Michigan State dropped the first game of the weekend series against conference rival Indiana, falling to the Hoosiers 3-2 Friday afternoon. The No. 23 Spartans (26-9, 7-3 Big Ten) move into a tie with Indiana (22-14, 7-3 Big Ten) for second in the Big Ten, with Minnesota taking first place.
The bats were quiet on each side, as just three half-innings found a number in the box score. A solo home run for Jordan Zimmerman in the bottom of the fourth was the first run of the game, and the Hoosiers scored their three runs in the sixth inning.
“Well played ball game all the way around,” said Spartan coach Jake Boss Jr. “Both teams executed very well defensively. Unfortunately we gave up a big inning there with a bunch of freebies and they took advantage of it.”
This sixth inning outbreak saw Indiana score three runs for their first lead of the game. Starter Cam Vieaux allowed a batter to reach base with less than two outs for the first time in the game when he allowed the first two batters, Craig Dedelow and Logan Sowers, to reach base.
“He missed the location on that hit batter, and he got a little too caught up with the runner and ended up walking the next guy,” said Boss Jr. “Good ball clubs take advantage of those opportunities when they get them, and those guys are playing really well. They’re a good ball club.”
Hoosier Ryan Fineman drove home Dedelow on an RBI single that also advanced Sowers to third. A sacrifice fly from Austin Cangelosi drove Sowers home, and Isaiah Pasteur hit another RBI single later in the inning to drive home Fineman, putting Indiana up 3-1.
The Spartans came back in the bottom half with a chance to match the big inning, putting two runners in scoring position with just one out. Taylor Grace was only able to score Hughes on a groundout, and Simonton followed with a groundout of his own to end the inning. Only one run came across, delivering the final score of 3-2.
Michigan State played a couple unconventional midweek games before the start of this series, losing to Notre Dame Tuesday in a 1-0 shutout and defeating Western Michigan Wednesday 6-5 on a ninth-inning walk off.
Although the Spartans lost today, Boss Jr. likes how they kicked off the series.
“I thought our approach at the plate was much better today,” said Boss Jr. “As crazy as it may sound, I thought we got better offensively today than we were in the middle of the week, which is encouraging, even though we only had six hits to show for it. We swung the bat better today and we hit a lot of balls hard all over the field, we just happened to hit them right at their guys.”
Indiana has had Vieaux’s number throughout his career, as the starter entered the game with a 0-2 record and 4.61 ERA in two starts against the Hoosiers. Vieaux pitched seven solid innings and allowed three runs on five hits while punching out eight. He fell apart in the sixth inning, though, and for it he took the loss, bumping his record down to 6-2 with a 1.46 ERA.
“I thought that was probably the worst I’ve thrown,” said Vieaux. “I don’t think I should give up runs to teams like that. I just kind of pitched scared, started walking guys and pitching around guys when I should have been attacking them more. Just need to get better and do better next week.
“I was falling behind in counts,” Vieaux said about the sixth inning. “When you fall behind, guys are going to know what pitch is going to come. My stuff wasn’t good enough today to get guys out.”
On the other side, Indiana ace Kyle Hart had a stellar performance on the mound in his pitching duel with Vieaux. Hart pitched seven innings while allowing two runs on six hits and punching out two, earning his eighth win of the season.
Junior Walter Borkovich entered the game for Vieaux in the eighth and pitched a strong two innings, striking out three and allowing two hits. Borkovich was removed from his regular Sunday-starter role this week and moved to the bullpen after struggling in his recent starts.
Michigan State will look to avoid losing their first Big Ten series of the season when they play Indiana Saturday at 1:05 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.