EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State baseball took a big step towards postseason play on Friday afternoon, defeating Ohio State 6-2 to move into sole possession of eighth place in the Big Ten standings.
Mason Erla has been MSU’s most impressive starter in 2018, and given the importance of Friday’s matchup, there was no one else Jake Boss Jr. would have wanted on the hill.
“A little cleaner today, defensively we played well today,” Boss Jr. said. “Mentally we were locked in today for nine innings, got a great performance out of our pitching staff today.”
With runners on first and second and one out, Erla found himself in a first-inning jam. After a long battle with OSU designated hitter Conner Pohl, Erla managed to strike out the sophomore on a 1-2 breaking ball. However, Ohio State managed to do what they’ve done so well all year long: hit with two outs. Left fielder Tyler Cowles knocked a ground ball through the left side to score second baseman Kobie Foppe.
Michigan State answered right back with a first-inning run of their own, as Chad Roskelly hit his fifth home run of the year over the 375-foot sign in left-center field. It was Ohio State starter Ryan Feltner’s fifth home run allowed in 2018.
Erla allowed some hard contact early on but got crucial strikeouts to end innings in the first and second innings. He also flashed a bit of defense in the fourth, starting a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning.
After missing out on a walkoff home run on Thursday afternoon, it was only right for Adam Proctor to rectify that on Friday. He took a first pitch deep to right-center in the fourth inning after Marty Bechina had singled to start the inning, making it 3-1 to Michigan State.
“I’m just trying to have fun,” Proctor said. “I think we’ve been pressing as a team for most of the season and now we’re finally starting to play loose and have fun.”
In his past two games, the freshman has gone 3-for-6 with two walks and the home run on Friday.
The Buckeyes finally got some baserunners on Erla in the top of the fifth inning. The redshirt freshman was at 78 pitches heading into the fifth, and a single plus a walk put the Spartans in trouble. With two men on, Erla managed to get Foppe to pop out to Proctor on a bunt attempt and got third baseman Noah McGowan to hit a lazy fly to shortstop Kory Young. A walk later, Erla got out of the jam by striking out Cowles on a 3-2 fastball.
Erla finished his 5-inning effort with four Ks and three walks, allowing six hits and a lone earned run.
The Spartans loaded the bases in the fifth after a Bryce Kelley double and a pair of walks, but Feltner got the better of Proctor, striking out the freshman catcher on a 2-2 fastball up high.
Mitchell Tyranski relieved Erla and worked a clean sixth inning before right fielder Dominic Canzone doubled to left-center with two outs in the seventh. McGowan then sent a ground ball deep to the left side, and Young’s throw was just tough enough for Zack McGuire to pick out at first. Canzone scored from second on the error, and the Buckeyes cut the lead down to 3-2.
Baserunning helped the Spartans pad their lead in the bottom of the seventh. After a pair of singles from Kelley and Justin Antoncic, the two executed a double steal perfectly with one out. With the infield in, Roskelly sent a ground ball right at Foppe, but the ball deflected off his glove and into shallow right field. Kelley scored easily from third, and smart baserunning from Antoncic allowed him to score from second, making it 5-2 MSU.
Kelley’s stolen base also gave him a Michigan State record, as steal No. 31 was enough to eclipse Brandon Hughes’ single-season record, set last year.
“I trust them,” Boss Jr. said. “Bryce is the single-season stolen base leader here, so I’d be crazy not to.”
With two outs and runners at first and second, OSU catcher Jacob Barnwell attempted to throw out Proctor at first base, and the throw got by Bo Coolen and rolled into right field. Roskelly scored from second, and Proctor ended up on third, scoring the third run of the Spartan seventh.
Tyranski was solid in the eighth, striking out two and inducing a routine groundout to end the inning. Despite a single and a walk in the ninth, a strikeout completed Tyranski’s impressive outing. His final line earned him a fifth save of the year, going four innings and allowing just three hits, striking out four and allowing an unearned run to go with one walk.
With the win, MSU now has a one-game lead over Maryland for the final spot in the conference tournament next weekend. If the Spartans win Saturday’s regular-season finale, they will be in Omaha next week. First pitch from East Lansing is scheduled for 1:05 p.m., though rain may affect things.