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Junior Matt Byars was slumping against WMU, but reaches double-digit hit streak with walk-off winner

April 21, 2016
Junior catcher Matt Byars waits for the pitch during the game against Central Michigan on April 14, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit. The Spartans defeated the Chippewas, 7-3.
Junior catcher Matt Byars waits for the pitch during the game against Central Michigan on April 14, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit. The Spartans defeated the Chippewas, 7-3.

For designated hitter and junior Matt Byars, it was just another hit.

But it was more than that — Byars slapped a bases loaded single to right field to win the game for the Spartans in walk-off fashion. In addition, Byars, who was 0-for-4 on the day when he went up for his final at bat, extended his hitting streak to a season-long 10-games.

“I wasn’t really trying to do too much,” Byars said. “I was kind of struggling throughout the day. I was 0-for-4 and I was really just trying to put a ball in play since we only had one out.”

In his last 10 games, Byars has racked up 15 hits in his last 42 at bats, which equals a red-hot .357 batting average. Byars has been flexible all season long, typically hitting in the bottom third of the batting order, head coach Jake Boss Jr. has rewarded the backstop’s recent efforts by moving him up to the six-spot in Wednesday’s game.

The Spartans needed his late inning heroics, too. Just one inning beforehand sophomore right-handed reliever Jake Lowery had given up two runs in the top half of the ninth inning to allow Western Michigan University to tie the game 5-5. Although the Broncos already used seven pitchers in the contest, a squandered offensive opportunity by the Spartans would have marked a clear momentum shift that could have ended very badly.

“It’s frustrating for sure,” Boss said. “But I think Jake (Lowery) had some things he needed to work on. He was coming off a tough weekend as well, so it was good to get him back out there … but he’ll be better the next time he pitches, I’m certain of that.”

And things should only get better for Byars and the rest of the Spartan offense, which has welcomed back sophomore catcher Chad Roskelly back to the lineup after missing time all season long with a nagging knee injury.

Roskelly brings depth to MSU’s lineup but will also give Byars a chance to freshen up his legs. Byars has started 32 of MSU’s 34 games this season as the catcher.

MSU will take Thursday off before welcoming the Hoosiers in for a three-game weekend series. Indiana, which is 21-14 on the season and 6-3 in the conference, currently stands at fifth place in the Big Ten standings. The Spartans will start junior starting pitcher Cam Vieaux, who has a 6-1 record and 1.18 ERA, for game one on Friday. First pitch for game one is scheduled for 3:05 p.m.

"We needed a little bit of momentum going into the weekend,” Boss said. “And hopefully this does that for us. ... We took some small steps forward today, we'll get a chance to practice tomorrow and work on a couple more things and be ready for the weekend.”

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