There was no California love for the MSU baseball team this weekend, as it bowed out of the NCAA Tournament following back-to-back losses to teams from the Golden State at the Palo Alto Regional in Palo Alto, Calif.
The No. 3-seeded Spartans fell to No. 2-seed Pepperdine in the first round, just as they did in their last NCAA Tournament appearance in 1979, by a score of 6-2 on Friday before losing an elimination game to No. 4-seed Fresno State on Saturday, 8-2.
MSU never held a lead at any point throughout the entire regional.
Saturday’s defeat was the last time head coach Jake Boss Jr. would be coaching the group of players who came to MSU in his first season four years ago, leaving behind a legacy of three consecutive 30-win seasons.
“Really, all the credit goes to our senior class,” Boss said in a release to Stanford’s athletics department. “All those guys came in our first year here, and they bought in and changed the culture of the program.”
Facing a 2-1 deficit against Pepperdine, senior pitcher Tony Bucciferro allowed five hits and four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to blow the game open for the Waves late. Despite matching Pepperdine with 10 hits, MSU managed just a single run throughout the next three innings before finally falling, 6-2. The Spartans stranded nine runners against the Waves.
“I can’t compile mistakes,” Bucciferro said Friday. “That’s what I did, and they’re a good enough team to take advantage of that. I just need to limit the mistakes.”
In Saturday’s elimination game, the offensive woes continued for MSU in its matchup with Fresno State, which was defeated by No. 1-seed Stanford on Friday.
The Bulldogs earned a pair of two-out runs in the top of the first to give them an early lead, before MSU answered in the bottom half on a double by freshman designated hitter Blaise Salter with the bases loaded, scoring two and knotting the score after one inning.
That would turn out to be the only time the Spartans cracked the scoreboard, after managing seven hits on the day.
“I think they did a really good job of keeping us off balance and pitching backward,” senior shortstop Justin Scanlon said. “Didn’t see many fastballs and fastball counts, so credit them for their pitches.”
After three innings of cease-fire, the Bulldog bats exploded as Fresno State added a run in each of the final four frames, including three in the top of the ninth inning to put the game out of reach at 8-2. Six Bulldog batters registered multiple hits.
“I think we took a lot of tentative swings on positive counts,” Boss said. “Which is, again, very disappointing. Credit Fresno. They made a couple big plays when they needed to.”
Junior pitcher Andrew Waszak had a solid performance striking out four and allowing eight of Fresno State’s 15 hits in seven innings of work.
The Spartans conclude their season with a record of 37-23 after earning their first NCAA Tournament bid in 33 years.
The fourth-year coach gave a lot of praise to the six players who make up the departing senior class following the conclusion of the 2012 campaign.
“That’s probably the hardest thing about the season coming to an end because it’s such a good group of guys who are not going to get a chance to play together again,” Boss said.
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