LANSING, Mich. — Five months before the 2018 campaign kicks off, the Michigan State Spartans clashed with the Lansing Lugnuts, the Toronto Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliate, Tuesday night in the 11th annual Crosstown Showdown. Just three miles from MSU’s campus, a crowd of 6,804 consisting of Spartans and Lugnuts alike flooded Cooley Law School Stadium to witness the home run derby and a Lugnuts 5-1 victory.
The annual seven inning contest was preceded by a home run derby featuring three hitters from both ball clubs. After smashing eight bombs in the first round, Spartan freshman Adam Proctor knocked out teammates Marty Bechina and Zack McGuire to advance into the final round. Proctor would then land five home runs to take home the home run derby title over Lugnut David Jacobs.
“Good for the freshman to come in here, especially in front of a lot of hometown fans, friends and family,” said MSU coach Jake Boss Jr. “What a neat opportunity for him – something he’s never going to forget, I know that.”
Proctor dominated the timed championship round hitting his fifth and final home run with over a minute and a half remaining on the clock.
“Didn’t really expect to win the home run derby,” said Proctor. “I was just more excited to be a part of it but it was a good time. I’m glad it went the way it did.”
The Spartans began the game aggressive on the bases, attempting two steals in as many chances. Bryce Kelley, who reached on an infield single, was caught stealing. Justin Antocic, who reached on an error, stole second and set the table for Proctor. Proctor, who kept his derby-winning bat sizzling, dropped a single into right field scoring Antocic to take an early first inning lead, 1-0.
Lugnuts responded in the bottom of the third. They ambushed Spartan pitcher Jake Lowery with two runs, using an Otto Lopez double, a Nick Sinary single, a ground out and a wild pitch to put the Lugnuts ahead, 2-1.
Lowery, who was one of six Spartan pitchers to appear in the game, picked up the loss, giving up the two runs the Lugnuts used to propel past the Spartans, and they never looked back.
Using six relief pitchers and five bench players, Boss Jr. used over half of his roster.
“We had it scripted it out as far as our arms were concerned,” said Boss Jr. “We had a lot of guys that we wanted to get at-bats. So it was pretty well scripted out.”
Spartan reliever Keegan Baar ran into trouble in the fourth, allowing a walk to Ridge Smith, who eventually scored on a single by designated hitter Yhordegny Kelly, pushing the lead to 3-1.
Threatening to cut the lead in the sixth, Kelley reached for his second time, but the Spartans’ 3-4-5 hitters failed to push him across.
The Lugnuts tacked on two more in the bottom half of the sixth, scoring both off Andrew Gonzalez and extending their lead, 5-1. The Lugnuts loaded the bases and scored each of their runs on RBI groundouts by Aldo Ovando and Lopez.
Maverick Buffo allowed only one base runner in a scoreless seventh inning, closing out the game for the Lugnuts.
Being crowned derby champion, and driving in the Spartans’ only run, Proctor had a career night in his first action as a Spartan.
“Finally being able to put on the Spartan jersey after being committed for a couple years and just waiting and waiting, it seemed like it would never get here,” said Proctor. “Now that it’s actually here, it was surreal at first, but once everything got going, it felt good.”
Boss Jr. emphasized the significance of the Crosstown Showdown and what it meant for his team.
“For our guys, not only is it a great experience to play in front of a big crowd and things like that, but to play the pro guys, and get a taste of what it’s like to play at the next level, is pretty important,” he said.
On a personal level, the Crosstown Showdown means a lot to Boss Jr.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “Being a local guy, having a chance to get out here and compete against these guys in my hometown… My dad was part of this whole bringing the team here and getting the stadium built, so personally it means an awful lot.”
“It’s a great atmosphere. We see a lot of good atmospheres at a lot of different places. Our own home park included. Again, I think that’s why you come to play baseball at Michigan State, to play in front of good crowds and play in great atmospheres, and again, I think it’s about the experience.”