Spartans Pick Up 4-1 Midweek Win over Toledo

Two runs in the bottom of both the fifth and sixth innings was enough for Michigan State (28-10, 8-4 B1G) on Tuesday afternoon, as the Spartans dispatched the Toledo Rockets (9-32-1, 4-8 MAC), 4-1 at McLane Stadium. Keegan Baar had another efficient start in the midweek, as the sophomore lefty went five innings and let up just five hits and one earned run, striking out two.

Baar threw just 53 pitches on the day, but coach Jake Boss Jr. was still pleased with the performance.

“Keegan was very efficient today,” Boss said. “He got into a little trouble early, but got himself out of it.”

That trouble came in the third inning of the game, as a leadoff walk to Toledo catcher Corey Tipton was moved ahead by a wild pitch and a fielder’s choice before a one-out ground ball to second from center fielder Brad Boss enabled Tipton to score the game’s first run.

Early on, the Spartan bats were left in the dugout for the most part, as Toledo starter Nolan Silberhorn went four innings and surrendered just one hit, striking out three Spartan batters. However, reliever Parker Ruffer did not have it so easy against one of the nation’s best batting teams. The freshman gave up a first pitch triple in the bottom of the fifth to Spartan catcher Matt Byars, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games in the process.

“It was a fastball, I was leading off the inning and looking to see first pitch fastball,” Byars said. “I ended up putting a pretty decent swing on it.”

After a Justin Hovis popup, Kris Simonton grounded out to the right side of the infield, tying the game. From there, it was all Spartans. Designated hitter Zack McGuire hit his first home run of the season, taking a 3-1 pitch over the scoreboard in left field into the trees to put the Spartans ahead 2-1.

If it was power in the fifth inning, the sixth inning runs came via smart pieces of hitting from the top of the order. Leadoff-hitting center fielder Brandon Hughes singled up the middle, and stole second before first baseman Jordan Zimmerman lined a ball sharply into right-center field to score Hughes. Lefty Alex Wagner came in to relieve Ruffer, but the Spartans weren’t done yet. After a Dan Durkin single, freshman left fielder Marty Bechina drilled a ball up the middle to score Zimmerman from second and make the score 4-1, MSU.

From there, the job was straightforward for the Spartan bullpen. Righty Andrew Gonzalez threw three scoreless innings, and despite letting two men on in the top of the seventh, looked comfortable, something Boss thought was a positive.

“We wanted to keep Keegan and Andrew fresh for the weekend, because we’re going to need all hands on deck,” Boss said.

With a series against Michigan coming up this weekend, and the standings at the top of the Big Ten, it’s hard to argue with Boss. MSU now sits third in the Big Ten, at 8-4, just behind Michigan’s 8-3 mark. A good weekend against the Wolverines could send a big message to the rest of the conference. However, the manager tried to keep things in perspective.

“The goal is, as always, to win the series,” Boss said. “That doesn’t change regardless of who we’re playing, so we need to execute on the mound and at the plate, and if we do that, this ballclub has proven that good things can happen.”

The three game series with Michigan starts on Friday night in Ann Arbor, a televised game on BTN starting at 6 p.m. EST. From there, it’s back to East Lansing for a 1:05 p.m. start on Saturday, then a 1 p.m. start on Sunday in Ann Arbor.