Spartans win three out of four in opening series at UNLV


MSU first baseman/ pitcher Zach Iverson prepares to deliver a pitch during a game/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Tommy Cavanaugh, Baseball Beat Reporter

East Lansing – The sights and sounds of college baseball flooded Las Vegas this weekend as the Michigan State Spartans opened the 2022 season winning three of their four opening games on the road against the University of Nevada Las Vegas. 

The Spartans started under the lights on Friday night with a tough 4-2 loss. Senior right-handed pitcher Zach Iverson pitched four strong innings before allowing a run and turning it over to the bullpen, which led to three more runs. 

Only scraping together two runs late in the game, MSU needed to regroup heading into its doubleheader the following day. The answer it needed came in a major way from several Spartan players. 

In the back-to-back set with the Rebels on Saturday, MSU outscored UNLV by a margin of 22-12, winning both games 10-6 and 12-6.

After a two-run deficit to start Game 1, the Spartan offense got to work when junior outfielder Zaid Walker delivered a two-run home run to even the score, 2-2.

MSU outfielder Zaid Walker runs out of the batter’s box during a game/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

In the seventh inning, MSU once again found itself down by a pair of runs, 6-4. A big rally was needed, and the Spartans delivered with a few big swings to tie the ballgame one last time.

Redshirt freshman catcher Bryan Broecker came up clutch in that same inning with a go-ahead, three-run double that gave MSU a 9-6 lead heading into the final innings.

Junior relief pitcher Conner Tomasic gave up four runs early in his outing but was lights out when it counted most. Through five innings of work, Tomasic allowed seven hits but struck out eight Rebels to help seal the victory for MSU, the team’s first win of the year.

Without skipping a beat, the Spartans carried their hot offense into the second game of the doubleheader.

Five runs in the first three innings for MSU included a grand-slam from sophomore first baseman Brock Vradenburg. He finished with six RBIs on the day. 

MSU infielder Brock Vradenburg swings at a pitch during practice on May. 16, 2021/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Freshman starting pitcher Ryan Szczepaniak shut the Rebels down at the plate as he pitched five solid innings, gave up just four hits and struck out seven batters. 

The UNLV offense tried to pull together a comeback, but the Spartan bats were too overwhelming. With a 7-3 lead, a monstrous eighth inning from MSU blew the game wide open.

Three home runs in the inning for the Spartans as junior outfielder Casey Mayes, redshirt freshman catcher Christian Williams and sophomore infielder Mitch Jebb all went deep, adding five more runs. Mayes finished the game with three hits and two RBIs.

The Spartans continued their offensive success on Sunday afternoon as they jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead by the second inning. 

Though, this time, the Rebels were able to mount a comeback, scoring seven unanswered runs over the next four innings. MSU trailed 7-5 late in the game. 

In the sixth and trailing by two, MSU sophomore infielder Trent Farquhar ripped an RBI double and brought the score within one.

Another sophomore delivered late in the game as third baseman Dillon Kark hit his first home run of the year in the top of the eighth inning to tie the ballgame, 7-7. 

MSU infielder Dillon Kark in the batter’s box during a game in 2021/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The scoring continued in the eighth when Walker doubled to right center to give MSU the lead, and Mayes drove in another run to give the Spartans a two-run cushion. Vradenburg also added a two-run home run in the ninth, his second long ball in two games.

MSU’s bullpen was unbelievable down the stretch as sophomore pitcher Kyle Dunning and graduate senior Kyle Bischoff combined for five scoreless innings, three hits, no runs and six strikeouts.

The Spartans completed the late comeback to win 11-7 and take the opening series over UNLV. They improve to 3-1 on the year and will look forward to next week as MSU is quickly forming as a contender in the Big Ten.

MSU baseball will be back in action on the road Friday against Abilene Christian at 5:05 p.m. ET.

Follow @tcav_sparty on Twitter for live tweets from the ball game.