Gophers too much for Spartans, complete series sweep

EAST LANSING, Mich. — After being swept in a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, Michigan State could not find a way past Minnesota (18-8, 6-0 B1G) on Sunday afternoon at McLane Stadium, losing the final game of their three-game series with the Gophers, 9-4.

“Today, they just beat us,” Spartan coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “I don’t know that we played poorly, but we didn’t play well enough to win.”

After Minnesota scored the first run of the game in the second inning, MSU answered back through a Bryce Kelley infield single in the third inning, and a Dan Chimelewski two-run single in the fourth, putting the Spartans up 3-1 heading into the fifth inning.

Starter Andrew Gonzalez was relatively effective through four innings, but solid work from the bottom of the Minnesota order was enough to knock the junior righty from the game. A triple to center field from Minnesota sophomore Eduardo Estrada led off the fifth inning, before catcher Cole McDevitt singled up the middle to score Estrada. Estrada came into Sunday’s game batting .098, and his two-hit game was not part of the script for the Spartans, who had been cruising until the top of the fifth.

“He had a cut on his thumb, I think it affected him early,” Boss Jr. said of his starting pitcher. “He had trouble getting on top of his breaking ball because of it.”

The Gophers weren’t done there, however, as a sacrifice fly from designated hitter Micah Coffey scored McDevitt to tie the game, and a two-out double from first baseman Toby Hanson scored Terrin Vavra to put Minnesota up 4-3.

A two-run sixth inning further increased the gap for the Gophers, who are the sole undefeated team in B1G play in 2017 through two series. An error by second baseman Dan Durkin and a passed ball by catcher Will Salter left runners on second and third for McDevitt, who singled to center again to score both players, earning himself a three-RBI day in the process. Minnesota never looked back, as a lone run from the Spartans in the bottom of the sixth was their only reply.

A double down the right field line from Durkin led off the inning, and an Alex Troop single moved Durkin to third, where he would score on a Chimelewski fielder’s choice.

Minnesota poured on a couple runs in the later stages of the game to add some shine to the scoreline. Right fielder Jordan Smith doubled home pinch hitter Ben Mezzenga, who had reached on an infield single earlier in the inning. Smith later scored on a wild pitch, and finished off his two-hit day with a run of his own. Hanson added a single to left in the ninth inning to round out the scoring for the Gophers.

Minnesota starter Toby Anderson came into the game sporting a less than impressive 7.34 ERA, but did an excellent job limiting damage from the Spartan offense, going seven innings and allowing four runs to earn his fourth win of the season.

Michigan State moves to 15-9 on the season with the loss, and are now an even 3-3 in B1G play after earning a sweep in Illinois last weekend. Their next game is scheduled for Tuesday, as they travel to Eastern Michigan to take on the Eagles, who are 8-18 on the season. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. on April 4.