Thursday, February 22, 2024

MSU Baseball secures highest-ranked win since 2014 in upset of No. 12 Notre Dame at Comerica Park

April 27, 2022
<p>Redshirt senior Peter Ahn (16) races to first base during the Spartans&#x27; matchup against Notre Dame at Comerica Park in Detroit on April 26, 2022.</p>

Redshirt senior Peter Ahn (16) races to first base during the Spartans' matchup against Notre Dame at Comerica Park in Detroit on April 26, 2022.

Photo by Olivia Hans | The State News

Michigan State’s bats were as cold as the frigid air in Comerica Park for most of the night but a three-run sixth inning coupled with a solid start from sophomore Harrison Cook propelled the Spartans to an upset victory over No. 12 Notre Dame. 

It was the highest-ranked opponent MSU has beaten since the 2014 season when they defeated No. 1 Oregon 8-7. 

MSU was deadlocked with Notre Dame for the first five innings in what looked like a pitcher’s duel before the bottom of the Spartan lineup broke the game open and produced a three-run sixth inning to pull ahead for good. 

“I thought we played extremely well tonight really in all facets,” MSU Baseball Head Coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “We got good pitching. We defended well, we got timely hits when we needed to and really grinded out a couple at bats in some big spots and made some things happen.”

Cook (0-4, 8.08 ERA) turned in one of his best performances as a Spartan. He went 5 2/3 innings, the fourth-longest start of his career, gave up two earned runs and struck out four batters. Despite not getting the decision, his ability to work through tough situations and attack hitters set MSU up with a chance at victory heading into the final innings. 

MSU’s bats were quiet for most of the night, scoring twice in the first inning off of a pair of walks and an error and the string of hits in the sixth. The Spartans finished with six hits but worked the count often and drew six walks to keep the base paths busy. The production was enough for six runs, with lots of help from the Fighting Irish defense — more than enough to support the strong pitching performance. 

“I thought you know, we didn't get ourselves out much, we didn't chase much and that was really exciting to see from our standpoint as far as our offense is concerned,” Boss said.

When Cook was pulled from the game, MSU and Notre Dame were tied at 2 entering the bottom of the sixth. Cook’s efforts were enough to put MSU in a position to take the lead in the bottom of the inning, setting up reliever Wyatt Rush (3-2, 3.48 ERA) for the win and Andrew Carson to shut the door. 

“I thought Harrison Cook gave us a nice outing tonight,” Boss said. “Wyatt Rush did a nice job in getting out of a tough spot. And you know, Andrew Carson was lights out at the end. When those guys really attack hitters and they feel like they're in control, we can be really, really good.”

The Fighting Irish found themselves behind the eight-ball early after a series of uncharacteristic mental mistakes and could not recover.

After walking Mitch Jebb and Trent Farquhar, the first two batters of the game, Notre Dame pitcher Liam Simon got to two outs but could not get out of the inning unscathed. Redshirt junior Peter Ahn hit a hard ground ball in the hole between third and shortstop that third baseman Jack Penney fumbled into the outfield, allowing Jebb and Farquhar to score. MSU did not get its first hit until sophomore Jack Frank hit a two-out single in the bottom of the third. 

Notre Dame, on the other hand, was finding frequent contact against Cook early, but could not manufacture any offense until the third inning. Cook gave up a single and walked a batter with two outs, giving right fielder Brooks Coetzee the opportunity to drive in a run with a single to left field.

Cook answered with his strongest inning of the outing in the fourth. The sophomore starter struck out the side in quick succession to settle back into his groove. 

He sailed smoothly into the sixth inning until he surrendered a walk to second baseman Jared Miller with one out. Jack Brannigan followed it up with a rope down the left field line for a double, scoring Miller from first to tie the score. Cook got one more out before he was pulled so he did not face the top of the lineup for the fourth time. 

Reliever Wyatt Rush came in and picked up where Harrison left off, getting out of the sixth safely and stranding a runner on third base. 

The strong work from the pitching staff in the top of the sixth laid the stage for the Spartan bats to come alive. Jack Frank started the inning with a single and quickly found himself on second after a steal during the next at-bat. Frank then stole third with one out during Ahn’s at-bat, who was walked. Broecker drove in Frank with a hard ground ball single in the hole between third and shortstop and advanced Ahn to second.

Notre Dame turned to the bullpen to try to get out of the inning but Brock Vradenburg kept the scoring going. After a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third, Vradenburg, a lefty, took an inside fastball the other way down the left field line for a two-rbi double to put MSU up 5-2.

Rush returned to the mound in the seventh and looked shaky, loading the bases with one out after giving up a single, hitting a batter and walking one, but was able to get out of the jam again with a strikeout and popout. 

MSU tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh thanks to another Notre Dame error on an Ahn groundball. With runners on first and third, Ahn drilled a groundball directly at Notre Dame shortstop Zack Prajzner, who muffed it, giving MSU its third unearned run on an Ahn groundball. 

Michigan State’s bullpen was able to keep Notre Dame off the scoreboard in the final two innings to secure the victory. The Spartans move to 17-21 on the season and return to action in East Lansing against IPFW on Wednesday.

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