Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Spartans pound Lakers with offensive explosion

April 11, 2002
Sophomore third baseman James Moreno gets a hit off of Grand Valley left-hander Nathan Barden. MSU triumphed over Grand Valley 20-2. —

Not even a 7-foot fireballer could cool down the Spartan bats Wednesday night at Kobs Field.

When southpaw Nathan Barden took the mound against the MSU baseball team (20-6 overall, 4-3 Big Ten) he couldn’t have imagined the Spartans would outscore his Grand Valley team 20-2.

But Barden lasted just three innings for the Lakers (14-7, 6-2 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), surrendering six runs and eight hits.

Six different Spartans hit home runs as the team launched a season-high seven over the fence. Six different Spartans also tallied at least two RBIs.

“We didn’t expect that,” Lakers assistant coach Dan Miller said. “We threw the ball over the plate and they mashed it.”

MSU manager Ted Mahan said the offensive explosion was a big lift for the team’s confidence.

“We should feel great about ourselves now,” Mahan said. “We’ve won three in a row, and I think confidence wise, we’re as confident as we’ve ever been. It was a good day to bust out.”

Senior shortstop Jared Koutnik finished the game 3-for-3 with two RBIs. He was just a triple away from hitting for the cycle when he was replaced in the bottom of the fifth inning.

Koutnik would have led off the inning, but in his place, freshman second baseman Travis Gulick hit a home run to left-center field. The blast gave MSU a 13-0 lead.

Senior center fielder Chris McCuiston led the Spartans with his 11th and 12th home runs of the season. He finished with a game-high five RBIs.

After McCuiston hit his 11th home run in the third inning to give MSU a 5-0 lead, Lakers manager Steve Lyon went to the mound in an attempt to calm Barden. But on the next pitch, sophomore third baseman James Moreno dented the scoreboard in left-center field with his second home run of the season.

Senior right-hander Pat Gill (4-1) struck out three batters in three innings for MSU as he picked up the win. Gill was clocked as high as 91 mph on Wednesday.

“It helps every time you go out there and you know you can rely on your hitters,” Gill said. “It’s always nice when our hitters put some runs on the board.”

With the team returning to Big Ten action with a four-game series against Indiana starting Friday, Mahan decided to use his entire bullpen to close out the game. MSU used five different pitchers to secure the win, as the group scattered five hits and struck out 13 Laker batters.

Sixteen different Spartans stepped to the plate Wednesday night, and 11 collected at least one hit.

“We came out today and we’re swinging the bats well, and the weather was in our favor,” McCuiston said. “You never really expect something like this - you just gotta go out and play the game.”

The win marks the fastest the Spartans have reached the 20-win mark since 1988.

“We knew we’d have a good team,” Mahan said. “To get to 20 by April 10th, that’s a pretty good accomplishment.

“I mean, we thought we’d be good, but 20-6, no.”

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