”
Freshman outfielder Danny Gleaves pinch hit for Troop in the 8th, for his first at-bat since April 14. Gleaves has been battling injury since March 18 when he went down in the team’s game against Richmond.
Boss said the addition of Gleaves could bring some more offensive firepower back to the lineup, if the freshman is able to stay healthy.
“Bryce has been very good since Danny Gleaves went down with an injury,” Boss said. “Bryce jumped into left field and really hasn’t missed a beat. … Gleaves is very close. We got him an at-bat today, he just needs to get more at-bats.”
The Spartans will take tomorrow off before heading to Evanston, Ill. for a key three-game series against Northwestern (16-23, 5-7 Big Ten), beginning Friday. First pitch for Friday’s game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
“It’s very encouraging, especially going into this weekend against Northwestern,” Sleeman said. “It’s a crucial series that we have to take from them.”