As Minnesota’s third baseman Jack Wassel hit a double out to right field in the bottom of the fifth inning and drove in the Gophers’ seventh run of the afternoon, things looked dead in the water for the Spartans, who trailed 7-0.
The party was just getting started.
Despite trailing 7-0 in the fifth inning, Michigan State would rally and take down Minnesota 10-7 to win the weekend series as Minnesota’s pitching fell apart in the eighth inning.
“I give them a lot of credit for being down seven to nothing, and we just keep coming,” Michigan State Head Coach Jake Boss Jr. said. "Like we said in the last two days, the game is 27 outs long, and these guys just keep competing and competing. Had a couple good innings there late and fortunately took advantage of some opportunities.”
Right out the gates in the first inning, the Gophers jumped out to a big lead on behalf of five hits. The scoring began with catcher Chase Stanke. He singled with a ground ball to right field as second baseman Zack Raabe scored. After a single from outfielder Easton Bertrand and a double from Wassel, Stanke scored and got his team up 3-0 early.
The Gophers continued to pile on in the second inning as Stanke continued to produce for his squad after an RBI single drive in two runs. Michigan State outfielder Bryce Kelley recorded an error on the catch, allowing Raabe and Minnesota center fielder Brett Bateman to score and push their lead to 5-0.
The Spartan offense did themselves zero favors as Minnesota starting pitcher Trent Schoeberl dominated Michigan State early. Until the fourth inning, the Spartans failed to get a single runner on base until back-to-back walks got two runners on base for Michigan State, but no runs would come of it.
After Stanke and Bertrand would come in to score for the Gophers again in the bottom of the fifth inning to make it 7-0, the Spartans would make a change at pitcher. Michigan State redshirt sophomore Wyatt Rush replaced Powers and helped end the fifth inning by recording a double play.
Then the rally came.
Freshman first baseman Brock Vradenburg recorded the Spartans' first hit of the afternoon as he hit out to deep-left center and advance to second and eventually home as second baseman Trent Farquhar and catcher Adam Proctor would each fly-out deep into the outfield to allow Vradenburg to get home to make it 7-1.
At the top of the seventh, the Spartans awakened from their offensive drought. They drove in three runs to make it a ballgame as an error from left fielder Andrew Wilhite and a wild pitch from Schoeberl would assist hits from Michigan State center fielder Joe Stewart, shortstop Mitch Jebb and third baseman Zach Iverson to make it a 7-4 ballgame.
Rush continued to dish out some heat from the mound as he allowed two hits but held the Gophers to zero runs in the bottom of the seventh.
The Spartans had made it a ballgame, but they needed to go fast to have a chance. Minnesota’s pitching staff would make that possible.
After Farquhar was walked to begin the inning, a pair of sac-fly’s and a wild pitch would allow Farquhar to make it 7-5.
MSU right fielder Zaid Walker would single out to right field and advance to second base after Stewart would be walked. A pair of singles from Jebb and Iverson would eventually tie up the game at seven.
The Spartans wouldn’t stop there. The Minnesota pitching began to lose control. They allowed four consecutive walks and three more runs, forcing four changed pitchers before Gus Radel would strikeout Stewart to end the disastrous inning for the Gophers as they now trailed 10-7 after leading 7-0.
“We didn't chase many pitches either,” Boss said. “I think we walked seven times, and that, you know, that contributed to us taking the lead, but at the same time we didn't chase many pitches out of the strike zone, so I thought it was a pretty good approach as the game continued to wear on.”
The Gophers refused to go out quietly. Stanke and Bateman singled and first baseman Sam Ireland held on for a walk to load the bases with two outs. However, Iverson would come in to weather the storm on the mound after already having three RBI’s hitting on the day.
He would force a pop-fly out to center field to escape the inning and hold onto the 10-7 lead heading into the ninth.
That would ultimately do it for Michigan State. In the bottom of the ninth, the Spartans would complete a double play to get the first two outs, and a pop-fly from the first baseman Ronald Sweeny would complete the comeback for MSU.
Iverson would finish the day hitting 2-4 with three RBI’s and face four batters and only allow one hit, earning the save as Rush would earn his first win of the season.
“I told him (Iverson) he was my hero,” Boss said. “He's an intense competitor, and we were searching a little bit here at the end of the game. Zach (Hopman) had an opportunity early and it didn't go great. It was his chance again today and again, he's a competitor. Regardless of the numbers, regardless of what kind of success he's having or not having that day, I think at the end of the game he's pretty comfortable with the ball in his hand.”
The Spartans will look to move above .500 next weekend in a pair of two-game series against Penn State and Purdue.
“They could have packed it in after yesterday, they could have packed it in after being down seven to nothing today and they didn't,” Boss said. “We've lost some tough ones, maybe the game owed us this one, I don't know. To our guys' credit, they just keep playing hard.”
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