ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It's been 28 days since the last time the Spartans won a midweek game. That streak will continue for at least another week.
The efforts of right-hander Michael Mokma weren't enough on Tuesday when the Spartans (20-13 overall) dropped a 12-4 midweek non-conference matchup, this time to the No. 15-ranked University of Michigan (30-7 overall).
"We hit some balls through the first five innings and only had four hits to show for it,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. "I thought the approach early on was pretty good, could never gain momentum and then it went south on us.”
Like MSU’s streak, a decision for the freshman will have to wait. Mokma's night ended after three innings on 50 pitches. He allowed three earned runs on five hits — four of which were for extra bases, part of the reason Boss said Mokma was on such a short leash.
“We can’t wait for a guy to figure out that he needs to locate his breaking ball and his changeup until the second inning,” Boss said. “I think Mike is going to be one heck of a right-handed pitcher in his career here. He’s learning but he needs to learn faster.”
Not a single Spartan pitcher was able to keep center fielder Johnny Slater on locks. Slater entered Tuesday hitting .310 and led the 17-hit bludgeoning, going 4-for-4 with four doubles, a walk, and four RBIs.
“It was just not a very good game,” senior second baseman Dan Durkin said. “We didn't play well. We stuck with them until the fifth, the wheels kind of came off. That’s kind of been the story when we’ve been losing. We’re just not getting it done I guess.”
Slater’s four doubles were the most by any Big Ten player in a single game this season.
Despite the re-addition of senior catcher Matt Byars last week, MSU’s offense missed junior outfielder Brandon Hughes, sidelined since the Ohio State series, with a hamstring injury and freshman outfielder Danny Gleaves. Redshirt-junior first baseman/pitcher Alex Troop was also given a rest day.
The Spartans answered the call with a three-run fifth inning to take a 4-3 lead. MSU sent seven men to the plate and started the rally with three straight walks. Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando scored on a fielder's choice and sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski and junior first baseman Zack McGuire came around to after senior second baseman scored two on a double off the right field wall.
After giving up two hits and a walk to start the inning, Boss pulled Mockbee in favor of junior reliever Jake Lowery. Lowery allowed a sac-fly to Michael Brdar but escaped the jam with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
The wheels for a comeback win fell off in the sixth after U-M retook the lead and tacked on four runs to make it 8-4. Lowery started the inning, gave up two runs and couldn’t escape without recording an out. Senior righty Walter Borkovich tried to stop the bleeding but lasted one-third of an inning before he gave up the other two runs.
“There was a lack of detail tonight,” Boss said. “And that’s unacceptable.”
U-M added insult to injury by adding four more in the sixth and dealt the final blow with a four-run seventh. Lowery was handed his second loss of the season and falls to 2-2. Tommy Henry (3-1) was credited with the win.
The Spartans will hit the road for a big three-game series against Maryland, starting on Friday. Probable pitchers for the set have yet to be announced. First pitch for Friday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m.
“We need to develop some thicker skin and understand what it takes to win,” Boss said. “I think we take some things personally and that’s not winning baseball.”
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