EVANSTON, Ill. — The Michigan State baseball team (13-21) downed Northwestern (9-23) on Saturday afternoon by a score of 4-2 in a Big Ten matchup. For the Spartans, they have now won their fifth straight conference game after dropping their first five.
“Well, when you’re winning, you’re feeling a lot better than you do when you’re losing,” coach Jake Boss Jr. said.“We’re not doing anything different, but, we’re starting to play better.”
Getting the start on the mound for the Spartans was right-hander Mason Erla, who did not fare well in his last start against Valparaiso (4 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 2 BB).
After a quiet first inning, Erla got into trouble in the second inning, putting two runners on base with nobody out. The first run of the game would be scored when Northwestern center fielder Ben Dickey singled in a run to right field to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
The Spartans answered in the top of the third inning. With runners on first and second, center fielder Justin Antoncic singled right field to score a run, bringing the score back even. Next, the designated hitter Chad Roskelly doubled down the left field line to score two more runs, giving the Spartans a 3-1 lead.
Moving to the top of the sixth inning — after Erla threw three scoreless frames — the Spartans would tack on another run. With runners on first and third, shortstop Ryan King laid down a bunt to score Zach McGuire from third, giving the Spartans a three-run cushion to go into the late innings of the game.
Erla’s day on the mound would end after six innings, as he gave up one run on three hits and two walks.
“I thought Mason kind of grinded it out on the mound, but made pitches when he needed to,” Boss said.
Erla pitched mostly to contact, as he only struck out one batter in the game. He got a big boost out of the Spartan defense, who didn’t commit an error all game.
“[It was a] very good defensive effort today,” Erla said. “We got diving plays in the infield and big catches in the outfield too.”
Boss was very pleased with the defensive effort as well.
“We played really well defensively today. Probably the best that we’ve played all year.”
Reliever Jake Lowery came on to pitch in the seventh inning and made quick work of the Wildcats, punching out a pair of batters in a scoreless frame. He came back out to pitch in the ninth and got himself into a jam.
With a man on standing on second, Northwestern first baseman Willie Bourbon singled to right field to score a runner, to bring the Wildcats within two runs.
However, the Spartans were able to keep the Wildcats’ bats in check for the rest of the game, as they would go on to secure a 4-2 victory. For the Spartans, they have now won seven of their last nine games and move on to a 5-5 record in the Big Ten.
“It’s starting to turn around a little bit for us,” Boss said. “There’s obviously a long way to go and a lot of baseball left to be played. But, you know, we feel good about where we’re at right now and hopefully where we’re headed.”
WP – Mason Erla (5-2; 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 K, 2 BB)
LP – Hank Christie (2-4; 5 IP, 2 H, 3 R, 4 K, 3 BB)
The Spartans and Wildcats will wrap up their three-game series tomorrow afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST at Koldyke Field at Rocky and Berenice Miller Park.