Strong Bullpen Leads Spartans Past Eagles at Comerica

The Michigan State baseball team was hoping to have better luck Wednesday than the hometown Tigers, who hadn’t won a single game at home this past week. The Spartans (31-13) took on the Eastern Michigan Eagles (19-27) at Comerica Park in Detroit.

MSU scraped out a tight one, as they defeated the Eagles 3-2.

“Getting the win is big. It would have been disappointing if we came down here and not won,” manager Jake Boss Jr. said after the game. “Great experience for our guys, nice crowd tonight, great atmosphere, and overall a well played ball game. Really happy with the effort out of our guys. We executed when we needed to.”

Execution was key indeed as the go-ahead, and eventual winning run came in a series of bizarre events.

A planned delayed steal with Brandon Hughes and Kory Young at the corners, two of MSU’s speedsters, confused the EMU defense and led to the third Spartan run of the game. Hughes took off before Eastern pitcher Justin Thompson threw. Thompson stepped off and threw to the second baseman standing midway between first and second base with Hughes caught in the middle. It was a good old fashioned pickle. Meanwhile, Young noticed on third that the Eagles were focused on Hughes, so he darted for the plate. Eagles first baseman John Rensel Jr. overthrew the catcher and Young slid in safely.

“It was [planned]. It was a play we’ve worked on all year. You never know when you’re gonna get a chance to run it and we had an opportunity tonight, and the guys executed it,” Boss said. “It’s a good lesson for our guys: when we execute, good things happen. When we fail to execute, we struggle.”

Failing to execute was a big issue in MSU’s past series against Nebraska. They were unable to capitalize with runners on base, hitting 10 for 44.

This wasn’t a batted ball that got the eventual game winning run, but this is the type of baseball MSU has shown they can play. Getting guys on base, creating havoc, and scoring the hard-earned runs can help the Spartans going forward.

“We have a hardworking group of guys and we’ve always preached mental toughness and being gritty,” Young said. “We want to be like a blue collar kind of baseball team and work hard and stick in until the end.”

The other pair of runs came in less blue collar fashion, as sophomore designated hitter Zack McGuire hit a major league home run, literally. McGuire cranked one just fair over the 345’ sign at Comerica Park, a traditional pitchers park because of its deep fences.

Michigan State had a bullpen day, throwing five different pitchers to stay fresh for an important Big Ten series against Iowa this weekend. Freshman Riley McCauley would get the win after throwing 2 2/3 innings strong. He would not allow a hit and only one walk in his second win of the season.

Seven is the magic number for the Spartans as the bullpen helped move MSU to 28-0 when leading after the seventh inning. They are 20-1 when scoring seven or more runs and only have seven games remaining in the season.

Michigan State begins a weekend series with Iowa Friday starting at 7:05 p.m. EST in Iowa City.