Blowing leads in late innings has been a problem all year long for the Spartans. And after the Clash at Comerica between MSU and the Central Michigan Chippewas, it is apparent that the problem has yet to be fixed.
“(We) let it get away from us in the eighth, something that’s happened on more than one occasion this year,” coach Jake Boss said. “It’s very frustrating.”As storms rolled through the Detroit area on Tuesday night and tarp covered the field at Comerica Park, the Michigan State Spartans prepared to take on Central Michigan for the third time this season, with CMU aiming for the season sweep.
After waiting 49 minutes due to a weather delay, the game began with the Spartans grabbing an early lead in the second inning. After a walk to senior designated hitter Joel Fisher, Ryan Krill reached with a fielder’s choice at second base, but a throwing error by first baseman Zack Fields allowed Fisher to be safe as well. The error soon became costly, as the next batter, Ryan Richardson, cranked a double out to left center, scoring both Fisher and Krill to give the Spartans an early 2-0 lead.
Central tacked on their first run in the game in the bottom of the fourth, when Fields knocked in Logan Regnier with a one out single. Regnier reached base on a walk, and was able to steal second base after getting a beautiful jump on the delivery from pitcher Chase Rihtarchik. After Rihtarchik gave up another hit to Alex Borglin, Jake Lowery came in for relief from the bullpen.
“You gotta get ahead in the count, and you gotta throw a lot of strikes,” Boss said. “For us, Chase didn’t do that today, Central maybe had one hit going into the fourth and all kinds of baserunners”.
Rihtarchik departed after 3⅓ innings with two hits, one earned run, and three walks with one strikeout. Lowery came into the fourth and was able to end the inning with Morgan Oliver hitting into a double play.
The next inning for Lowery had a lot of opportunity for Central to capitalize. After CMU began a two out rally putting runners on second and third, Lowery got Cody Leichman to ground out and snuck away without giving up a run.
The Spartans entered the bottom of the eighth inning with a close 2-1 lead, and put Anthony Misiewicz on the mound. After a walk to the leadoff batter Pat MacKenzie, things began to go downhill for the Spartans. MacKenzie was able to advance to second on a passed ball, which allowed a simple base hit by Tyler Huntey to instead turn into an RBI single.
“After that passed ball, Pat moved to second base and then my approach went to trying to move him over to third,” Huntey said. “I got down in the count, but eventually he left a fastball up and I was able to poke it over the first baseman’s head.”
That run was the first of many for the Chippewas in the eighth, and after a few costly errors and pair of big hits, including a two-run triple by Nick Regnier, the Chips found themselves with a 7-2 lead.
The Spartans began a two out rally in the top of the ninth on RBI singles from both Cam Gibson and Anthony Cheky, but the short spurt was simply not enough to overcome the devastating eighth inning.
“Errors are plays that should be made, by definition,” Boss said. “It’s a matter of just not playing well.”
“Leadership for me is the biggest thing. I don’t understand how it gets away from us so quickly like that in the eighth. I’m looking for a guy to make it stop,” he said. “What I saw tonight was a lot of guys looking at the tops of their shoes, a lot of guys feeling sorry for themselves. It’s a game of failure and we didn’t handle it very well tonight. It needs to change here in a hurry if we want to keep playing.”
The Spartans will round up their regular season this weekend in a Thursday-Saturday series at Penn State. The Big Ten Tournament will take place in Omaha, Neb. at TD Ameritrade Park on May 21-25.
Currently tied for seventh place, the Spartans must come away from Penn State with at least one win if they hope to play in Omaha and have a shot at an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
This year will be the first year that eight teams qualify for the tournament, expanding from the original six team format that had been in place since 2000. The tournament is double elimination with a single championship game. The winner of the tournament will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship tournament.
Brett Kast is a multimedia journalist for Impact spoorts