Thursday, February 29, 2024

Sluggers break home-run record

April 17, 2002
Freshman infielder Oliver Wolcott is beaned by a pitcher on the Wayne State University team Tuesday afternoon at Kobs Field. MSU beat Wayne State 22-6 to extend their overall record to 23-8. —

The MSU baseball team broke an 18-year-old record Tuesday with five home runs in its 22-6 beating of Wayne State.

The Spartans (23-8 overall, 6-5 Big Ten) entered the nonconference game with 57 home runs, two shy of the 1984 record of 59. By the end, MSU’s new record stood at 62, and the team has 24 games left on the schedule.

“We’ve lived and died by the home runs,” Spartan manager Ted Mahan said. “I’m glad to have it over with and I hope we hit so many home runs that no team can ever touch it again.”

The 1994 Spartans tied the mark of 59, but failed to break it. The 2002 squad broke the record in the third inning on a two-run shot from freshman catcher Jim Duffy.

He was playing in place of MSU’s regular starting catcher Brady Burrill, who was given the day off to rest. Duffy finished 3-for-5 with a walk and two RBIs.

“When I hit it, it felt good right away to know that I got it,” Duffy said. “I know once we hit the second one (Tuesday) that had tied it, it was kind of buzzing around the dugout trying to guess who was going to be the next one to hit it.”

All told, MSU tallied 22 hits, nine walks and left 14 runners on base. The Spartans scored runs in every inning against the Warriors (11-14, 7-3 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference).

Despite the rout, Wayne State took a one-run lead after the top of the first inning. But the run wasn’t earned, as MSU committed two of its five errors in the first inning.

“We kind of went out and half-played,” senior center fielder Chris McCuiston said.

“I don’t think we were ready and we weren’t giving it 100 percent, but we turned it around quick.”

The Spartans scored two in the bottom of the first inning to regain the lead, and tallied 12 runs by the end of three innings.

“I knew (we were in trouble) in the first inning after they scored those two runs,” Warrior assistant coach Jay Alexander said. “Then we kind of knew we were in trouble when (junior right fielder Bob) Malek came up with the bases loaded in the third. We knew something good was going to happen for them.”

Malek didn’t disappoint Alexander, belting his first grand slam of the season. He was 3-for-3 when he was replaced in the fourth, but not before hitting two home runs for six RBIs.

The big early lead allowed Mahan to let 13 different Spartans get an appearance at the plate.

“These games are really good for us so when we are called on, we go out there and get the job done,” Duffy said. “It gets everyone an at bat, because you never know in a Big Ten series when someone is going to get hurt, when something is going to go wrong.”

Six different pitchers saw action for MSU, but freshman right-hander Tim Day (6-2) picked up the win after going three innings. He struck out three and allowed one earned run before handing the ball over to the bullpen in the top of the fourth inning.

The Spartans don’t take the field again until Friday, when they travel to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan.

“It definitely got the team fired up,” McCuiston said. “Heading into Michigan, this is a big win.”

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