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Baseball tops Oakland 2-1 in home opener

March 23, 2012

Tony Wieber has been doing a little bit of everything for the MSU baseball for awhile now.

In the Spartans’ home opener Friday at Kobs Field at McLane Baseball Stadium, the junior utility player put his versatility on display.

With the game knotted at one in the bottom of the eighth, Wieber hit a triple to left center field to bring home junior left fielder Jordan Keur all the way from first. The next inning, after sophomore pitcher David Garner was hit in the back with a ball, Wieber came on and picked up the save to help MSU (11-7) beat Oakland (3-14) 2-1 on a rainy day in East Lansing.

“That’s always good when it works out that way as a closer,” Wieber said. “Last weekend, I blew a save, so it can be good and bad. It doesn’t happen too often, so it’s fun.”

Wieber retired both batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth to pick up the save — his fifth of the season. He’s appeared nine games as a pitcher and five as either a designated hitter or right fielder.

Head coach Jake Boss Jr. said he always has confidence in Wieber on the mound late in games, but Friday was an example of just how valuable the right-hander is to the Spartans.

“He’s been one of our best guys, both at the plate and at the mound,” Boss said. “He can do an awful lot of things for us.”

Wieber’s closing efforts capped an entire afternoon of impressive pitching for MSU. Senior Tony Bucciferro started the day giving up just one run on seven hits. He struck out four batters, and although he wasn’t particularly happy with the way he threw, he was able to fight through some early struggles to deliver a quality start.

“My job is to give our team a chance to win the game and go deep so we can save our pen,” said Bucciferro, who moved to 4-1 on the year. “I was happy I was able to do that even though I didn’t have my best stuff.”

The Golden Grizzlies’ only run of the game came in the first inning, when they stole three bases on the way to an RBI single from outfielder Aaron Cieslak. Oakland loaded the bases in the next inning, but Bucciferro escaped by forcing a 4-6-3 double play.

Meanwhile, the Spartans didn’t put a run on the board until the third inning. Junior first baseman Jared Hook opened the inning with a double and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt. Junior second baseman Ryan Jones then hit a sacrifice fly to center field to send Hook home.

The two teams then traded scoreless innings, until Wieber finally struck again in the bottom of the eighth.

Although Wieber said the rainy conditions, which lasted most of the game, didn’t make batting easy, he said they can’t be used as an excuse. And Boss said the issues at the plate are nothing new.

“We didn’t have many good at-bats at all,” Boss said. “I think our approach is bad. It’s been bad for awhile, and we’re not making adjustments.”

MSU did have chances, particularly in the sixth inning, when the Spartans loaded the bases with one out. But freshman shortstop Kevin Goergen struck out looking in the next at-bat and Hook ended the inning with a flyout to center.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” Boss said. “We’re wasting all sorts of opportunities with runners in scoring position.”

Joining Wieber with a 2-for-3, one RBI day the plate was Jones. Senior third baseman Torsten Boss went 2-for-4 and Hook went 1-for-3. No other Spartan had a hit.

MSU and Oakland meet twice more this weekend at 1:05 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at McLane Baseball Stadium. Wieber, the hero of Friday’s game, said the Spartans will enjoy winning their first home game of the year after playing 17 straight on the road to start the year. But he knows they’ll have to improve on Friday’s performance to remain successful.

“It’s good, it’s nice to start off with a win,” Wieber said. “But hopefully we can play a little better on Saturday and Sunday.”

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