Friday, April 12, 2024

MSU wins first Big Ten home series, beats Rutgers after walk-off single

April 1, 2024
<p>Sophomore infielder Randy Seymour (35) cautiously approaches the plate during a game against Rutgers at McLane Baseball Stadium on March 29, 2024.</p>

Sophomore infielder Randy Seymour (35) cautiously approaches the plate during a game against Rutgers at McLane Baseball Stadium on March 29, 2024.

Photo by Matthew Williams | The State News

Michigan State baseball played its first Big Ten home series this weekend, winning two of the three games, against Rutgers. With the results from this series, the Spartans jump to 12-14 overall and an even 3-3 in conference play.  

The Spartans were fresh off a loss to the Oakland Golden Grizzlies in a single home game and were looking to gain momentum against a Big Ten team

Game One

Left-handed pitcher Joseph Dzierwa started on the bump for Michigan State and came into the game with a 2-1 record and a 4.18 earned run average, or ERA. For Rutgers, pitcher Justin Sinibaldi started, who came into the game at 4-0 with an ERA of 3.02.

Dzierwa only allowed one hit in the top of the first inning, however, no runs were scored as Dzierwa was able to strike one player out and pick off another, ending the inning

For Michigan State, the bats struck out of the gate fast as designated hitter Christian Williams singled to left field, bringing in outfielder Jack Frank to score after he walked and stole a base – tying former Michigan State outfielder Cam Gibson to be eighth on the MSU all-time steals list with 45. Infielder Ryan McKay singled to left field and brought in Williams to make the score 2-0 in favor of the Spartans. However, the Spartans grounded out after to end the first inning.

Dzierwa didn’t allow a single hit through the first four innings, keeping a Rutgers team, roughly averaging 13 runs per game heading into this weekend, extremely silent

Finally, Dzierwa gave up two hits but still managed to hold Rutgers scoreless, keeping the Spartans the team with the momentum.

In the top of the seventh inning, right-hander Noah Matheny came in to relieve Dzierwa after a dazzling outing in the top of the seventh. Dzierwa finished with six innings pitched, four hits allowed, one walk, struck out two players and allowed no earned runs. Matheny, who gave up two hits, was able to keep Rutgers scoreless still, for the time being

The Michigan State offense was not able to convert any hits into runs; since the sixth inning, the Spartans left six players on base and scored no runs

Matheny stayed on the mound for the top of the eighth inning for MSU. He gave up a two-run home run to outfielder RJ Johnson Jr. to right-center, tying the game at 2-2. Though Matheny gave up another hit, nothing came of it as the Spartans were able to escape the top of the eighth inning by only giving up two runs

In the top of the ninth inning, right-hander Tommy Szczepanski came in to relieve Matheny, but soon faced a Rutgers offense that had loaded the bases. A two-strike single up the middle brought in two runs for the Scarlet Knights, giving them a 4-2 lead, their first of the game. After, Michigan State was able to get a double play, ending the inning

Left-handed pitcher Joey DeChiaro took the mound for Rutgers in the bottom of the ninth inning to close out the win for the Scarlet Knights

A pop-out and two strikeouts ended the game for Michigan State, as the Spartans lost the first game of the series 4-2.

Head coach Jake Boss Jr. said that although the team played well, it wasn’t enough for Rutgers’ offense, a main component in why the Scarlet Knights have been so successful this season so far.

"(Dzierwa) gave us everything he had,” Boss Jr. said. "He came in after the sixth and said that was it, he was just kind of out of gas. It's understandable, he's been fighting illness all week long and has felt miserable all week, so I'm very pleased with the effort that Joseph gave us today." 

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Redshirt junior pitcher Noah Matheny (29) walks off the mound after giving up a two-run home run during a game against Rutgers at McLane Baseball Stadium on March 29, 2024.

Game Two

Left-handed pitcher Nick Powers began the game on the mound for the Spartans. Powers came into the game with a 3-2 record and a 2.57 ERA. His matchup was right-hander Christian Coppola, who came into the game at 4-1 with a 6.41 ERA.

It was a pitching duel until the bottom of the third inning; the Spartans began the inning with two walks and then Jack Frank hit a three-run home run to right field, making the score 3-0 with Michigan State ahead.

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In the top of the fifth inning, Powers gave up a solo home run to Johnny Volpe, making the score 3-1 with the Spartans still up. Next inning, Powers gave up a single, double and eventually a run, lowering the deficit and making the score 3-2. However, the bleeding stopped there and Michigan State was able to keep Rutgers from scoring another run that inning

In the bottom of the sixth inning, Nick Williams hit a sacrifice bunt to bring in a run to add to Michigan State’s lead. However, the inning ended shortly after, with the Spartans up 4-2.

Later, in the bottom of the seventh inning, Michigan State scored another run as Frank hit a single, bringing in a fifth MSU run of the day.

Right-hander Aaron Mishoulam started the eighth inning for the Spartans, relieving Powers. Powers went seven innings, allowing seven hits, walked one, struck out two and allowed just two earned runs, another very strong outing for the lefty

Right-handed pitcher Aaron Mishoulam closed out the game for Michigan State, striking out all three batters in the inning. Michigan State won 5-2 to even the series out at one game apiece. 

Michigan State’s Jack Frank, who helped propel the Spartans’ offense to the win, said that his mentality doesn’t change much between games, no matter who the opponent is or how he performed previously.

“I try to approach the day and every at-bat the same way, whether it's good or bad, you can't be result-oriented,” Frank said. “I know what I'm good at, I know what some of my weaknesses are. But (to) just keep doing the same thing day in and day out, I think good outcomes come to you. I really believe in that and I think all the guys on this team believe in that, and I think that's what makes us a really good team.”

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Redshirt junior catcher Christian Williams (5) drops into a slide with sophomore infielder Randy Seymour (35) watching during a game against Rutgers at McLane Baseball Stadium on March 29, 2024.

Game Three

Michigan State’s starting pitcher, Nick Ferazzi, came into the game with a 0-1 record and a 5.29 ERA. The starter for the Scarlet Knights, on the other hand, was Zack Konstantinovsky, who came into the game 0-3 with a 6.48 ERA. 

Both teams were quiet on offense for the first couple of innings until the top of the third inning when Ferazzi gave up a single up the middle, allowing a runner to score; Rutgers was up 1-0. 

Michigan State was kept scoreless in the first half of the game, only mustering six hits and leaving seven players on base

In the top of the seventh inning, Ferazzi was back on the mound. Although he was pitching well up until then, Ferazzi started the inning by hitting the first batter. He was then able to strike out two straight players, but then threw a wild pitch, allowing the runner from the hit-by-pitch, to get to third base. Next, Rutgers was able to hit a double and bring in a run, tallying up a score of 2-0. Ferazzi and the Spartans didn’t allow another run after that

In the bottom of the seventh inning, pitcher Donovan Zsak relieved Konstantinovsky to begin the inning. The Spartan offense began with a double from Jacob Anderson, and after, Landen Lozier also got a double to left field, bringing in Anderson and forcing a pitching change.

The next batter, Dillon Kark, singled, getting on base, but Lozier stayed at second. Jack Frank, just after, brought Lozier in during the next at-bat with a single up the middle, tying the game at 2-2. 

Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning, the game was still tied 2-2 and MSU had a final chance to win the game, or else the game would go into extra innings.

The first two batters struck out and left the chance to win without extra innings in bleak shape. However, Nick Williams hit a double to center field and attempted to start a rally that forced a pitching change. Rutgers brought in DeChiaro to try to halt the offense into extra innings. The attempt was unsuccessful as McKay laced a single into right-center, bringing in Williams to score for an MSU walk-off win

The Spartans beat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights 3-2 in heroic fashion, grabbing the series win in their first Big Ten home opener.

Head coach Jake Boss Jr. said that his team made a valiant effort to win, specifically Ryan McKay in the ninth inning.

“Ryan (McKay), he’s a tough out, he doesn’t swing and miss much,” Boss Jr. said. “I felt good about him putting the ball in play, and thankfully the ball landed.”

McKay spoke about the walk-off and his last at-bat that led to the walk-off victory for the slugging Spartans.

McKay said that he was happy to be a team hero for this game, allowing the Spartans to get its first series home win of the season, while also giving props to Nick Williams for getting on base before him.

“I was happy to be in that spot to maybe help the team,” McKay said. “Nick (Williams) had a heck of an at-bat before. He had a double and allowed that to be the winning run, so all props to Nick too.”

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Freshman infielder Ryan McKay (1) slaps a ball into the air during a game against Rutgers at McLane Baseball Stadium on March 29, 2024.

Looking ahead, Michigan State will play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Tuesday, April 2 at 6:30 p.m. in Indiana, marking the first time these two teams will meet this season.

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