Michigan State baseball continues to dominate sweeping Illinois while improving to 15-5 overall and 3-0 in B1G play. Here is the great breakdown from the Spartans this weekend by Zach Fisher:
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Brandon Hughes belted three home runs as part of Michigan State baseball’s eight round trippers in the game as the Spartans beat Illinois, 17-6, Sunday to complete the three-game sweep over the Illini. It was MSU’s first three-game sweep over Illinois in the series history and the Spartans’ eight home runs in a game is the most in the NCAA this season.
A national television audience on Big Ten Network saw MSU hit eight home runs, which are the most in a single game in the NCAA this season. The Spartans’ eight round-trippers is also the most by MSU since at least 2006.
With the 17 runs, the Spartans scored 12 or more runs in all three games of the series, as they have won their last four games, as by hanging double digits on the scoreboard. MSU has now plated double-figures in five of the last six games as part of nine total times out of the 20 games this season.
“The guys really showed up with a focus today. Sweeping a series on the road is not easy. You could feel it on the bus on the way to the field this morning, guys were focused, locked in and ready to go, and it started right there in the first inning with Dan Durkin’s home run and Alex Troop’s followed that, and we were off and running. We had a lot of good at bats today, we didn’t chase many pitches out of the strike zone. We put a lot of good swings on a lot of pitches today and fortunately, we put a big number up,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., said.
Hughes helped the Spartans put up a big number, driving in seven behind his three home runs.
“Brandon has been locked in for the last two weeks, so he’s been swinging it very well. It was a good day to hit today with the wind blowing the way that it was, but I don’t think any of his three home runs were wind-aided at all, there wasn’t any doubt about any of them,” Boss said. “When our guys are locked in, they’re fun to watch and Brandon is no exception.”
MSU is 15-5 overall and 3-0 in B1G play. By winning their opening series in B1G action, the Spartans have won seven of the 10 B1G opening series under Boss.
“Anytime you go on the road, the goal is to win the series, and it’s hard to sweep the series on the road, and for our guys to do what they did this weekend, we showed what we’re capable of. I think this weekend we showed offensively, defensively and on the mound what this group is capable of doing. The challenge is going to remain consistent and repeat a good performance on Tuesday against Western Michigan and this weekend against Minnesota,” Boss said.
Illinois is now 6-15 on the season. The Spartans have won six of the last nine meetings with the Illini.
A total of five different Spartans hit home runs, as in addition to the junior centerfielder Hughes, sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina homered twice, while senior second baseman Dan Durkin, sophomore designated hitter Alex Troop and sophomore outfielder Dan Chmielewski each smacked one home run apiece. MSU’s first five hits in the game were all home runs.
Hughes ended the game 3-for-5 with seven RBI. Chmielewski was 3-for-3 with three runs scored, Bechina was 2-for-5 with two runs score, Durkin was 1-for-5 and Troop was 1-for-3. MSU had 13 hits in the game with eight different players. Of the 13 hits, 11 of them were for extra bases, with only two singles.
On the mound, junior starter Andrew Gonzalez scattered five hits over five innings of work, getting the win to improve to 2-1 on the season. Illinois starter Luke Shilling took the loss, sliding to 1-2 on the year.
Durkin started the home run parade with a one-out big fly to right in the top of the first and two batters later, Troop smashed the baseball over the scoreboard for an early 2-0 lead.
Chmielewski led off the second with a solo shot to left. Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando followed by reaching on an error, then senior catcher Matt Byars walked and two batters later, Hughes went yard for the first time with a three-run blast to right center. One out later, Bechina belted his first of the game with a blast to center.
Hughes smacked his second homer of the game in the fourth with a two-run shot for a 9-0 MSU lead, with all nine runs being score via home runs.
Illinois got on the board with two runs in the fourth, before the Spartans scored their first run that didn’t come off a home run in the fifth, as Chmielewski scored on a wild pitch. MSU got back on track with scoring off home runs with the next batter, as Hughes smashed his third of the game with a two-run round-tripper to give the Spartans a 13-2 advantage.
Bechina belted his second blast of the game to lead of the sixth, sparking three MSU runs in the inning, adding one more in the ninth to cap MSU’s scoring. Illinois added three in the bottom of the ninth before Michigan State ended the rally for the 17-6 victory for MSU.
The Spartans host another in-state foe next week in a mid-week game, welcoming Western Michigan to McLane Stadium at Kobs Field on Tuesday, March 28. First pitch is slated for 3:05 p.m.
MSU has its home B1G opener this weekend, hosting Minnesota in a three-game series, on Friday-Sunday, March 31-April 2. Friday’s series opener is slated for 3:05 p.m., with Saturday and Sunday’s games with 1:05 first pitches.