MSU baseball finishes spring break in South Carolina

Michigan State baseball wrapped up a three-game trip to Minneapolis, where they finished 1-2 against some of the Pac-12’s best, and then lost Wednesday to No. 10 Clemson.

Washington 4-MSU 3

Last Friday, they faced Washington’s Joe DeMers, who came off an 84-pitch perfect game. MSU posted two runs on five hits against DeMers in his 7 2/3 innings. They took a 2-1 lead into the final frame, when the Huskies scored two against Jake Lowery and inched ahead. The Spartans would respond with a run in the bottom half and force extras. In the 10th, Huskies right fielder Kaiser Weiss doubled to center, scoring pinch-runner Jack Johnson. Spartans would not respond, falling 4-3. Zach Iverson continued his hot hitting, going 2 for 3. Bryce Kelley finished 3 for 4, with a RBI and a stolen base.

No. 13 UCLA 4-MSU 1

This game went about as well as you could’ve hoped, if you were Jake Boss Jr. An offense that hasn’t produced many runs took on Preseason All-American Jon Olsen. Olsen threw a complete game, giving up one run on five hits. Ethan Landon dropped to 0-2 on the season, giving up four runs in his outing. Evan Flohr relieved Landon, and held the Bruins scoreless in his two innings of work. Michael Toglia of UCLA went 3 for 3 for the Bruins, with two extra-base hits, including a home run in his first at-bat. Spartans Justin Antoncic homered and went 2 for 4; Ryan King finished 2 for 4 as well.

MSU 3-Arizona 2

Mason Erla started his third game for the Spartans. He allowed two runs – the only two runs that were scored until the ninth. Randy Labaut held the Spartans scoreless until the last inning. They exploded for three runs, headlined by an Iverson leadoff double, Marty Bechina and Antoncic hits and Dan Chmielewski’s hit-by-pitch, which set the table for Chad Roskelly. He grounded into a fielder’s choice, which plated Kory Young and pushed the Spartans past the Wildcats with a 3-2 victory. Iverson, Bechina, Chmielewski all finished with a hit, while Antoncic had three.

Antoncic was named to the Dairy Queen Classic/Pac-1 –Big Ten Challenge All-Tournament Team. He hit a homer, two doubles and averaged .462 over the weekend as part of his hot start to the season.

No. 11 Clemson 9-MSU 7

The Spartans lost their second matchup in a week to a top-15 ranked opponent, and fell to 3-8 on the year. MSU led 6-0 after four innings, but a nine-run Tiger fifth spelled doom for the Spartans. Main culprits included Caleb Sleeman and Evan Flohr, who have been otherwise solid options out of the bullpen. Sleeman allowed six runs off of four hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning, and Flohr allowed two runs off the two batters he faced. MSU loaded the bases in the ninth before a popup and strikeout ended the game, with Bechina narrowly missing a would-be game-winning home run with the final out.

What’s Ahead

The Spartans will travel to Greenville, S.C. to compete in the First Pitch Invitational.  They’ll face Furman and Illinois at Fluor Field.

Before the First Pitch Invitational got underway, Fluor Field hosted a doubleheader featuring Wofford against Boston College, and MSU against Clemson on Wednesday.

First Pitch Invitational

The Furman Paladins are 7-5 heading into the Invitational. They’re 6-1 at home; 1-4 on the road. Their lone road win was in Columbia, S.C. against the Gamecocks. Despite a slightly above average record, the Paladins faced a tough schedule to open the season. 10 of their first 11 games were against teams who qualified for the NCAA tournament last season; those teams included Marist, Clemson, N.C. State and Central Connecticut State.

Brandon Elmy and Landon Kay were the offensive leaders for the Paladins in 2017. Each hit higher than .300 and belted 11 home runs. Elmy drove in 49 runners, while Kay drove in 37. Both were awarded preseason All-SoCon honors, with Elmy making the first team and Kay making the second.

MSU will not face Illinois in a conference setting, per se. They’ll take on the Fighting Illini outside of the Midwest, and these games will not count towards conference records.

Last year, the Spartans outscored the Illini in Champaign, Ill. 41-11 over three games. They would sweep the series while making noise around the country because of their offensive showing. The rest of the season would be a tough one for the Illini, as they finished 23-28.

2018 looks to be different for Dan Hartleb’s team. They’re off to a 6-3 start and just wrapped up a DQ Classic championship run, going 3-0 in Minneapolis, which included knocking off then No. 11 UCLA. Michael Massey, a high school teammate of MSU’s King, finished as tournament MVP. Massey also garnered Big Ten player of the week honors, which were announced Monday.

After their hot start, the Illini are getting national attention and just entered Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s poll at No. 25. The list of impressive wins doesn’t stop at the Pac-12 teams they played this past weekend. They also split a series with Coastal Carolina, who’s listed at No. 24 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. The Chanticleers won the 2016 College World Series after their improbable Cinderella run.

D1Baseball.com projected three Illini to be Top-10 round draft picks this summer. Sophomores (2B) Massey and (SS) Ben Troike lead the way up the middle. They were second in the country in double plays per game last season. Andy Fisher (Eastern Illinois), Sean LeLand (Louisville) and Zac Taylor (Houston) are eligible to play for the Illini this season after sitting out 2017 due to transferring. There’s loads of talent on this new and improved Fighting Illini team, and they’ll look to turn around a 2017 they want to forget.

With inclement weather in the forecast for Sunday, the original three-day schedule has been condensed to Friday and Saturday, giving MSU seven games in a nine-day span on its Spring Break trip. They play a doubleheader on Friday at 2 and 6 p.m., first against Illinois and then Furman, and close their weekend against Illinois on Saturday at 5 p.m., all times Eastern.