Spartans trounced by rival Michigan in Capital Clash


MSU catcher Christian Williams stands in the batter’s box during the Spartans’ 18-6 loss to Michigan on April 15, 2022/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Matt Merrifield, Baseball Beat Reporter

LANSING, MI – After a disappointing 18-7 loss on Wednesday to Western Michigan, Michigan State baseball (13-16) made the quick trip to Jackson Field Friday night to take on in-state rival Michigan (17-15) in the Capital Clash.

The Spartans went into the game with a 3-9 record over their last 12 games and were looking to right the ship in game one of the series against the underperforming Wolverines. The preseason Big Ten poll had Michigan finishing in second but they came into the series with a 3-3 conference record. The Michigan offense exploded Friday night, hitting six home runs as the Wolverines blew out the Spartans 18-6.

Sophomore right-hander Kyle Dunning made his first start of the year for MSU, and the Wolverines attacked him early. Michigan lead-off hitter Clark Elliott swung at the first strike he saw and, with a little help from the wind, the ball carried over the fence for Elliott’s first of three home runs Friday night. Michigan would add a second run in the first inning when graduate senior Matt Frey took Dunning deep well beyond the 420-foot sign in center field.

MSU pitcher Kyle Dunning walks out off the dugout during the Spartans’ 18-6 loss to Michigan on April 15, 2022/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

The second inning was even worse for MSU as the Wolverines were able to load the bases with one out in the inning. Coach Jake Boss had seen enough from Dunning and went to freshman right-hander Ryan Szczepaniak to get the Spartans out of the jam. Elliott was the first batter Szczepaniak saw and the junior outfielder came through for the second time in two innings hitting a grand slam to right-center giving Michigan a commanding 6-0 lead. Michigan would score another run in the inning on a Ted Burton ground-out that would become the eventual game-winner.

Michigan starting pitcher Connor O’Halloran took advantage of the run support Friday as he cruised into the sixth inning before being pulled. The sophomore left-hander finished his outing allowing just two runs on five hits and five walks while striking out eight Spartans and earning his fourth win of the year. 

The Spartans were finally able to crack the scoreboard in the fourth inning when redshirt freshman Bryan Broecker drove a triple over the Michigan center fielder’s head, which scored Casey Mayes and Jack Frank to make it a 9-2 game.

Burton and Frey would add on three more runs for Michigan in the sixth, prompting coach Boss to take out Szczepaniak after four innings of work out of the bullpen. MSU turned to freshman left-hander Aidan Arbaugh to get through the late innings but the Michigan lineup continued to rake. 

In the ninth, Michigan would put the cherry on top of its offensive onslaught, adding four more runs. Sophomore Brandon Lawrence would single home a run in his pinch-hit at-bat and Elliott would go deep for his third and final time with a three-run home run to right. 

Down 18-3, MSU put up a fight in the bottom of the ninth, scoring three runs. Sophomore Jack Frank hit a two-run home run to center for his fifth of the season and Broecker came through with a single to score Mayes to make it 18-6. There would be no magic comeback for MSU as the next three hitters all struck out to end the game.

MSU catcher Bryan Broecker swings at a pitch during the Spartans’ 18-6 loss to Michigan on April 15, 2022/ Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

With the win, Michigan improves to 18-15 on the year and 4-3 in conference play. Elliot came into the season as one of the top draft-eligible players in the Big Ten and he showed why Friday night. He came into the game with four home runs on the year and added three more while finishing the day 4-5 with eight RBIs.

This loss for the Spartans drops them to 13-17 on the year and 2-5 in conference play as the pitching struggles continue. In the past 13 games where MSU is 3-10, the Spartans have averaged 9.5 runs against per game. In order for MSU to turn the season around, the pitching staff must find its form from February and early March. MSU will take on Michigan in game two of the series on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. at McLane stadium.