MSU wins home opener, defeats Central Michigan 4-1
The weather on opening day at McLane Baseball Stadium may have been cold, but the Spartan bats were hot once again when they took on Central Michigan on Wednesday in their home-opener. MSU flexed its muscles as it improved to 15-3 on the season as the team cruised past the Chippewas (4-17 overall record) by a final score of 4-1.
Both teams threatened to score in the first inning, but both teams failed to score. Sophomore righty Andrew Gonzalez started the game for MSU, he retired CMU second basemen Jason Sullivan to lead off the inning, but a hit from shortstop Zach McKinstry and back-to-back walks loaded the bases for first basemen Alex Borglin. Borglin hit a line drive to MSU left fielder Marty Bechina who bobbled the ball but turned it into a double-play to get the Spartans out of trouble.
In the bottom of the first, junior first baseman Jordan Zimmerman hit a line drive up the middle to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Zimmerman proceeded to steal second and advance to third on a throwing error by Chippewa catcher Evan Kratt. Spartan outfielder Brandon Hughes, however, popped out to end MSU’s first inning scoring opportunity.
The Spartans would take another crack at it again in the second, this time with success. After freshman shortstop Ando Royce hit into a double play for the Spartans, third baseman Justin Hovis reached first on a walk. Hovis would end up at third after a stolen base and another throwing error by Kratt and catcher Matt Byars hit Hovis in on an infield single to give MSU the 1-0 lead.
In the bottom of the third the Spartans would add a few more. It all started when Zimmerman reached first after being hit by a pitch and Durkin reached on a catcher's interference call. Both runners advanced and Zimmerman scored on a throwing error by CMU shortstop Zach McKinstry. Designated hitter Taylor Grace singled to left scoring Durkin and Hughes scored off a fielder's choice hit by Royce.
The Chippewas would reach the scoreboard in the top of the fourth when Borglin reached on an error by Royce. After stealing second, Heeke would double and Borglin would score, but that would be all of the offense for the rest of the game for both teams.
Closer Joe Mockbee came in for relief in the eighth inning, he retired all six batters he faced in two innings of work and struck out all six batters he faced. He earned the save as MSU would seal the deal.
"I was just trying to be aggressive early," Mockbee said. "I knew if I got ahead in counts I could put some good pitches together, and finish through the work."
Gonzales finished the afternoon with 5.0 innings pitched. He gave up five hits, walked four and struck out three. CMU's only score of the game was unearned. Leading MSU offensively was Zimmerman, who finished the game 2-for-3. He stole 2 bases and scored a run. He now has nine stolen bases this season which ties for second most in the Big Ten.
"The success isn't on me," Zimmerman said. "It's on everyone. The pitching has been outstanding, and the hitting has been above what we thought it was going to be."
CMU struggled defensively, they finished the game with five errors.
"Our offense kind of predicated on pressure," MSU head coach Jake Boss said. "We put some pressure on those guys and kind of forced them into some errors, which helped us score and ultimately win the ballgame."
The Spartans will take a few days off and get back into action on Friday when they host Rutgers (8-11 overall record) for a three game series to kick off the Big Ten season. First pitch for Friday’s game is set for 3:05 p.m.