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Freshmen pace Spartans in win over Ohio State

May 25, 2012

With the season on the line for the MSU baseball team Friday afternoon against Ohio State, it was a pair of freshmen that came through and carried the Spartans to a 6-2 victory. After losing to Indiana on Thursday, MSU — the No. 5-seed in the Big Ten Tournament — met the No. 6-seeded Buckeyes in a loser-goes-home matchup Friday afternoon at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio.

First baseman Ryan Krill and right fielder Jimmy Pickens, both freshmen, paced MSU in the contest by getting on base on every appearance and combining to go five-for-five on the day with four runs batted in.

“I know for myself and for Pickens and (freshman center fielder Anthony) Cheky as well — we just want to help the team win,” Krill said. “There’s a lot of guys on this team that won’t be coming back next year, and we’re just doing our part to get them a Big Ten (Tournament) win and a NCAA (Tournament) berth.”

Only three of the Spartans’ 11 hits in the game came in the fourth inning, none of which scored runs. It didn’t matter to sophomore pitcher David Garner, however, as he threw four consecutive shutout innings to start the game before finishing with six strikeouts and four walks.

The Buckeyes first got to Garner in the top of the fifth by taking a 2-0 advantage and first lead of the game for either club. The Spartans would respond in the bottom half of the inning, however.

With two outs and two men on base in the bottom of the fifth, the first-year duo made their presence felt. First, it was Krill singling to center field and bringing home senior shortstop Justin Scanlon. The next batter, Pickens, knocked a double to right field which brought home the tying run.

“Being at the bottom of the order, you look for a pitch to drive and if you’re allowed to get on base by a hit by pitch or take a walk … it just gives those top of the lineup guys more chances to get the wheels turning,” Pickens said.

The Spartans would keep the momentum going throughout the sixth inning.

Freshman center fielder Anthony Cheky and junior second baseman Ryan Jones aboard at third and second base for junior left fielder Jordan Keur. Keur reached on a fielder’s choice, allowing Cheky to score and Jones to advance to third base. MSU had earned its first lead of the day at 3-2.

Junior third baseman Torsten Boss was at the plate next with Jones in scoring position. Boss, who has only mustered one hit in tournament play, flew out to left field which allowed Jones to tag and score.

Two batters later, Krill was walked to load the bases for Pickens. The third run of the inning for the Spartans was brought home shortly after as Pickens was hit by the second pitch of his at-bat, increasing the MSU lead to 5-2.

“Their starter really battled for them and did a heck of a job,” Boss said. “We were fortunate to push a few through there in the middle of the ballgame (and) had a couple big innings for us.”

MSU added a final insurance run in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI-single from Krill before the Buckeyes stranded two base runners in their final at-bat, sealing the Spartans’ victory.

“Those young guys played well for us,” Boss said.

The Spartans now face the loser of tonight’s contest between No. 1-seed Purdue and No. 2-seed Indiana tomorrow at 3:35 p.m. on Big Ten Network. MSU must win three consecutive games to claim the Big Ten Tournament championship and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

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