Motivated Bats Lead Spartans Past Rival Wolverines

Michigan State seems to be returning to Florida-form as they have scored 30 runs in their past four games. Against Michigan on Tuesday, the Spartans returned to their one big inning style in an 11-5 win.

The big inning came in the sixth, where they dropped eight runs after Michigan brought in relief pitcher Brett Adcock. Michigan, one of the better pitching teams in the Big Ten as well as the nation, was hoping to keep the game tied at two and scratch across a few runs small-ball style.

The Spartan offense had other plans. After loading the bases with a walk, hit by pitch, and single, Adcock’s day was quickly over and it was on to Mac Lozer to try to save the day. Kris Simonton broke the tie with a two-run single, and from there the hit parade was on. Justin Hovis grounded out and knock in the fifth run of the game. Matt Byars, who hasn’t seemed to be same since the early games down south, absolutely roped a ball to left-center field to make the score 6-2.

It wasn’t done there. On a throwing error by the Michigan shortstop Michael Brdar (who also forgot his jersey in Ann Arbor), a run scored. Then Marty Bechina doubled home the eighth run of the game. It went from bad to worse for the Wolverines after Jordan Zimmerman reached first on a ball that the first basemen knocked down, but couldn’t finish the play. This led to the third Michigan pitching change of the inning. The ninth run scored on another lucky MSU ball batted into play by Brandon Hughes, as the ball bounced off the pitcher’s glove. Taylor Grace, batting for the second time in the inning, scored the 10th run of the game and eighth, yet final, run of the inning with a single.

Michigan State was looking like they may have to revert to a small-ball baseball team, something it planned to be at the beginning of the season. This changed when they mashed their way to multiple victories in early season tournaments. But after the Penn State series, and absolutely wrecking a solid Michigan pitching staff, this team’s identity remains a mystery.

Taylor Grace, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs on the day, commented on how each player is able to feed on one another’s energy.

“I feed off of these guys too. When they’re on base and they get hits, and the dugout is screaming it helps the energy. It helps me be able to do what I do,” said the transfer from Citrus College in California. “It’s (baseball) is always up and down and you’re gonna have your cold streaks and your hot streaks, but if we can just do what we did today and feed off each other, that’s how we want to play. We play off of each other. If one guy gets hit, then the next guy and so on, it just starts to cycle. But then when you have those cold days and guys start to struggle, it only takes one or two guys to start something to get the fire.”

Manager Jake Boss Jr. also spoke on how the team was playing differently compared to the games they were only scoring two or three runs.

“We took a lot of good swings, we didn’t chase many balls. We got into a lot of deep counts and were able to walk a lot and hit in positive counts,” said the 16th coach in MSU history. “We were able to get some big hits when we needed, one in the third one in the sixth and strung together a couple of really good at bats after that. Hitting is contagious.”

Grace, being from a junior college out of the state, was also able to comment on what it meant to play a huge Big Ten rivalry game like today.

“I’ve never had this before coming from a junior college. I love it,” said the left fielder. “This is something I’ve been waiting for the entire time. Everyone keeps talking about the big showdown (with Michigan), I came in today ready to go.”

Chance at Small Ball

Down 1-0 in the third and the bats not quite awake yet, MSU needed to play some small ball like they have been of late. With the bases load and two outs, it was a must-score situation for Sparty. Hughes was able to get the ball in play with a chopper, and on a mis-fielded ball by the U of M shortstop who knocked it to the right side, MSU was able to get two runs across with aggressive baserunning.

Although MSU would go on to score many, many more runs later in the game, these key situations against tough pitching staffs will be huge in close games going forward. Any runs on any play are a plus, no matter how ugly it looked getting them. Will MSU be a small ball team or a team that mashes their way to victory? We’ve seen both all season.

Fifth Starter?

Keegan Baar made his second start of the season. MSU is looking to have a defined fifth guy in the rotation as some of the upcoming weeks have more games. Baar seems to be the top choice. Baar went 4.1 innings allowing seven hits and two earned runs in Tuesday’s contest.

MSU heads to Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers, Wednesday as they play Central Michigan in an out-of-conference game. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m.