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Spartans fall to Pepperdine in opening game of NCAA Tournament

June 1, 2012

Just as in 1979 — the last year Spartan baseball qualified for the NCAA Tournament — MSU lost in the opening regional game Friday to Pepperdine. The No. 3-seeded Spartans, competing in the Stanford Regional in Palo Alto, Calif., fell to the No. 2-seeded Waves 6-2 this time around.

Next, MSU will meet the loser of the game between No. 1-seed Stanford and No. 4-seed Fresno State in an elimination game. The Spartans are the second team from the Big Ten in the NCAA Tournament and only team in their regional from outside of California.

“This is very disappointing,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said in a statement to Stanford’s athletics department. “I think we made a lot of the same mistakes we made a lot of the year, to be honest with you.”

MSU failed to produce runs throughout the game despite matching Pepperdine in hits with 10 apiece.

“We had nine guys left on base, so it’s more of the same for us,” Boss said. “It was unfortunate.”

Trailing 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning with two outs against them, the Spartans were able to crack the scoreboard for the first time. Three consecutive singles from the juniors, second baseman Ryan Jones, designated hitter John Martinez and left fielder Jordan Keur, led to an run batted in for Keur, putting the score at 2-1.

The game was decided in the bottom of the sixth when senior Tony Bucciferro allowed five hits and four runs, busting the game open for the Waves with a late 6-1 lead. Bucciferro, who was really anxious for his first NCAA Tournament opportunity, finished with four strikeouts, one walk and 10 hits allowed before sophomore Jeff Kinley took over.

“Bottom line is, I can’t make mistakes,” Bucciferro said. “I can’t compile mistakes. That’s what I did, and they’re a good enough team to take advantage of that. I just need to limit the mistakes.”

MSU was never able to mount a rally late in the game despite adding a late run in the top of the seventh, but it would not score again.

The pair of freshmen, first baseman Ryan Krill and right fielder Jimmy Pickens, that played great at the Big Ten Tournament started their regional careers well, each registering two hits along with Jones to pace the Spartans.

The season will be on the line tomorrow for the Spartans at 4 p.m. and can be seen online on ESPN3.

“So we’re disappointed, but we got a big ball game again tomorrow — it’s win or go home —tomorrow we’ll be ready to play,” Boss said.

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