Spartans Sweep Double Header Against Bulldogs in Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.–Michigan State baseball played two unconventional home games at Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids Saturday afternoon, due to the high flooding of the Red Cedar River that closed McLane Baseball Stadium. The Spartans hosted Fresno State (17-13). The Spartans (17-10) came into the contest losers of their last five games, but would find their winning ways, sweeping the Bulldogs, 10-4 and 9-5.


Game 1

Both offenses remained relatively quiet until the fourth inning, when the Bulldogs pushed their first run across.

Jared Atkins led off the Bulldogs’ fourth with a double off the centerfield wall. A sacrifice fly to right field would advance Atkins to third. Bulldogs right fielder Jake Stone lined a single to center, plating Atkins to drive in the game’s first run. Troop was bailed out by a spectacular catch by a diving Brandon Hughes in the right center gap, who then doubled off Stone for an inning-ending double play.

Back-to-back four-run innings propelled the Spartans past the Bulldogs, as Ricky Thomas couldn’t keep the offense in check.

Matt Byars started the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff home run, his second of the season. Zack McGuire singled to right immediately after. Following a failed sacrifice bunt attempt by Kelley, Bechina doubled to left putting runners on second and third. Durkin took a pitch off the front shoulder, loading the bases. Thomas charged in on a suicide squeeze attempt by Dan Chmielewski, but couldn’t flip the ball to catcher Carter Bins in time, making it 2-1 Spartans. Hughes followed up his diving play with a double to left center, scoring McGuire and Bechina. Another squeeze attempt called by coach Jake Boss Jr. led to a double play, as Chmielewski was doubled off third to end the four-run explosion for the Spartans.

The second four-run inning by the Spartans began with two singles and a sacrifice.  Kelley dropped his second hit of the day, scoring Chad Roskelly. Before the inning came to a close, Bechina, Chmielewski, and Hughes followed with RBI singles, knocking Thomas out of the game. Thomas left allowing eight runs on 13 hits.

Spartans tacked on insurance runs in the seventh and eighth innings with a single by Bechina and a fielder’s choice by Jake Kruk, respectively.

Bulldogs scraped three runs off the lead in the ninth against Spartans reliever Sam Benschoter, but couldn’t complete the comeback, resulting in a 10-4 final.


Game 2

Bechina started the scoring early with a single, plating Kelley in the home half of the first in Game 2.

“I’m starting to feel like I did at the beginning of the year. Feeling aggressive and I’m seeing pitches,” Bechina said after the game describing two solid offensive showings.

Asked about a new clubhouse tool called the “hot stick”, Bechina said, “That’s a new thing we just started, it’s keeping us loose up there and it’s working for us.”

The Spartans implemented the hot stick as a tool to wave around during games in hopes the offense will come to life.

Matt Byars encored his performance from Game 1 with a two-run double in his first at-bat. Bechina doubled home Byars, then scored on a Durkin single to break the game open in the second, 5-0.

The Bulldogs attacked Ethan Landon in the third, when five hits led to four runs. Aaron Arruda, the potential tying run, was thrown out at the plate by Kelley to end the inning.

The Spartans responded in the bottom half with a towering two-run homer by McGuire, extending their lead to 7-4.

After the four-run outburst by the Bulldogs, Landon retired 13 hitters in a row, dominating the middle into the later part of the game.

“He was just in command the whole way,” coach Jake Boss Jr. said about Landon’s outing.

Byars tacked on another run for the Spartans in the seventh with a single for his third RBI of the game, making it 8-4.

Landon gave up five runs on eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. He was relieved by Joe Mockbee, who ran into trouble right away. He gave up a run and loaded the bases for the next reliever, Riley McCauley.  Bulldogs right fielder, Austin Guibor, popped out to Byars to leave the bases loaded and the score 8-5.

Adding one more in the eighth, the Spartans capped off a very eventful scoring day at 9-5.

McCauley set down the Bulldogs in the ninth to complete the sweep and clinch a series victory.

Coach Jake Boss Jr. was grateful for the opportunity to play at Fifth Third Ballpark due to flooding in East Lansing.

“The people of the Whitecaps organization have just been tremendous and very accommodating for us,” Boss Jr. said.

Boss Jr. remained level-headed but very happy with the way his team performed Saturday afternoon.

“We were scuffling a little bit,” he said, “and we’re not there yet…but a good day for sure.”

Spartans wrap up their three-game set with the Bulldogs on Sunday, April 9. The game will be played at Fifth Third Ballpark with first pitch set for 2:05 p.m.