MSU baseball sweeps doubleheader against Purdue


Sarah Smith

Wyatt Rush during the 2022 MSU baseball season. Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Evan Katz, Baseball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — After a rainout on Saturday forced Michigan State and Purdue to play a doubleheader Sunday, the Spartans swept the doubleheader, taking two out of three from the Boilermakers in the opening Big Ten series of the season.  

In the first game of the doubleheader, Purdue took advantage of the shift in the first inning. Michigan State shifted twice to the left side, where a double play could have been turned to end the inning. Purdue ended up scoring two in the first two innings.

Ryan Szczepaniak came in for relief for Nolan Higgens in the fifth, keeping Purdue at bay by pitching four innings, only allowing two hits and striking out five, allowing zero runs.

“I think Ryan’s a guy that has a chance to be special on the mound for us here,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. “It’s been kind of an up-and-down season so far for him and a couple of other guys, and so, I guess, the challenge is to repeat, to follow up a good performance with another good performance.”

After the seventh-inning stretch, Sam Busch pinch-hit for Jacob Anderson. Busch doubled to right field, and Bryan Broecker scored to put the score at 3-2 Purdue.

“That’s what he’s capable of; he’s a big strong kid who is starting to get regular at-bats this year, and he’s really taken advantage of his opportunity, which is what we challenged our guys to do at the beginning of the year in September,” said Boss Jr. 

In the eighth, Purdue pitcher Aaron Suval came into the game and pitched for the third time this week. Unlike Friday’s game, his command wasn’t firing on all cylinders, walking two and allowing two runs putting the Spartans ahead 5-3. Purdue got one run in the ninth, but it was not enough.

“It was huge to bounce back the way we did,” said Busch. “Getting the first one, tough pitching at the end really sealed the deal for us; coming to the next one, we had a lot of momentum and put together a lot of good at-bats, and the scoreboard said it all.”

Game two was the same story for Purdue, scoring two runs in the first. 

After only bringing 10 men to the plate against Purdue pitcher Kyle Iwinski in the first three innings, the Spartans hit two deep balls to right center field. Their four-run inning was highlighted by Busch’s two-run homer, scoring Brock Vradenburg. 

“It’s a pretty cool feeling,” said Busch. “I knew I got it pretty well, but I put my head down and ran, and I was just trying to get a fastball over the plate I can handle and I did.”

In the bottom of the fifth, Bryan Broecker singled on a bunt and got to second base after the catcher’s error; Busch and Vradenburg came around to score after the overthrow.  After the three-run inning, the Spartans led 7-2.

The Spartans sent 27 combined batters to the plate in the fourth, fifth and sixth, scoring all 12 in the middle frames. Batting around leads to a lot of confidence among teammates.

“That makes my job a lot easier when they are on base,” said Vradenburg. “It also creates a lot of havoc for their pitchers if they’re gonna worry about them stealing or something. So kind of like gives me a sense of relaxation, and they’re always probably going to be on base for me. So it just makes me excited to go ahead.”

Purdue brought the game within six but ended up on the wrong side of the doubleheader sweep by MSU, losing the second game 12-6. 

“We can do a lot of damage here,” said Vradenburg. “We’re kind of playing with that chip on our shoulder like no one really cares about us. So we want to make people realize that we’re no slouch and definitely want to get back to the tournament.”

Michigan State (13-8) will play Western Michigan in Kalamazoo on Tuesday, March 28, starting at 3:05 p.m.