East Lansing, MI
Today here at beautiful McLane Stadium the sun was out and it was a beautiful day for baseball. It was a pitchers duel and the Spartans took the lead 2-1 in the eighth inning to capture the win over the Iowa Hawkeyes. Both teams meet tomorrow in the rubber match of the three game series. Zach Fisher has this terrific recap for us:
Spartans Win 2-1 Nailbiter Over Hawkeyes Saturday
MSU uses pair of sacrifice flies to even series with Iowa.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State baseball used a pair of sacrifice flies to clip the Hawkeyes of Iowa, 2-1, Saturday afternoon at a sunny McLane Stadium at Kobs Field in the middle game of the three-game Big Ten Conference series.
All three runs of Saturday’s contest were scored on sacrifice flies, and a fourth was nearly scored but was denied after getting thrown out at home.
Senior second baseman Dan Durkin was involved in both of MSU’s sacrifice flies, scoring in the second inning for the Spartans’ first run of the game and giving them their first lead of the series. Durkin came to bat with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth and blasted a high fly ball to deep left field that was caught but allowed freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley to score the go-ahead run.
“I’m really proud of our guys. We got a great pitching effort out of Jake Lowery today, and we got a great at bat in the eighth when we needed one out of our leader and our captain. We needed somebody to step up in a big way after a frustrating day yesterday and we got it done today,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said.
Saturday’s win improves MSU’s record to 24-18 overall and 8-9 in B1G action, while Iowa is now 28-17 overall and 10-7 in conference play. The Spartans’ win evens the series with the Hawkeyes at a game apiece after Friday’s 3-2 loss
“We needed that one, it was a frustrating day yesterday. We had a lot of chances and couldn’t capitalize. We didn’t have as many opportunities today, but we took advantage as the one today in the eighth. That’s a guy that we wanted up in that spot as our captain and our leader, and the guy that makes us tick. Dan was able to get it done with a great at bat,” Boss said.
Junior right-hander Jake Lowery made his second-straight Saturday start of the season, but his first home start of his career, and pitched a career-high 7.2 innings firing nine strikeouts. Lowery now has 20 strikeouts in his two starts after ringing up 11 Ks last week at Northwestern.
“Jake was really good today. Saturday’s starter has been a revolving door for us for a couple weeks. We decided to give him a start last week at Northwestern and he threw great, and you know if you throw great you get more opportunities,” Boss said.
Sophomore reliever Nathan Witt came on with one on and two outs in the top of the eighth and got a popup to end the Hawkeyes’ threat. After MSU scored the go-ahead run to earn the win for Witt, fellow sophomore, right-handed closer Riley McCauley came on in the ninth and struck out the side for his eighth save of the season, moving up to tied for fifth on MSU’s single-season saves list. The eight saves are the most by a Spartan reliever since Jeff Kinley registered 13 in 2014.
“Riley got it done in the ninth. He’s got a wipeout slider and a swing a miss fastball and fortunately, struck out the side today,” Boss said.
McCauley wasn’t the only Spartan to move up in the MSU record books as junior centerfielder Brandon Hughes swiped two stolen bases Saturday, giving him 23 for the season, moving up to tie for No. 3 on the Spartans’ single-season stolen bases list.
“Brandon is one of the best basestealers in the country. He’s comfortable on the basepaths, he’s got a great mindset to steal bases. He understands what he’s trying to do, he understands what counts he can run on and what tendencies or things like that he can pick up off the guy on the mound,” Boss said. “It’s a huge credit to him, he’s basically got the green light so when he’s comfortable, he’s ready to go. That’s why he is where he is.”
MSU got on the board first, plating a run in the home half of the second. Durkin led off with a single and later scored on a sacrifice fly by sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina after Iowa right fielder Robert Neustrom made a nice catch at the fence at the top of the hill in right, for a 1-0 Spartan lead.
Iowa tied it in the top of the sixth, matching the Spartans’ scoring by also scoring on a sac fly to right, as Neustrom flew out to his counterpart, Spartan sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski, and Mason McCoy darted home ahead of Chmielewski’s throw to even the score.
The Spartans tried to break the even score in the bottom of the seventh and produce a run in the same fashion as the game’s other runs after senior catcher Matt Byars led off with a triple to right center. The next batter was sophomore shortstop Royce Ando who flew out to center and Byars was thrown out at the plate, keeping the score even.
Just like the other two scores in the game, the Spartans game-winning run came on a sacrifice fly as Durkin came to bat with one out and the bases loaded. After a lengthy battle with Iowa pitcher Zach Daniels, fouling off numerous pitches, then smacking a deep fly ball to left field, allowing Kelley to score from third for the Spartans’ second run of the game.
McCauley started the ninth and after a strikeout, yielded a single, but then struck out the next two Hawkeyes to secure the victory for MSU and chalk up his eighth save of the season.
The Spartans and Hawkeyes wrap up their series on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. at Kobs Field at McLane Stadium.