Spartans fall to Irish despite seven-run seventh inning

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State (9-20; 3-5) hosted Notre Dame (14-18; 5-10) on Autism Awareness Day at Kobs Field at McLane Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. Despite a seven-run, seventh-inning comeback attempt, the Spartans fell short to the Fighting Irish 8-7. The Irish almost lost their grip on the lead, but held on to tally their 57th win in the all-time series.

In the second, the Irish jumped MSU starter Mike Mokma for three runs. The inning started with four straight singles for the Irish. Daniel Jung then singled to left, plating their first run. The Irish tried to sneak another across, but Bryce Kelley threw out Niko Kavadas at the plate for his third outfield assist this season. David LaManna followed with a sinking liner in left field which Kelley dove for and came up empty. Jung and Eric Gilgenbach scored, giving the Irish a 3-0 lead.

Irish struck again in the fourth with a sac-fly by LaManna, scoring Gilgenbach. Jung tried to advance to second on the play, but Adam Proctor and Ryan King combined on the putout. Cole Daily followed up with a home run – his second of the year – over the right field wall to drive in the second run of the inning and extend the lead 5-0.

Holt product Jesse Heikkinen came in relief of Mokma. He allowed an unearned run after an error by King allowed Matt Vierling to reach. He came around to score on a fielder’s choice double play. Two more Heikkinen inherited runners scored with Caleb Sleeman on the mound after a Vierling double, making it 8-0.

Zack Martin started his third game of the year. His previous two starts against Northern Illinois and Saint Joseph’s didn’t last more than five innings. On Tuesday, he threw six innings and allowed the two baserunners that started the comeback for MSU.

The 2017 Crosstown Showdown homerun king, Proctor, hit his first collegiate homer in the seventh. The three-run blast scored King and Marty Bechina in a rude welcome for the Irish bullpen. The Spartans added two more on a Zack McGuire double down the left-field line. Chad Roskelly capped the inning with a two-run shot of his own to cut the lead, 8-7.

“Our guys never quit,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “I’ve said it before and I’ll continue to say, it’s a great unbelievable character group of kids. They’re never going to fold it or pack it in. They just keep plugging away, keep plugging away and all of a sudden before you know it, you put a big number up in the seventh inning and got ourselves right back in the ball game.”

An injury sidelined Proctor for some time, but he’s rebounded with at least one hit in his last three games.

“Well, he had a tough couple weeks,” Boss Jr. said. “He missed some time with some shoulder stiffness. We were very careful with him. He’s a talented kid. He’s got a future…I think him getting a chance to sit back and watch a little bit I think really helped him on the offensive side of it too.”

Notre Dame closer, Cole Kmet, doubles as a football player. He attended football practice at 6:45 a.m. – 12 hours later, he saved the game for the Irish. He struck out Zach Iverson and retired Dan Chmielewski to close the door on the Spartans.

“Won the last three and felt good,” Boss Jr. said. “This certainly would’ve been a really really good win. There are no moral victories, unfortunately. We can’t get lost in the fact that we committed a couple errors early in the game. I think in the middle of that game that really hurt us.”

Final Line:

WP – Zack Martin (1-0; 6 IP, 2 R, 4 H)

LP – Mike Mokma (1-2; 4 IP, 5 R, 8 H)

SV – Cole Kmet (6)

MSU continues their non-conference action this weekend against Valparaiso. The Crusaders are 9-18, but will have a midweek game against Milwaukee before coming to East Lansing. Series is scheduled to get underway Friday at 3:05 p.m. EST.

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