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Poor pitching performances lead to MSU baseball dropping single game to Oakland, 11-7

March 28, 2024
MSU catcher Noah Bright, tongue hanging out, meets his teammates' embrace at home plate at McLane Baseball Stadium in East Lansing on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. Bright slammed a home run over the left field fence to cut Oakland's lead to 3.
MSU catcher Noah Bright, tongue hanging out, meets his teammates' embrace at home plate at McLane Baseball Stadium in East Lansing on Wednesday, March 27, 2024. Bright slammed a home run over the left field fence to cut Oakland's lead to 3.

Michigan State baseball lost to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies 11-7 in the first matchup between the two teams this season, putting the Spartans at a 10-13 overall record so far this season. Despite a great offensive performance by the Spartans, the Grizzlies scored 5 runs in the final three innings, helping push them past Michigan State.

Freshman left-hander Gannon Grundman got his first career start on the mound but got into early trouble in the top of the first inning, allowing two runners to get on, but managed to escape any damage with two strikeouts, one to end the inning. 

Graduate senior lefty Will Hearn began as the pitcher for Oakland and was able to keep Michigan State scoreless in the first inning.

Grundman began the top of the second inning by hitting a batter, giving up a single to left field and a hit to right field, eventually leading Oakland to take an early 3-0 lead. 

The quick 3-0 lead forced Michigan State head coach Jake Boss Jr. to go to the bullpen and take Grundman out in just the second inning, bringing in right-hander Harrison Cook to relieve Grundman. Grundman’s day ended with just an inning-and-a-third pitched, giving up six hits and five runs allowed, as well as tallying up two strikeouts.

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The big second inning continued for Oakland after a two-run double down the line to extend the lead to 5-0 for the visitors. Cook was able to get out of the inning after a pick-off at first base and a pop fly.

Michigan State's offense started out quietly during the bottom of the second inning as the first two batters going down. Then, catcher Noah Bright launched a double to right field, off the wall, to clear the bases and make the score 5-2. Outfielder Landon Lozier tried to spark the rally again with a walk but that would be all MSU could come up with.

Cook began the top of the third inning on the mound once again and was able to retire the side in order, striking out the final two batters of the inning. In the top of the fourth inning, however, he allowed a runner to get on base by an error. But he picked another Grizzly off of the base but proceeded to walk two batters before giving up a single that let a run in, making the game 6-2 in favor of Oakland.

Michigan State's offense came out for the bottom of the fourth inning looking to put a dent into the deficit. Bright did just that and started off the inning with a lead-off solo home run to left field. Lozier got a walk, which helped the inning keep going. Dillon Kark then blooped a single into right to put runners on the first and third bases. Frank kept the rally going by getting a single into right, bringing a runner in and making the score 6-4.

Hearn was relieved for right-hander Jaxson Easterlin after allowing two runs in the fourth inning without getting an out. Out of the gate, Easterlin balked in a run, making it 6-5. Infielder Ryan McKay grounded out to second base and drove in a run in the process, tying the game, 6-6. The Spartans, however, could not take the lead but ended the inning grabbing four runs. 

Right-hander Gavin Moczydlowsky started the top of the fifth inning for Michigan State and allowed two runners to get on, but escaped unscathed, striking out two players in the process. 

The Michigan State bats went down quietly in the bottom of the fifth after two walks; the Spartans weren't able to bring a runner in. 

Moczydlowsky returned to the mound to begin the sixth inning and struck out the first player. Although he hit a batter and the Spartans made an error just after, Moczydlowsky was able to strike out the Golden Grizzlies and not let Oakland score any runs.

Right-hander Gage Smith came out to relieve Easterlin. While the Michigan State offense came out firing to begin the bottom half of the sixth inning on a Kark single, nothing else amounted after that. The score was still tied at 6-6.

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Moczydlowsky once again came back out to the mound and started the top of the seventh inning. Moczydlowsky struck out a batter after giving up two base runners, before being relieved by right-hander Nolan Higgins. Higgins came in and walked the first batter he saw before giving up a bases-clearing double, breaking the tie and making the score 8-6, Oakland leading.

Dominic Pianto was brought in for Higgins just after and hit the first batter he saw, but was able to force an infield pop up to get out of the inning right after.

Being hit by pitches seemed to be a theme of the game as Christian Williams started the bottom of the seventh inning by getting hit. The bats went silent quickly after Williams got on base and yet again the Spartans were trailing.

Pianto was back on the mound to begin the eighth inning. He walked the first batter and was soon relieved by right-hander Jaxon Huffman. Huffman was able to get the first two batters out with ease, striking out one, before he gave up a single and a double, both bringing runs in, making the score 10-6 with Oakland in the lead. Huffman struck out another batter, ending the inning after the double. 

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Left-hander Tanner Ware came in to relieve Smith for the Golden Grizzlies, and although the Spartans looked to trim the lead, the batting performances were no match for Ware. 

To start out the top of the ninth inning for Michigan State, left-hander Garrett Brewer took the mound. He started the inning by giving up a single and the runner stole second base before being brought in as a run by a double, bringing the score to 11-6. That score would remain, however, even as Oakland loaded the bases; Brewer struck out the final batter to end the rally.

Staring at a five-run deficit, Michigan State knew it needed a rally. Nick Williams and McKay started the inning with a leadoff walk and reaching further bases off an error. Christian Williams launched a deep single that brought a run in, which made the score 11-7. However, with two runners on base and no outs, Michigan State wasn't able to do any more damage offensively. Oakland was able to end the game as Michigan State lost 11-7.

Boss Jr. spoke about the team's performance, saying that a better pitching performance could have helped the Spartans win.

“First of all, we walked eight (batters) and hit five (batters)," Boss Jr. said. "So 13 free base runners is a recipe for disaster. Obviously we need to be better on the mound and I need to make better decisions. Clearly (my decisions) didn't work tonight.”

Standouts

The offense was the main standout today, especially Bright, who hit a home run, had two hits and brought in three runs. Ziegler, Kark and Frank all collected two hits as well and Frank brought in one run. McKay and Christian Williams collected the other runs, with one each as well.

Moczydlowsky was the pitcher that stood out the most but received the loss, as he pitched two-and-two-thirds innings, allowing only one run, two hits and was able to get five strikeouts. 

Michigan State will be playing back in East Lansing this weekend against Rutgers, looking to get a few wins in Big Ten play. The first game starts on Friday, March 29 at 3:35 p.m.

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