Spartans get first win of Big Ten play with 5-3 win over Illinois


MSU pitcher Wyatt Rush delivers a pitch during the Spartans’ 11-2 win over Kansas on March 4, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Matt Merrifield, Baseball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — After dropping both ends of the doubleheader against Illinois on Friday, Michigan State baseball bounced back with a 5-3 victory Sunday afternoon to avoid the sweep. 

With the win, the Spartans improved to 11-9 on the season and 1-2 in Big Ten play.

The series finale was supposed to be played on Saturday afternoon in East Lansing, but inclement weather forced the game to be postponed and the teams decided to finish the series on Sunday in Champaign, where there was more favorable weather.

The Spartans jumped out to an early lead in the second inning, when sophomore infielder Dillon Kark came through with a two-run single scoring Brock Vradenburg and Bryan Broecker. MSU wasn’t done yet in the second as sophomore infielder Mitch Jebb reached on a fielder’s-choice that brought home Peter Ahn to give the Spartans a 3-0 lead.

MSU infielder Brock Vradenburg takes batting practice before the Spartans take on Illinois on March 25, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

MSU’s offense continued to attack Illinois starting pitcher Jack Crowder in the third, adding two more runs to the team’s total. Junior outfielder Zaid Walker was able to reach base on a walk before Broecker came through with two outs in the inning with a two-run home run to left field, making it a 5-0 game. Crowder would finish the inning for Illinois before being pulled after just three innings of work.

Illinois didn’t go down without a fight, scraping together three runs in the fourth inning. Catcher Jacob Campbell started the two-out rally for Illinois with a double to center. Cam McDonald would step up with another double for Illinois, bringing home Campbell and Illinois’ first run of the game. Kellen Sarver forced a walk to set up Taylor Jackson who hit Illinois’ third double of the inning to score both runners, making the score 5-3.

Illinois would put more pressure on MSU starting pitcher Conner Tomasic in the fifth, with a two-out double and walk. MSU coach Jake Boss had seen enough and went to junior right-hander Wyatt Rush to get out of the jam. Rush walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but escaped the jam with a groundout to short.

MSU pitcher Wyatt Rush throws from a mound during practice on Feb. 7, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Rush would go another three innings for the Spartans with his best performance of the season. He allowed no runs and just one hit out of the bullpen, earning his first win of the season. Boss went to graduate senior Kyle Bischoff in the ninth to close out the win. Illinois was able to get the tying run on base, but Bischoff shut the door for his fifth save of the season and MSU’s first win in Big Ten play.

The performance on Friday was disappointing for the Spartans dropping both in the doubleheader, but they were able to avoid the sweep on Sunday. MSU will close out its home-stand this week on Tuesday and Wednesday as they take on Bowling Green and Youngstown State before traveling to Evansville next weekend.