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Spartans take Ohio State series

April 2, 2012
Senior right hand pitcher Tony Bucciferro throws the ball Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium at Olds College Field. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes by 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium at Olds College Field during their first game of the three-game series. Justin Wan/The State News
Senior right hand pitcher Tony Bucciferro throws the ball Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium at Olds College Field. The Spartans fell to the Buckeyes by 1-0 on Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium at Olds College Field during their first game of the three-game series. Justin Wan/The State News

After losing the first game of the Big Ten season 1-0 against Ohio State on Saturday, baseball head coach Jake Boss Jr. said his Spartans knew they had two chances to redeem themselves against the Buckeyes.

And by scraping out a 2-1 win Sunday and 10-5 victory Monday, MSU did just that, capturing two-of-three to open conference play at McLane Baseball Stadium at Old College Field.

“We’re still defending Big Ten champions,” Boss said. “Give our guys credit. We had an opportunity on Saturday and didn’t get it done. But they came back and realized it’s a three-game series. It’s not a one-game series, and (we) still had an opportunity to win it, and we did that.”

The Spartans (17-8 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) struggled at the plate in the first two meetings with the Buckeyes (14-12, 2-4), but pitching carried them to Sunday’s win and kept them in Saturday’s game. Monday, the table turned, and MSU’s bats led the Spartans to the series-clinching win.

MSU starting pitcher Mike Theodore ran into trouble early in the first inning against Ohio State, but it appeared he might be able to escape unscathed when he struck out Buckeye third baseman Brad Hallberg. However, the strike out came on a wild pitch, and Hallberg was able to safely reach first and put runners on the corners with one out.

Ohio State took advantage of the gift, scoring three first inning runs before MSU even stepped to the plate.

But the Spartans came back at the Buckeyes with an even bigger bottom half of the inning. MSU’s first six batters reached base and scored, and after two straight fly outs, the Spartans added two more runs with two outs.

Junior second baseman Ryan Jones led the first inning charge with two runs and picking up two RBIs on a pair of singles. Jones said responding to Ohio State’s big first inning was crucial.

“It was huge,” Jones said. “We needed this one bad, especially at home, and just to come out like that and put an eight-spot up, we haven’t done that much this year. Getting that going was huge for us.”

In all, a total of 19 batters stepped to the plate in a first inning that lasted about 35 minutes and saw more runs (11) than MSU and Ohio State combined to score in the first two games of the series (4).

The rest of the game featured little action, as the Buckeyes added one run in both the second and fifth innings, and the Spartans sent one run across the plate in the third and eighth innings.

After a short day for Theodore, sophomore left-hander Jeff Kinley came on in the fifth to pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings while giving up just three hits and striking out six batters to seal the win.
Kinley said it was nice to enter the game after MSU had reclaimed a comfortable lead, and there was nothing fancy about what made him successful on the mound.

“The fastball,” Kinley said simply. “It felt like I was throwing it pretty hard. Usually I’m not a big strikeout guy, but today I was.”
After Monday’s win, Jones said he and his teammates felt good following the same formula to success they did in 2011 on the way to a conference title.

“Winning series is what it’s all about to get a Big Ten championship here,” Jones said. “That’s what we did last year, and we’re just trying to build on that going into Michigan next week.”

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