MSU baseball defeats Western Illinois in series opener


Jack Moreland

Michigan State celebrates after a victory against Western Illinois on April 14, 2023. Photo Credit: Jack Moreland/WDBM

Andrew Buckman, Baseball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING – Michigan State continued its homestand at McLane Stadium on Friday, defeating Western Illinois in a comeback effort, 10-9. It was a hot one in East Lansing, with a temperature of 83 degrees and sunny at first pitch. The heat didn’t stop the Spartan fans from coming out, and there was another great crowd in attendance.

“It doesn’t have to be pretty but you know, everyone had a good time, and so we’ll take it,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr.

Pitcher Joseph Dzierwa started his eighth game of the season for the Spartans, and struggled early. The 4-23 Leathernecks of Western Illinois jumped out of the gates, putting two runs on the board in the first inning. The Leathernecks made some hard contact in the first inning, with the Spartans defense making a few misplays.

The first inning wouldn’t be the end of the Western Illinois attack. The Leathernecks continued putting up patient and smart at-bats against Spartan pitching. 

Western Illinois starter Jake Armstrong, who entered the game with 21 walks in seven starts, walked four hitters, but escaped trouble numerous times. His luck ran out in the fourth inning, on a mistake pitch to catcher Bryan Broecker, who slugged his fifth home run of the season. Armstrong finished with six innings pitched, allowing four walks, striking out three, and giving up five earned runs. 

The Spartans made critical baserunning mistakes, and played sloppy defense throughout. MSU  finished the game with six errors, and a crucial one in the first inning that allowed a single by  left fielder Casey Mayes, allowing Nick Mitchell to get to third base. Mitchell scored on the very next pitch, as shortstop Derek Botaletto drove him in on a single to shortstop.

“The defense tonight was extremely disappointing, very uncharacteristic of us,” said Boss Jr. “But again, at the end of the day, we got a big hit when we needed it. We took what we were given and found a way to win again.”

The sixth inning is when the Spartans made their surge against Western Illinois starter Jack Armstrong. The inning began with back-to-back home runs from redshirt sophomore Sam Busch and Broecker, who hit his second homer off the game. 

“Yeah, not a pretty game to say the least,” said Broecker. “However, there’s no quit in our dugout ever. There was encouragement regardless of some of the mistakes that we were making early on. And we stayed excited. We stayed pulling for each other and luckily we were able to pull it out.” 

The Spartans then played long ball again in the seventh, as Greg Ziegler hit a ball out of the park in left for his second home run of the season. The Spartans took a 10-8 lead in the seventh, plating five runs on three hits and four walks. 

There was one final comeback attempt in the ninth inning for Western Illinois, as Adam Juran hit a solo shot to left, recording the last run for Western Illinois. 

With the win, Michigan State improves to 21-10, while Western Illinois falls to 4-24. The Spartans will wrap up their series with the Leathernecks on April 15, playing a doubleheader. Game 1 from McLane Stadium will start at 11:35 a.m. followed by game two at 3:35 p.m.