MSU baseball knocks off Oregon in extras behind Zimmerman walk-off
The MSU baseball team (19-4) defeated the Oregon Ducks (11-11), 3-2, Friday afternoon. The win came on a tenth-inning walk-off home run by Jordan Zimmerman on Friday afternoon. The game gave the Spartans a lead in the teams’ three-game weekend series in East Lansing.
The early part of the game was a pitcher’s duel between Oregon’s Cole Irvin and MSU’s Cam Vieaux. Vieaux and Irvin both pitched 8 innings, allowing 1 and 2 runs, respectively. Spartan manager Jake Boss Jr. commended Irvin’s performance on the mound.
“The guy that we saw today, and the talent he brings to the table, that’s a little bit different,” Boss said. “He was in command of every pitch that he threw.”
Boss also had high praise for the performance of his own starter, Vieaux.
“That’s as good as he’s thrown here”, Boss said.
Vieaux kept the Ducks largely off the scoreboard, as he had a season-best 11 strikeouts while allowing just three hits. Vieaux carried a perfect game through five innings, but it ended in the sixth when Duck left fielder A.J. Balta singled to right field.
“The way the ball was moving was different than it has all year,” Vieaux said. “I was pretty in the zone. Even in the bullpen, I felt that today was going to be a good day.”
The Spartans claimed the first run of the game in the bottom of the first inning. Second baseman Dan Durkin reached base on a fielders’ choice, moved to second on a Brandon Hughes single, and to third on a wild pitch by Cole Irvin. Durkin scored the run on an RBI single by left fielder Taylor Grace.
The Spartans then loaded the bases on Irvin’s only walk of the game, but Irvin was able to escape the inning unscathed by forcing a Justin Hovis groundout.
After that, the game turned into a defensive battle. Besides Marty Bechina’s single in the bottom of the second inning, no batter on either side reached base between the end of the first and Balta’s sixth-inning single. Balta would end up putting the Ducks on the board, as he was driven in by an Austin Grabeck single.
Taylor Grace’s second RBI single of the game gave MSU the lead back, 2-1. Hughes scored the go-ahead run. The Spartans would hold the lead until the ninth inning.
Vieaux remained in the game until the top of the ninth, when he was pulled by Boss after walking pinch-hitter Nick Catalano.
“I shouldn’t have run (Vieaux) out there in the ninth,” Boss said. “I thought he was getting a little tired, I thought his stuff was starting to flatten out, but he’s a competitor and I know he wanted to get back out there. But unfortunately, he walked the leadoff guy, and I had to make a change.”
Joe Mockbee was substituted in for Vieaux. Catalano ended up scoring, giving Vieaux a second earned run and tying the game at 2.
Oregon pitcher Brac Warren entered the game for Irvin in the bottom of the ninth. Warren continued his streak of not allowing an earned run all season.
In the top of the tenth, Mockbee was removed from the game after allowing a double to Daniel Patzslaff. Last week’s Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, Dakota Mekkes, was the relief pitcher. Mekkes escaped a second-and-third jam without allowing a run.
In the first at-bat of the bottom of the tenth, MSU’s Jordan Zimmerman hit a walk-off solo shot. The homer barely cleared the 385-foot fence in right center field.
“I was just telling it in my head to go...I think the wind picked it up a little bit. But I hit it well, and it went over the fence,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman, a sophomore transfer student who is batting over .400 on the season, struggled early on in the game, going 0-3 in his first three at-bats, putting his 15-game hit streak in jeopardy. But he was able to extend the streak, as he finished the game with a double in the eighth inning and a home run in the tenth.
“I don’t really think about (the streak),” Zimmerman said. “I just go out there and try to have a quality at bat...That’s just baseball. I’m not going to get a hit every game. If I get a hit, that’s awesome. But I’ve just got to keep having a good approach and stay within myself.”
The Spartans and Ducks will play two more games in their weekend series in East Lansing. MSU then has another home contest against Eastern Michigan before an exhibition against the Lansing Lugnuts on Wednesday.