To the dismay of baseball fans who like runs in bunches, the opposite came true at McLane Baseball Stadium Friday afternoon. Three Spartan hurlers combined for a shutout over Big Ten foe Ohio State, as MSU blanked the Buckeyes, 2-0.
It was the first time MSU played a game in East Lansing since the Red Cedar flooded parts of campus. With the weather warming up, it was a solid showing from the Spartan faithful, filing in with 1,299 people.
“It’s always great to play at home,” redshirt-sophomore pitcher Alex Troop said. “The last weekend we were here we didn’t do very well in front of our home fans. We really wanted to make sure we turned things around this weekend and have a really good performance in front of everybody.
Early in the game, Troop and the Spartans struggled. Uncharacteristically, Troop walked a batter in each of his first three innings pitched. Coming in with just 11 walks on the season, he finished with an additional four on the day.
Troop, though, excelled on the day for head coach Jake Boss. Jr.’s team. The redshirt-sophomore threw for six innings, allowing no runs and giving up just three hits. In his ninth start of the season, Troop also added seven strikeouts.
The Batavia, Ill. native was a part of the three pitchers who shutout the Buckeyes on the day, along with redshirt-junior righty Jake Lowery and senior left-handed pitcher Joe Mockbee. Ohio State had a varying amount of chances, but failed to convert when runners were on base.
“Our pitching has been really, really good,” Boss said. “Alex (Troop) got deep into the game and turned it over to a very strong bullpen. First shutout of the year for those guys.”
The Spartans bats, too, were quiet as they went down in order in both of the first two innings. By the end of the game, MSU mustered up just a pair of runs in the winning effort.
On the brighter side, it all started with freshman outfielder Bryce Kelley in the third inning. The Rockford, Mich. native tripled to deep right-center field up against the wall. The extra-base hit scored freshman outfielder Danny Gleaves.
The very next inning in the bottom of the fourth, it was sophomore infielder Royce Ando. He knocked in senior catcher Matt Byars on Ando's second double of the game.
Then, the pitching commanded the game as the Spartans and Buckeyes traded zeroes on the scoreboard. MSU and Ohio State were a combined 1-for-18 with runners in scoring position.
At best, the offense managed a weak whimper, but the pitchers on the mound shut down any threat.
With the game heading into the final frame, Lowery trotted out for his third inning of work in the ninth. After a strikeout, though, he made way for Mockbee. The senior then slammed the door shut on the Buckeyes with a pair of strikeouts.
The victory put the Spartans above .500 in Big Ten play, at a 4-3 mark. MSU will look to improve its record as the Spartans and Buckeyes duel again April 15. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. in the second game of the Big Ten series.