ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Michigan State baseball spent the weekend at Ray Fisher Stadium where it faced off with its archrival Michigan in a competitive three-game conference series.
After dropping the first two games of the weekend, the Spartans finished strong with a whopping 14-2 victory over the Wolverines.
In a close contest, the Spartans fell to the Wolverines 5-3 on Friday. MSU held a 2-1 lead early in the game before the home team answered with three runs in the second inning. Michigan made it 5-2 with a solo home run in the fourth.
Michigan State trailed by two at the top of the fifth inning thanks to a triple from junior shortstop Mitch Jebb and junior first baseman Brock Vradenburg who sent Jebb home.
Neither of the rivals scored again the rest of the night, handing the Wolverines their first victory of the series.
Michigan got up 4-0 in the first inning on Saturday and never looked back.
MSU eventually responded with two runs of its own in the third, but was unable to even the score. The Wolverines tacked on three additional runs in the sixth and a final in the eighth inning to notch the 8-3 victory over MSU, guaranteeing them a series win.
Jebb and Vradenburg once again made waves for the Spartans recording two hits and an RBI respectively. Jebb also picked up four at-bats and a run while Vradneburg had two at-bats.
At the same time, junior second baseman Trent Farquhar went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run.
Michigan State’s decision to start junior pitcher Nick Powers on the mound for the first time all weekend seemed to be a wise choice, as he recorded four strikeouts and a 4.06 ERA in eight innings pitched.
“Nick’s been kind of our Sunday guy or number three guy all year long,” head baseball coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “It was his time. He was the next guy up in the rotation. So, he knew he was gonna pitch. We determined that earlier in the week.”
Meanwhile, six pitchers made appearances for Michigan, with junior Chase Allen earning the start.
The Spartans got on the board first with a two-run dinger from Vradenburg, who had an outstanding day at bat.
“For me, it was just kind of getting down early and just trying to see as much of the ball as possible,” Vradenburg said of his performance. “Being on time was definitely what I went with, and then, kind of just making pitch-to-pitch adjustments of where they're attacking in the zone. … Other than that, just staying loose and relaxed.”
MSU added a run to its lead in the second inning with three more in the third to make it 6-0.
Senior pitcher Jacob Denner came in to relieve Allen midway through the top of the third. Michigan had its second pitching change of the day at the top of the fourth, sending junior Ryan Zimmer out to the mound.
The Wolverines had no answer for MSU’s thriving offense until the bottom of the fourth inning, picking up two hits and a run. Senior first baseman Jack Van Remortel launched a double to left center field, sending freshman center fielder Jonathan Kim home to give Michigan its first point of the game.
MSU extended its lead in the top of the fifth to 11-1, causing junior pitcher Ahmad Harajli to take over for Michigan.
The Wolverines added a run in the bottom of the sixth, but it was no use as the Spartans were not done for the day. MSU refused to let its foot off the gas with three RBI in the seventh.
The eighth inning brought a handful of lineup changes for Michigan, including sophomore Jake Keaser at pitcher. Bats were much quieter in the final two innings with neither team adding to their point total.
Michigan State escaped the series sweep and got back in the win column after three-straight losses.
“I was just proud of our guys,” Boss said. “I didn't think we played too poorly on Friday and Saturday, we just got beat. So, I think the message today to our guys was just, ‘How are we going to respond to a little adversity?' And they kept their heads about them. They've done a pretty good job all year of staying even-keeled and we did that today.”
The undisputed star of Sunday’s matchup was Vradenburg, who ended the day with five RBI and four runs, bringing his weekend total to seven RBI, five hits and four runs.
“(Vradenburg’s) a really talented kid. He's fundamentally very good, he doesn't lose balance, he doesn't chase balls out of the strike zone very much,” Boss said. “I think you saw that with a home run in the first inning to the opposite field, and he's big and strong. And he's hit a ball into the teeth of the wind today in center field and hit it out of the park. He's as good as there is in the country, in my opinion.”
With the impressive win, the Spartans improve to 24-13 overall and 7-5 in Big Ten play. They return home to East Lansing to face Notre Dame on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m.