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'U' blasts Purdue pitching Sunday, drops 3 of 4 during weekend

April 26, 2004

On paper, the MSU baseball team outplayed the Boilermakers this weekend.

The Spartans scored more runs (17-15), had more hits (30-25) and slammed more home runs (4-1). All the numbers point to a successful weekend, right?

Except for the fact the Spartans didn't light up the scoreboard until Sunday, when they scored 12 runs, had 15 hits and laced three of their four home runs.

Sunday's 12-1 slaughter ended the weekend on a high note, but it didn't erase the fact MSU lost the first three games by a combined score of 14-5 and, in the process, had lost six straight Big Ten games.

"It's definitely disappointing," said freshman first baseman Sean Walker, who went 6-for-14 over the weekend and was the only Spartan to record a hit in each game. "We can't wait until the last game to come out. We waited too long to start hitting the ball."

The Spartans (20-18 overall, 8-8 Big Ten) jumped on Purdue starter Chris Toneguzzi early, exposing him for eight runs in the first 3 2/3 innings. A 9-1 lead after four innings was what MSU redshirt freshman southpaw John Dwan needed to coast to victory.

Dwan pitched six innings, scattering three hits while allowing just one run.

Sunday's impressive outing only covers what happened on the weekend's first three days, players admitted.

On Saturday, Purdue (19-18, 9-7) got on the board early in the first game, scoring three second-inning runs which propelled the Boilermakers to a 5-0 victory. In the nightcap, the Boilermakers again, got on the scoreboard quickly, scoring all six of their runs in the first three frames and giving their starter, Brian Karpel, a nice cushion.

"After Saturday's second game, we were pretty down," Walker said. "We needed to get back to having fun."

Friday would have been "fun" for the Spartans if their offense had helped their right-handed ace Bryan Gale.

The senior pitched another gem, striking out nine Boilermakers, scattering seven hits and allowing three runs in eight innings. Gale, however, was outdone by Purdue's starter.

Scott Byrnes stifled MSU's bats, giving up four hits and two runs while striking out 11 in 8 1/3 innings of work. That was enough to give Purdue a 3-2 victory.

"He pitched good, got in a groove and did what he needed to do," said senior third baseman James Moreno, whose team didn't score until the top of the ninth inning. "If he has offense behind him, he had another victory. Normally, if he keeps the other team below three runs, we win."

The Spartans now sit alone in sixth place in the conference as a result of the 1-3 weekend, one game ahead of both Indiana and Illinois, and one game behind Penn State, Ohio State and Purdue. The scattered standings make Mahan feel better, as the Spartans sit at .500 in the conference at the halfway point.

"It's that kind of a year - there are about six or seven games good enough to win the championship," Mahan said. "I still think we're one of them but we need to play better. We've struggled recently, but today, we showed we have quite a lot of life left."

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