EAST LANSING, Mich. — With Michigan State baseball on the outside looking in at the Big Ten tournament, fourth-placed Ohio State was not the ideal team to travel to McLane Stadium. The Spartans started the day tied with Maryland for eighth place in the conference, but the Terrapins hold the tiebreaker over MSU.
The Spartans had a 5-4 lead heading into the ninth inning, but defense was the problem yet again for Jake Boss Jr.’s team as a crucial error swung the game in favor of the Buckeyes, who moved to 14-8 in conference play with a 10-8 win on Thursday afternoon.
“Sometimes, we get stuff like that when we run out young guys,” Boss Jr. said. “It is what it is, and [we]didn’t play well enough to win.”
Ohio State was the first team on the board off of Spartan starter Ethan Landon. The Buckeyes have made it a habit of scoring with two outs, and third baseman Conner Pohl’s single to left past Zach Iverson opened the scoring for OSU.
Michigan State threatened in the first, but didn’t tie the game until the third inning following some help from Ohio State. OSU shortstop Noah West had a chance to end the inning with a ball hit right to him, but after a force out at second his throw to first was in the dirt.
With runners at the corners and two outs, Bryce Kelley was about to be picked off at first by Ohio State starter Connor Curlis, who threw to first. With Kelley caught between first and second, West was unable to field a throw cleanly at second. His second error of the day allowed catcher Adam Proctor to score without a throw.
The Buckeyes jumped back into the lead in the top of the fourth thanks to a Bo Coolen double to deep center field, again with two outs. West followed with a ground ball deep into the right side, which was too tough a play for Justin Antoncic. Coolen scored, making the score 3-1 after four innings.
Coolen had a career-high three doubles on the day, going 3-for-5 with a run and two RBIs.
A two-out double in the bottom of the fifth for Kelley cut the lead to 3-2, which paved the way for a sixth inning that was thought to be crucial at the time.
Marty Bechina and Zack McGuire both singled up the middle, and Bechina ended up on third just in time for a squeeze bunt from Zach Iverson. Ryan King followed up Iverson’s RBI with a double down the left-field line that scored McGuire and made it 4-3 Michigan State.
The lead wouldn’t last long for MSU, as OSU left fielder Tyler Cowles got in the two-out act with a single of his own in the seventh, tying the game at 4.
That set up Proctor’s long double, which split the gap in right-center field, landing on the hill in right to score Iverson and give MSU the lead.
Proctor went 2-for-3 with two walks on the day, notching his 10th RBI of the year in the process.
Riley McCauley came on in search of his sixth save of the year, but was facing the top of the Buckeye order. With runners on first and second and no outs, designated hitter Noah McGowan sent a ground ball right at King, who tried to make a play on the lead runner at third instead of taking two free outs on a potential double play. His throw ended up in the MSU dugout, tying the game.
After a bases-loaded fielder’s choice scored the go-ahead run, center fielder Dillon Dingler hit a two-run single that dropped just in front of Bechina in right field. Evan Flohr came on and allowed another two runs before the inning was over, making it 10-5 in favor of OSU.
MSU was down five heading into their last three outs after thinking the game was won in the eighth, so it was a wonder when MSU cut the lead down thanks to a Chad Roskelly RBI double with one out. Down to their last strike twice, Iverson and pinch-hitter Bailey Peterson knocked a pair of RBI singles to lead to Proctor. With two outs and two men on, the freshman was inches from tying or winning the game. His drive to right field was caught by right fielder Dominic Canzone with his back up against the wall in right to end the game.
“For a young kid to put a barrel on the ball in that situation, I think it gave us a chance,” Boss Jr. said. “He had a good day and he’s going to be a good player for us.”
Michigan State now must win their last two games of the season and hope for Maryland losses against sixth-placed Indiana. First pitch on Friday afternoon is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. EST.