Behind junior right fielder Clark Elliott’s (4-5, 8 RBIs) three home runs, Michigan demolished Michigan State 18-6 for the Spartans’ worst loss to their rival since a 16-2 pounding on March 30, 2019.
The defeat marks Michigan State’s (13-17, 2-5) sixth loss in their last seven games and consecutive double digit blowouts for the first time all season. It also drops Michigan State’s record against Michigan to 3-14 since 2017.
“It’s a huge rivalry for us,” Elliott said. “We hate Michigan State.”
Like Wednesday’s 18-7 loss to Western Michigan, the Spartans were essentially taken out of the game in the first three innings as Michigan jumped out to an early lead. Elliott, one of the highest rated professional prospects in the Big Ten, waited only for the second pitch of the game to take sophomore pitcher Kyle Dunning deep with a solo home run to the right field corner.
Dunning rebounded to make light work of the next two righties in the order in graduate student center fielder Joe Stewart and junior second baseman Ted Burton before graduate student third baseman Matt Frey hit another solo bomb nearly 500 ft. to right center. Senior shortstop Riley Bertram popped up but once again, the Spartans found themselves in a hole before they even got a chance to pick up a bat.
After sophomore pitcher Connor O’Halloran came out of the bottom of the first unscathed, things began to truly unravel for Michigan State. Dunning hit junior Tito Flores with his first pitch, junior Jimmy Obertop reached on a fielder’s choice play at third with senior first baseman Jack Van Remortel singling through the right gap promptly after. Senior Jack Van Remortel and Obertop advanced to second and third after Dunning’s wild pitch, one of only four needed to walk junior left fielder Jordon Rogers, load the bases and bring Elliott back up to bat for the second straight inning.
Michigan State Head Coach Jake Boss Jr. Boss yanked Dunning (1.1 innings pitched, three hits, five earned runs) in favor of sophomore pitcher Ryan Szczepaniak but on a gusty day at Jackson Field, Elliott would not be denied. For the second straight inning, he went yard, hitting a static 86 mile per hour fastball over the right field fence for the grand slam and 6-0 lead. The junior right fielder rounded the bases triumphantly before emphatically stepping on home plate and running into a mob of his teammates.
Michigan State’s dugout simply stared.
“We get down early and we’re trying to fight and scratch and claw to get back in it,” Boss said. “Just can’t seem to stop the bleeding.”
After Flores hit a solo bomb in the third and Elliott scored on a passed ball in the fourth to extend Michigan’s lead, the Spartans finally responded in the bottom of the fourth as O’Halloran started to struggle with his command. Sophomore off fielder Jack Frank walked, junior left fielder Casey Mayes got on with a bunt single and redshirt freshman third baseman Bryan Broecker brought them home with a triple to score Michigan State’s first runs of the day and make it 9-2.
Michigan didn’t wait long to answer. After a fifth inning that saw both pitchers settle in nicely, Burton’s long double down off the right field wall and Frey’s single through the right gap helped bring in three more runs and ended Szczepaniak’s (4.0 innings pitched, six hits, five earned runs) day in the sixth.
The hits kept coming as Stewart homered in the top of the eighth and Burton scored on a throwing error to make it 14-2. The Spartans tacked on one more run off a sophomore shortstop Mitch Jebb’s groundout but Lawrence’s single to score sophomore infielder Trevor Kilinski and Elliott’s third home run in the top of the ninth only served to frustrate their opposition more.
But in a nearly empty stadium with Michigan fans chanting “Let’s Go Blue,” Michigan State uncorked another futile rally in the bottom of the ninth with Frank’s two-run homer and Broecker’s single adding three runs before Jebb’s strikeout ended the Spartans 18-6 loss to Michigan. While the result wasn’t what he wanted, Boss said he was happy with how his team responded with the game almost completely over.
“Guys are not happy about what happened tonight,” Boss said. “They could have folded and rolled over in the ninth…I give them credit, it’s not an easy situation but I left them in there because I wanted to see what they were made of.”
Michigan State returns to action on Saturday against Michigan at McLane Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan. First pitch is at 4:05 p.m.
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