The MSU baseball team traveled to Champaign, Ill. last weekend for a three-game set to open league play and swept the Fighting Illini for the first time in school history.
In the series, the Spartans (15-5, 3-0 Big Ten) outscored Illinois 41-11 and took take lone possession of the best overall record in the Big Ten. The Illini (6-15, 0-3 Big Ten) sink to 12th place in the conference standings.
Below is a recap of the results from the weekend.
Friday (game one)
According to a press release from MSU athletics, Saturday's game was canceled because of possible inclement weather and was moved to Friday for a doubleheader. MSU put up 12 runs in game one and took the series opener 12-4.
"Today was a really good day for us," head coach Jake Boss Jr. said, according to a release by MSU athletics. "I told the team afterwards that they were really fun to watch today. I think all aspects were on today, pitching was very, very good; defensively we did make a couple errors, but we made plays when we needed to make them, and got a couple of big double plays."
Redshirt-sophomore lefty Alex Troop started for the Spartans and allowed three runs on eight hits in 4.1 innings of work. MSU put up two runs in the first inning in part of an error on Illinois' center fielder that allowed senior second baseman Dan Durkin to score on a line drive hit by junior first baseman Zack McGuire. Illinois earned a run back in the bottom of the first and took a 3-2 lead in the third, giving Troop a no-decision.
Redshirt-junior Jake Lowery itched the next two innings and picked up the win after a two-run fifth and four-run sixth put the game out of reach for Illinois. The Spartans also added four more combined in the eighth and ninth while senior reliever Walter Borkovich closed out the last 2.2 innings, only allowing a hit.
Friday (game two)
The Spartans jumped out to a 9-0 lead after six innings for a 12-1 victory in the nightcap. Seven of MSU's 13 hits were for extra bases as junior right-hander Ethan Landon picked up his first win of the season.
Landon started his outing with five innings of hitless baseball and lasted seven innings. Illinois' lone run was charged to Landon as unearned in part of two errors on the Spartans.
Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando ignited a five run third inning after drawing a walk. Senior catcher Matt Byars scored Ando on an RBI double, and Byars scored on a single hit by freshman outfielder Bryce Kelley.
McGuire hit home runs in back-to-back at-bats in the fifth and seventh innings. Junior outfielder Brandon Hughes hit a homer in the eighth to finalize the score.
"I thought Zack just missed on a couple in the first game, but we talked about staying on the ball," Boss said, according to the team's release. "He's a big, strong kid and whenever he's able to square the ball up and get it on the barrel, it's going to go far. He squared those two up and got big home runs for us."
Hughes belted three more homers and finished the day 3-for-5 and 7 RBIs to lead the Spartans to a 17-6 win on Sunday. According to a third release by MSU athletics, the Spartans hit eight homers on Sunday, an NCAA best this season.
Durkin and Troop each hit bombs in the first inning to help the Spartans establish a 2-0 lead. MSU added five more runs in the second, two in the fourth, four in the fifth, three in the sixth and one in the ninth to end a 13-hit attack on Illinois.
Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina also hit two homers and sophomore outfielder Dan Chmielewski hit one out as well. Of MSU's 13 hits, 11 were for extra bases.
“The guys really showed up with a focus today," Boss said in the release. "Sweeping a series on the road is not easy. You could feel it on the bus on the way to the field this morning, guys were focused, locked in and ready to go, and it started right there in the first inning with Dan Durkin’s home run and Alex Troop’s followed that, and we were off and running. We had a lot of good at-bats today, we didn’t chase many pitches out of the strike zone."
The Spartans will be back in action Tuesday when they host Western Michigan University. First pitch is slated for 3:05 p.m.
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