Michigan State baseball sent Notre Dame back to South Bend with a 12-5 loss, bursting ahead with a six-run seventh inning and never looking back.
After a closely contested six-and-a-half innings, the Spartans loaded up the bases to start the bottom of the seventh. A wild pitch and a single from junior outfielder Jack Frank cleared the bases, breaking a 5-5 tie and putting MSU back on top.
However, the runs just kept coming. A pair of singles and a triple tacked on three more runs before the inning wrapped up.
“Situational hitting is huge,” senior outfielder Casey Mayes said. “Situational hitting is something we’ve been preaching for a while now and it’s good to see it executed.”
Michigan State earned 11 hits throughout the evening. There weren't just a few players carrying the Spartans’ offense, though: the hits came from across the lineup. Nine different batters notched a hit by the end of the evening.
“Offensively, we’ve been really good this year from one through nine,” Michigan State head men's baseball coach Jake Boss said. “When you can get a balanced attack like that, you’re going to score a lot of runs.”
Junior pitcher Harrison Cook pitched until the top of the fifth after taking over for freshman pitcher Robert Klann in the first. Cook quickly stabilized the Spartan defense after a shaky start from Klann, giving up just two hits, a pair of walks and through 4.1 innings pitched.
The performance more than made up for a weak start against Michigan over the weekend that saw a first-inning exit.
“The outing Saturday didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, and you have a decision to make at that point if you’re a pitcher. You can crawl into your shell and feel all sorry for yourself, or you can get back out, get the next guy out,” Boss said. “He handled it great. He did what we asked him to do, maybe more of a comfortable situation here at home, but against a really good opponent. That’s certainly what he’s capable of.”
The aforementioned Klann had a rough evening on the mound. He gave up a pair of hits, issued two walks, committed a fielding error and earned no strikeouts. That gave the visiting Fighting Irish a quick 2-0 lead before Cook took over pitching duties at the top of the first. Notre Dame added one more run via fielder’s choice before the end of the inning.
Michigan State responded an inning later. A single, a walk and a groundout put two runners in scoring position to kick off the inning. Junior infielder Trent Farquhar sent one of the runners home with a sacrifice fly to right field. Shortly after, MSU junior infielder Mitch Jebb slapped a double down the leftfield line to send home a second runner and cut the deficit down to 3-2.
MSU found its first lead of the night in the fifth inning, courtesy of redshirt sophomore infielder Sam Busch. He launched a three-run homer to right field after the Fighting Irish issued pair of walks, giving the Spartans a 5-3 lead. The home run was Busch’s sixth of the season.
Freshman pitcher Gavin Sitarz, who stepped in for Cook in the fifth, gave up a pair of hits and an earned run in the ensuing inning. He was replaced by senior pitcher Andrew Carson after throwing for less than an inning.
However, Carson couldn’t quite stop the bleeding. The Fighting Irish tacked on a second run in the sixth with a sacrifice fly, tying things up at 5-5 heading to the bottom of the sixth.
Carson’s time on the mound was short-lived as well. He was replaced by senior pitcher Wyatt Rush in the seventh after walking two straight batters to start the inning. Rush was able to get the Spartans out unscathed, keeping the game knotted up.
Michigan State went back ahead in seventh. Two walks and a single quickly loaded up the bases for MSU. After a wild pitch from Notre Dame gave MSU a one run lead, Frank sent the remaining two runners home with a single. Three more runs were scored in the inning after Michigan State hit two more singles and a triple.
MSU added one more run to its total in the bottom of the eighth, as the Fighting Irish continued to struggle to find consistently from their pitchers.
Michigan State is back in action this Friday, hosting Northwestern to kick off a three-game weekend series.