The Spartans and Wolverines met at McLane Baseball Stadium Saturday. Although, the Spartans were eliminated from the Big Ten Tournament Friday night, they still put forth a valiant effort for their graduating seniors, ultimately falling short, 2-1, in an extra inning game.
Before the game a ceremony honoring the team's six seniors took place. The players, Dan Durkin, Josh Buchalski, Taylor Grace, Matt Byars, Joe Mockbee and Walter Borkovich, walked out to the spot where their number was painted on the field with their family, and their future plans were disclosed to the audience. It was a bittersweet moment for all in attendance.
After the game, head coach Jake Boss Jr. said he was sad to see his players go, but excited for whatever the future has in store for them.
“(The seniors are a) great group of kids. They have done everything we asked them to do, the leadership has been tremendous," Boss said. "I’m proud of them, I’m excited for their future and I’m proud of the effort that they gave for Michigan State.”
The first few innings passed uneventfully in front of the full crowd. As both pitchers proceeded to dominate opposing batters with help from their defenses. Michigan pitcher Michael Hendrickson was the first to surrender a run in the fourth inning.
A single from sophomore shortstop Royce Ando sent the senior catcher, Byars, home to give the Spartans the first run, and first lead of the game.
Hendrickson then got back on track pitching three more scoreless innings before handing the ball over to senior pitcher Jackson Lamb in the eighth inning.
Borkovich pitched admirably in his final game as a Spartan going all the way into the ninth inning without giving up a run. Beginning the ninth, Borkovich allowed junior third baseman Drew Lugbauer to hit a single into right field.
Ako Thomas then came on to pitch run for Lugbauer. Thomas advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore left fielder Miles Lewis. Thomas then stole third base without a throw.
Sophomore designated hitter Nick Poirier then hit a grounder to first base, the ball was bobbled and allowed Thomas to score the tying run.
Borkovich would then strike out Wolverine right fielder Jonathan Engelmann to retire the side, but the damage had been done.
The bottom of the ninth inning began with a single through the left side from sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina. Redshirt-sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski attempted to lay down a sacrifice bunt and was rewarded for his unselfish play by a Michigan throwing error that allowed Bechina to advance to third and Chmielewski to make it all the way to second.
Ando was then intentionally walked to load the bases. With no one out the Spartans seemed poised for a walk-off win on Senior Day. Unfortunately, MSU was unable to take advantage and the next three batters were retired without a Spartan crossing home plate, sending the game into extra innings.
Redshirt-junior pitcher Ethan Landon entered the game for the Spartans in the top of the tenth. He forced the first two batters of the inning to ground out, but then allowed three straight singles to Wolverine first baseman Jake Bivens, center fielder Johnny Slater and infielder Michael Brdar.
Brdar’s single allowed Bivens to score, giving Michigan the lead, 2-1. Redshirt-sophomore pitcher Nathan Witt was then called upon to record the last out of the tenth inning and was able to successfully do so, limiting the damage to one run.
In the bottom of the tenth inning Michigan called upon sophomore lefty William Tribucher to close out the game. After recording the first out of the inning, Durkin was walked to give MSU some life late in the game.
After Byars struck out swinging, Bechina was hit by a pitch. The hit batter placed runners on first and second with two outs. Then the rain began to pour, adding even more suspense to the game. A Chmielewski grounder hit back up the middle was snatched up by Brdar and as he fielded the ball and stepped on second base as the game came to a solemn close.
After the game the six seniors walked out to center field in the rain to kiss the Spartan logo painted in the grass — an MSU tradition.
Borkovich said he believes what he will miss most from this MSU team is his teammates.
“What I’ll remember most is the teammates on and off the field. That is something you can’t put into words," Borkovich said. "During the season, outside of the season, on the field, off the field, that stuff never goes away so that will always be special."
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