Spartans routed by Western Michigan in home return, allow eight runs in first two frames


MSU head coach Jake Boss exchanges lineup cards with an umpire before the Spartans take on Western Michigan on April 13, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Tommy Cavanaugh, Baseball Beat Reporter

East Lansing – Another afternoon downpour nearly took away a day of college baseball at Mclane Stadium. However, the baseball gods kept Michigan State (13-15) on schedule for its Wednesday bout with Western Michigan (8-19) for the first of six consecutive in-state matchups.

After dropping the final game of their series with Ohio State last weekend, the Spartans were looking to get back in the win column against a struggling Broncos team.

Western Michigan had been playing better baseball than its 3-11 start to the season, splitting a four-game series with Akron this past weekend.

The Broncos opened the floodgates right after first pitch, plating seven runs in the first inning en route to an 18-7 victory. Western led MSU the entire ballgame and held a 15-4 lead after just the fifth inning.

MSU pitcher Zach Hopman warms up before the Spartans take on Western Michigan on April 13, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The loss dropped the Spartans to 13-16 on the season. They have lost six of their last seven.

Sophomore right-hander Harrison Cook made his seventh start for MSU, and after striking out the first batter of the game, gave up a horde of hits, resulting in a severe deficit. Cook was unable to get out of the first inning, allowing seven runs on six hits before turning it over to the bullpen.

Cook falls to 0-4 on the season with the loss, and his ERA rises to 9.85. 

MSU pitcher Harrison Cook warms up before the Spartans take on Western Michigan on April 13, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

There was no answer for the WMU offense as they scored in seven of the nine innings. The Spartans used eight pitchers in the contest to try and relieve the hot-hitting Broncos. 

The first call to the bullpen was to junior left-hander Jack Brockhaus. He closed out the first inning before completing two more full frames, allowing one run on two hits. Spartans coach Jake Boss threw a new pitcher for each of the final six innings: Andrew Carson, Dominic Pianto, Ryan Szczepaniak, Wyatt Rush, Brian Martin and Aidan Arbaugh.

A battle-of-brothers took place in the ballgame when redshirt junior pitcher Drew Szczepaniak entered the ballgame for the Broncos in the fifth inning. The following frame, younger brother and Spartan freshman pitcher Ryan Szczepaniak took the mound for MSU. 

MSU pitcher Ryan Szczepaniak delivers a pitch during the Spartans’ 10-8 win over Ohio State on April 10, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The two dueled and threw one inning each. The “Szczepaniak Show” was in full effect Wednesday as neither brother gave up a hit in their inning of work. Ryan Szczepaniak was the only Spartan not to allow a run in their outing.

Every member of the Western offense recorded a hit, including a four-hit game from redshirt freshman Dylan Nevar. Just a single shy of the cycle, Nevar hit two home runs in his first three at bats, followed by a double and triple for five total RBIs.

Another early deficit would deter most teams from fighting back and mounting a comeback, though, the Spartans did not go away quietly. 

Competing early offensively, MSU scored two runs in both the third and fourth innings. Sophomore shortstop Mitch Jebb continued his hot streak with a two-run single to right center in the third. Jebb finished the day with three singles, two walks and four RBIs (27 leads-team).

MSU infielder Mitch Jebb stands stands at shortstop during the Spartans’ 1-0 win over Houston Baptist on March 20, 2022/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Spartan redshirt senior Zach Iverson delivered offensively in the designated-hitter slot. In just his second plate appearance of the year, Iverson singled and followed up with an RBI-groundout in the fourth. Look for him to get more starts in the second half of the season. 

The Spartans will prepare for a three-game weekend series against in-state rival Michigan starting Friday night in the “Capital Clash” at Jackson Field. First pitch is set for 5:05 p.m. ET. The Wolverines are 17-15 and 3-3 in conference play. They have won three of their last four heading into the weekend.