Michigan State opened Big Ten play with a Friday doubleheader against Illinois after Thursday's game was postponed.
Not much went right for Michigan State baseball at McLane Stadium as the Fighting Illini battered the Spartans in both games. Red-hot batting from Illinois scored a total of 20 runs in the two games, while MSU's hitters notched just five runs.
"We didn't do much well in any facet of the game," Michigan State Head Coach Jake Boss said. "We didn't pitch well, we didn't defend well, we didn't run the bases well, we didn't swing the bat well."
Illinois 11, Michigan State 3
The first game of the doubleheader was a disaster for the Spartans. Michigan State's batters notched three hits and scored just a couple of runs. Four different pitchers took the mound for MSU, each giving up at least one earned run.
Perhaps the only bright spot of an otherwise dismal outing was the play of freshman LHP Aidan Arbaugh, who replaced starting pitcher sophomore RHP Harrison Cook on the mound at the top of the third. In his first collegiate appearance, Arbaugh gave up four hits and just one run in three innings.
"I think he learned a lot today. Hopefully it gives him a lot of confidence moving forward," Boss said. "He's young, and he's got a lot of baseball ahead of him, but I think there's a great future." (2:44)
Arbaugh wasn't the only pitcher to make a debut for Michigan State. Junior LHP Jack Brockhaus made his first in-game appearance in the green and white at the top of the eighth. He pitched for the final two innings, notching a pair of strikeouts and giving up a hit and an earned run.
Illinois set the tone immediately, scoring three runs off Cook at the top of the first. MSU's defense didn't offer much support to the starting pitcher, with a pair of errors assisting in the early deficit. Things went from bad to worse in the second. Sophomore outfielder Danny Doligale blasted a home run into the Red Cedar with a couple of runners on base, extending the lead to 6-0 for the Illini. Another pair of Illinois runners found home plate in the second, driven home by a double from junior infielder/outfielder Cam McDonald.
Michigan State finally got on the board in the bottom of the sixth. Sophomore infielder Trent Farquhar was driven home by a single from junior outfielder Zaid Walker. Naturally, Illinois responded immediately with a rocket of a home run from senior outfielder Taylor Jackson to open the seventh, retaking the nine-run lead.
MSU made a last-ditch effort at a comeback at the bottom of the eighth. Taking advantage of an Illinois error, Michigan State scored a run to cut the lead to eight and subsequently loaded the bases. However, only one runner made it home, thanks to a fielder's choice.
Illinois tacked on one more run in the top of the ninth, and Michigan State's batters were silent in the bottom. 11-3 Illinois.
Illinois 9, Michigan State 2
Again, Illinois comfortably beat the Spartans with strong pitching and hot hitting.
Sophomore LHP Nick Powers started the game for the Spartans. He pitched 5.1 innings, with seven hits, three runs, a walk and a pair of strikeouts. Three pitchers, junior Andrew Carson and sophomores Kyle Dunning and Dominic Hann, closed out the game after a solid start from Powers.
The Fighting Illini took control of the game early. After a fruitless first, Illinois threatened with loaded bases and no outs in the second. The visitors took advantage of the advantageous position, using a sacrifice fly and a two-RBI single, taking a 3-0 lead.
After a few uneventful innings, Michigan State cut into Illinois' lead in the bottom of the sixth. Sophomore infielder Mitch Jebb opened the inning with a walk. Farquhar cracked a single to send Jebb to third, and after a strikeout, sophomore outfielder Jack Frank sent Jebb home with a fielder's choice.
After a flash of promise in the sixth, the wheels fell off completely for Michigan State. A couple of singles, a walk and a few errors tacked on a couple of runs for Illinois and loaded the bases. The Illini scored twice more in the inning, notching a run on a wild pitch and a groundout.
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After the sixth, Michigan State scored just one more run, and Illinois scored two, wrapping up game two with a score of 9-2.
The Spartans are back in action Tuesday evening, hosting Bowling Green. The opening pitch is set for 4:05.
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