Spartans Top Chippewas in 14-Inning Game at Comerica Park

Michigan State got a taste of the big stage Wednesday night when they squared off against Central Michigan under the lights in the “Clash at Comerica” event. The game was played at Comerica Park in Detroit, home of the Detroit Tigers.

The Spartans took full advantage of the big stage, pulling out a 7-3 win over the Chippewas in their second extra-innings game of the year. The 14-inning game was the longest since 2012, when they played a 15-inning game against Seton Hall.

“It’s always special for us to come out to Comerica,” junior Joe Mockbee said. “It makes it easier to get up for a game when you know it’s going to be at a park like this. It’s a different feeling than playing at home. A night game in Comerica is something we will never forget.”

The Spartans finally broke the dreaded tie in the 14th inning when Brandon Hughes had the bases loaded with one out and hit a two-run single down the left-field line, scoring Kory Young and Jordan Zimmerman. Dan Durkin stole third and Hughes stole second on the double-steal, then Taylor Grace drove Durkin home on a sacrifice fly. Kris Simonton singled home Hughes on the next at-bat, which stretched the lead to four.

“I’m proud of the way our guys competed, especially the bullpen, with Riley McCauley earning his first collegiate win,” MSU coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “He was lights out and got us out of a couple tough situations, and we made the plays we needed to. Fortunately, we put up the big one in the 14th and got the job done.”

McCauley, the freshman reliever, entered the game in the 12th inning and shut the door, giving up just one hit and no runs in three innings of work. He took the spot of Mockbee, who pitched a season-long four innings of work, allowing just two hits and recording season-high seven strikeouts.

“Once you get out there, the adrenaline starts to take over and you just feel good,” said Mockbee, who is a regular closer in the bullpen. “It’s definitely a lot different sitting down between innings and going back out there, but it’s a lot of fun to get more of a stamp on the game then just one inning.”

The Chippewas had a chance to win in the bottom of the ninth when a leadoff single to junior Robert Greenman and an intentional walk to sophomore Zach McKinstry put two runners on. Freshman cleanup hitter Daniel Robinson’s soft hit to the right side looked to be the game-winning hit, and the CMU dugout even started celebrating, but junior second baseman Dan Durkin caught it to send the game to extra innings.

The Chippewas did it again in the bottom of the 11th when they had the bases loaded with two outs. Robinson hit an identical hit to the shortstop that looked like it could have got down, but was caught by the shortstop substitute, sophomore Kory Young.

“Those two bases loaded line drive outs were unbelievable,” sophomore Brandon Hughes said. “He hits it and then your heart just sinks, but then you look and see ‘Oh, he got it,’ and it’s exciting to stay alive.”

Both teams had hot offenses early in the game, as five of the six runs (this excluding the four in the final inning) were scored in the first three innings.

The Chippewas reached the scoreboard first and took little time to do it. McKinstry sent a screaming line drive down the third base line for a one-out double, and after starting pitcher Andrew Gonzalez struck out sophomore Daniel Jipping, Robinson’s pop-up to left field just barely landed in fair territory, scoring McKinstry for the 1-0 first inning lead.

The Spartans responded in the next inning by scoring two big runs to take the lead. With runners on first and second with no out, junior Matt Byers hit a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners, and a wild pitch to freshman Royce Ando allowed senior Kris Simonton to run home for the first run. Freshman Marty Bechina launched a deep hit to left field, which sent senior Justin Hovis home on the sacrifice fly to take the 2-1 lead.

They had the opportunity to break the game wide open in just an inning later, with the bases loaded in the top of the third and just one out. Hovis got a sacrifice fly to score Durkin for a 3-1 lead, but Byars watched a breaking ball go right by him for strike three. This ended the inning and left two men on base. 12 were left on throughout the game for Michigan State and 17 for Central Michigan.

The offenses died out after that, delivering just one run in the next 10 innings before the winning runs were scored in the 14th inning. The fans stuck it out and watched the rest of the game as the temperature dropped and the teams went back and forth to try and finish off the game.

“We scored a few runs in the first few innings, and then everything just died,” Hughes said. “Maybe we were getting ourselves out, swinging at bad pitches. But we hit our balls hard, right back at them. Winning a big game like that, in 14 innings, it proves we can get the job done in extra innings. We always fight.”

Jordan Zimmerman had his 21-game hitting streak snapped in this one, going 0-4 with three walks at the dish. A four-pitch walk in the first inning was the only time he reached base, and he nearly had an extra-base hit in the second inning when he launched one into the right-center field gap, before CMU’s Robinson tracked it down and made a nice sliding catch. Zimmerman has now hit safely in 26 of his 29 games played.

Michigan State (23-6) won the second meeting against Central Michigan (7-26) after defeating the Chippewas, 4-1, in the home opener on March 23. The Spartans will now travel to West Lafayette, Indiana for a three-game series against Purdue (4-25). The Boilermakers are winless (0-9) in conference play, while the Spartans are first in the conference with a 5-1 Big Ten record.