Michigan State has struggled to find its rhythm this season, but one thing that has remained consistent has been the potential underclassmen continue to show.
The Spartans (11-27, 1-10 Big Ten) have struggled mightily at times, but the endeavors a young team faces now makes for fruitful experience in the seasons to come.
“I think the future is (bright),” MSU coach Jake Boss said. “... We have some young talented kids, I think the more they play, the more at-bats they get, the better they’re going to be.”
Boss has 12 freshmen — three of which are redshirted — on the 36-man roster and of the team’s seven sophomores, three are also redshirts.
The Spartans’ young talent was showcased in the April 23 matchup against Oakland University (10-27, 8-10 Horizon) at McLane Baseball Stadium. MSU defeated the Golden Grizzlies, 12-2, backed by a great outing by freshman pitcher Colten Panaranto to earn his second win of the year during his first collegiate start.
“It took a little bit to just get the release point on all of my pitches and just trying to be in the zone,” Panaranto said about his slow start. “I had to focus on that.”
In the second inning, Panaranto gave up two runs, but the Spartans scored a season-high 12 unanswered runs afterward, including a six-run burst in the eighth. Panaratano finished a strong outing by allowing three hits in seven innings, stuck out seven and walked four and at one point retired 14 batters in a row.
Undoubtedly, Panaranto admitted he was anxious, but was able to relax and focus on what he knew rather than overthinking the sport he’s played most his life.
In the third inning against Oakland, Panaranto found his groove and said he felt his confidence surge after striking out the side after allowing a leadoff double.
“I just know to trust myself and just go out there and do what I have to do,” Panaranto said.
Sophomore infielder Zach Iverson doubled to right field in the fifth scored Casey Mayes and Zaid Walker home, giving the Spartans the 5-2 lead to start the sixth. Iverson came home on a Bryce Kelley single during MSU’s six-run eighth.
Boss decided to put Iverson on the mound for the ninth after playing most of the game at third base. Iverson threw 13 pitches against three batters and struck out two before securing the win.
“We recruited him to be a two-way guy, we just haven’t been able to use him a whole lot,” Boss said. “And we need to figure out a better way to get him into the ballgame. When he does enter the game, we lose our DH, so for a team that’s struggling offensively that can be a tough thing sometimes. He’s got a good arm… I just need to find a better way to get more out of him on the mound.”
Walker, a freshman, and sophomore catcher Adam Proctor led the way with three runs each and both scored on Justin Antoncic’s two-run double in the second to put the Spartans up 3-2. Mayes finished with a pair of runs went 1-for-4.
Although this season may not have gone the way Boss and his veterans wanted, the youth of the team has high hopes for the future.
“We try to keep everybody in good spirits and keep the momentum going,” Panaranto said. “Hopefully a 12-2 win will keep the momentum going.”