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MSU defeats Nebraska in Big Ten matchup

May 23, 2012
Head coach Jake Boss Jr. smiles while standing in the dugout Tuesday evening when Michigan State faced Central Michigan at Comerica Park in Detroit. The Spartans beat the Chippewas 5-2. Samantha Radecki/The State News
Head coach Jake Boss Jr. smiles while standing in the dugout Tuesday evening when Michigan State faced Central Michigan at Comerica Park in Detroit. The Spartans beat the Chippewas 5-2. Samantha Radecki/The State News —
Photo by Samantha Radecki | and Samantha Radecki The State News

For eight and two-thirds innings, it appeared that MSU would cruise to a blowout win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Leading 10-2 to begin the final frame, a comedy of errors led to a seven-run inning with two outs on the board as the Spartans narrowly escaped with a 10-9 win against No. 4-seed Nebraska.

“Not a pretty ninth, but we still walked away with a win, and that’s how we gotta look at it,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said of the disastrous inning in which MSU walked four batters and
hit two.

The Spartans brought out the big sticks in Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday afternoon, shelling the three Nebraska pitchers they saw in the first six innings and amassing 17 hits in the contest.
Freshman center fielder Anthony Cheky scored from second base on a single from junior second baseman Ryan Jones to put MSU on the board for the first time and tie the game at 1-1 with one out in the top of the third inning.

Two batters later, junior left fielder Jordan Keur singled to score Jones and give MSU its first lead of the game, 2-1, before junior third baseman Torsten Boss hit into a double play to end the inning.
The surprise of the day was the bottom half of MSU’s lineup accounting for 10 hits in the slugfest.

Cheky along with sophomore catcher Joel Fisher led the charge as each went four-for-five on the day.

“If we can turn the bottom of the order over like that and get those guys on base for our guys at the top (of the order), I think we’ve got a pretty good chance to win,” Boss said.

The Spartans added another run in the fourth inning and one in the fifth after the first pitch of the inning flew off the end of Keur’s bat and over Huntington Park’s left field fence to give MSU a 4-2 lead heading into the sixth.

In the top of the sixth with one out on the board, Jones was walked to load the bases after consecutive singles from Fisher and Cheky. Next, senior shortstop Justin Scanlon brought home two runs on his single to center field.

Scanlon and Jones each advanced on a groundout by Keur, and the bases were loaded once again for the Spartans as Torsten Boss intentionally was walked. Another single drove home two additional runs — this time by junior catcher John Martinez.

Freshman first baseman Ryan Krill added another RBI single to conclude a five-run inning and putting the score at 9-2.

MSU added another run in the seventh, increasing the margin to 10-2 and the game seemed to be in the bag prior to the meltdown in the ninth inning.

Junior pitchers Trey Popp, Joe Zwierzynski and Tony Wieber — who eventually finished the game — all struggled with control issues, and Nebraska took advantage in the bottom of the ninth by scoring seven runs and narrowing the gap to 10-9.

“I didn’t expect them to just not be able to throw strikes,” Boss said. “I mean, that’s putting those guys into a situation where they can be successful. That’s why Tony’s our closer, and we had to go to Tony in the ninth, we couldn’t wait around any longer.”

The tying runner was on third base as Jones made a highlight reel grab with an outstanding leaping catch, which likely robbed Nebraska’s Pat Kelly of a hit, to end the game.

“I didn’t see Jones’ catch, I had my head in my hands,” senior pitcher Tony Bucciferro said. “I was pretty nervous.”

Bucciferro went eight innings, allowing nine hits and striking out five. The senior put the responsibility on himself to go late into the game in order to preserve the rest of the pitching staff for what the Spartans hope is an extended tournament run.

“I was able to execute my pitches, and for the most part, there was good (defense) behind me and getting the run support really took a lot of pressure off me, so it was a good team win,” Bucciferro said.

Keur said winning game one of the tournament was unbelievably important to saving the bullpen as well as avoiding the long road to the championship that the loser’s bracket presents.
“The tournament is all about momentum, and it comes and goes, and right now we’ve got it, so we’ve gotta keep riding it,” he said.

The Spartan win coupled with Ohio State’s 12-5 victory over Penn State in the second game of the day means MSU will play No. 2-seed Indiana at 3:35 p.m Thursday, while the Buckeyes move on to face No. 1-seeded Purdue.

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All tournament games are broadcasted on Big Ten Network.

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