The pitching show that took place Saturday at McLane Stadium was full of firsts.
For starters, it marked the first meeting between the Michigan State Spartans and Siena Saints. It was also the first time starting pitcher Mick VanVossen tossed 10 strikeouts in one game. He also pitched his first complete game of the season.
It was the first time in 13 games that outfielder Jimmy Pickens did not get a hit, and Anthony Cheky’s three stolen bases placed him first in the Big Ten in that category.
As for the Saints however, first was simply a difficult base to reach.
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Game One – First Pitch: 12:06 p.m.
VanVossen started game one by retiring 13 straight batters, until giving up a single to Siena’s Mike Allen with one out in the fifth. After Allen was caught stealing, the Saints were only able to produce two more base runners, both of whom never made it past first base.
“Everything was working, the slider was sharp and the fastball…I could put it pretty much wherever I wanted to,” said VanVossen. “The stamina factor really didn’t kick in at all today.”
VanVossen pitched a solid shutout, giving up three hits in nine innings with no walks and no hit batters. But the Spartan offense also had to provide some run support in order for VanVossen to get his fifth win of the season.
The Spartans scored their first run of the game in the first inning when Pickens snatched the attention of Saints pitcher Matt Gage with an early steal. After MSU first baseman Blaise Salter singled into left, a wild pitch and a passed ball landed him at third base. Pickens then drew a walk from Gage, which placed runners at the corners. Pickens got himself in a rundown and stayed alive long enough for Salter to cross home plate.
The next three Spartan runs came in the sixth inning, when Saints’ relief pitcher Matt Quintana walked both Cheky and Ryan Richardson to start the inning. After a double steal placed the runners at third and second respectively, Salter hit a two-RBI single, putting the Spartans up 3-0.
After a wild pitch moved Salter from first to third, Cam Gibson hit into a double play, giving the Spartans two outs and another run.
VanVossen was able to cruise through the remaining innings, and the Spartans entered the half hour break between games with a 4-0 win and a five-game win streak.
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Game Two – First Pitch: 2:55 p.m.
After witnessing teammate pitch a gem in the first contest, the Spartans next starting pitcher Justin Alleman knew he had a tough act to follow.
“I think it puts a little bit more pressure on me, seeing (VanVossen) pitch a complete game,” said Alleman. “You gotta be focused from the beginning…I saw a lot of quick ground ball outs so I just tried to keep it low in the zone.”
Despite the pressure, Alleman was able to buckle down and give the Spartans another solid outing. The Saints’ first run of the day came with two outs in the fourth inning. After a walk put Justin Esquerra on first, and a single from Allen moved him to second, Dan Swain was able to knock him in with an RBI single up the middle. This marked the first run of the day for Siena. And unfortunately for the Saints, it would also be their last.
After giving up the run, Alleman retired nine straight until Jake Lowery replaced him with two outs in the seventh. The Saints had only two more base runners, both of whom never made it past second.
The Spartan pitching received more run support in the second game, tacking on two more hits and two more runs than they had in the previous contest.
The Spartans exploited the sloppy play and wild pitching of the Saints in the second inning, scoring three runs off just one hit.
After an error and two hit batters loaded the bases, Cheky capitalized with a chopper up the gap into right field recording the first two runs for the Spartans. After a sacrifice fly by Richardson scored run number three of the inning, the Spartans grabbed a lead they would never let go. Three runs and six innings later, the Spartans had seized their sixth win in a row with a 6-1 victory.
“I was disappointed with game one with how we swung the bat,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. “Game two was better…I thought we executed a lot better. We moved some runners, we did some little things we needed to do to score, so I’m more pleased with game two…But we’re still a ways away from where I think we can be offensively.”
MSU will finish their series against Siena this Sunday at McLane Stadium. Cam Vieaux is expected to start for the Spartans, with the first pitch set for 1:05 p.m.
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Brett Kast is the co-host of Warning Track for Impact Sports.
Photos: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports