Trailing by as much as five runs, Michigan State started off its three-game weekend series against Western Illinois with a roaring comeback, overcoming a host of costly errors throughout the evening to win 10-9. MSU finished with six errors, while only four of WIU’s nine runs were earned.
“Not a pretty game, to say the least,” senior outfielder Casey Mayes said. “There’s no quit in our dugout. There was encouragement regardless of some of the mistakes we were making early on.”
However, the saving grace for Michigan State was its batters, who hit with power throughout the night. Redshirt sophomore catcher Bryan Broecker blasted two home runs, while redshirt sophomore infielder Sam Busch and redshirt junior outfielder Greg Ziegler each notched one. The home runs accounted for half of MSU’s runs.
Things started a bit shaky almost immediately for the Spartans. Starting pitcher freshman Joseph Dzierwa had a rocky first inning and MSU fielders committed three errors in the first two. Two of Western Illinois’ first three runs were scored as a direct result of fielding errors.
“The defense tonight was extremely disappointing, very uncharacteristic of us,” head coach Jake Boss said. “But again, at the end of the day, we got a big hit when we needed it. We took what we were given and found a way to win again.”
As the game progressed, both the Spartan fielders and pitchers continued to struggle (especially the former). Dzierwa temporarily turned things around, keeping the Leathernecks off the board for two straight innings and racking up three strikeouts in the process. However, he was pulled after 4.1 innings, eventually replaced by sophomore pitcher Ryan Szczepaniak in the top of the fifth. Szczepaniak was replaced just an inning later by senior Andrew Carson. Senior pitcher Wyatt Rush closed out the game for Michigan State.
Despite the inconsistent pitching and fielding, Michigan State finally found its first lead of the night thanks to an extremely productive five-run seventh inning.
“I’m really proud of our team here, especially our pitchers,” Broecker said. “We moved the ball around a lot, [it was good] to see them hang in there and executing.”
Western Illinois jumped off to a quick 2-0 in the first inning. An error from the left fielder put a man on third for WIU and the next batter drove him home. The Leathernecks added a run onto their lead just a few at bats later thanks to an RBI double to right center field.
The visitors extended their lead to 3-0 in the following inning. For the second time that evening, Western Illinois reached home due to an error from a Spartan fielder, this time courtesy of the second fielder.
Michigan State’s offense finally found its footing in the fourth. Broecker blasted a two-run homer to left center field to get rid of the scoreboard’s goose egg, putting the Spartans just a run short of Western Illinois.
With two Leathernecks on base in the top of the fifth, MSU’s Dzierwa was pulled in favor of Szczepaniak. The sophomore pitcher issued a walk and gave up a two RBI double before securing the final two outs, increasing the Spartans' deficit to 5-2.
Michigan State chipped away at WIU’s lead at the bottom of the fifth. Mayes cracked a lead-off triple to center field, eventually reaching home thanks to a sacrifice fly from junior infielder Trent Farquhar.
However, the errors just kept coming for Michigan State. Three throwing errors in the sixth helped Western Illinois notch three unearned runs, making it 8-3 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
Despite the five-run deficit, MSU kept clawing its way back within reach. The Spartans notched two solo home runs in the sixth, courtesy of Busch and Broecker (his second of the game), to bring the game within three points. Ziegler gave Michigan State its fourth home run of the game in the very next inning, making it 8-6.
MSU quickly loaded up the bases following the Ziegler homer. WIU proceeded to hit junior rightfielder Jack Frank with a pitch and issue a walk to freshman infielder Randy Seymour, handing the Spartans a pair of runs and knotting up the game at 8-8. Mayes sent a single racing down center field and sent two more runs home, giving Michigan State its first lead of the evening.
A WIU solo home run in the ninth inning made MSU sweat a bit, but ultimately Rush was able to close things out and secure the win.