Walk-off heroics lift MSU to home series sweep against No. 12 Indiana
It wasn’t a conventional weekend of baseball by any stretch of the imagination.
A weekend fraught with inclement weather, including long periods of heavy snow, multiple delays and a pair of extra inning games against the Big Ten’s top team wasn’t exactly in the game plan.
Few games this season have been.
But as the ball off the bat of sophomore first baseman Ryan Krill floated by the outstretched glove of Indiana left fielder Chris Sujka in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday, the Spartans exploded out of the dugout, mobbing Krill in jubilation following a 6-5 win and a home series sweep of the No. 12 Hoosiers (26-7 overall, 8-4 Big Ten).
“It feels great, especially after coming off of last weekend,” Krill said. “We kind of let some people down last weekend, including ourselves. It was good to get back on track and win it.”
The weekend marks the first series sweep against a ranked opponent for the MSU program since head coach Jake Boss Jr. took over in 2008, and it’s just the third series sweep this season. Even more unconventional was the way the Spartans (21-11, 5-4) were able to get it done.
Sophomore outfielder Jimmy Pickens led the charge with his late-inning heroics, securing the walk-off hit in wins in the first two games of the series, including a home run over the right-field fence to earn a 6-5 win in extra innings on Saturday.
After the Spartans lost the lead in the top of the ninth inning Sunday, many anticipated Pickens would get another crack at winning the game. However, after Pickens was hit by a pitch to load the bases, the spotlight and the victory came with one swing by his fellow classmate Krill.
Pickens said after the Spartans were forced to battle in the two previous games, he knew the team had another rally in them to close out the series.
“They just fought again like they did yesterday and the day before,” Pickens said. “We got in the dugout and it was quiet and I was like, ‘Hey, it’s not like this is the first time this has happened.’ We had a couple walk offs already; we might as well do it again.”
Friday, the Spartans added a run in the eighth to tie the game at one after trailing for much of the afternoon. With two outs in the 11th inning, Pickens singled up the middle to score sophomore outfielder Anthony Cheky and take the first game of the series.
The next day, Pickens again showed his flair for the dramatic with his 10th inning home run, getting his nose bloodied in the postgame celebration with his teammates.
Coming off a previous weekend sweep at the hands of Michigan, sweeping the Hoosiers effectively re-inserts MSU back into the Big Ten race with 22 games to play — 15 of those against Big Ten opponents.
“Just tremendous effort out of our guys,” Boss said. “It’s tough, especially when you’re one pitch away from winning in the ninth and two outs and nobody on and they string a couple good at-bats together.
“We got out of a jam and then we showed some character by coming back and getting the leadoff guy on in the bottom half — some good at-bats, really.”