Free passes come back to bite Spartans, downed by CMU 3-1

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Spartans’ head coach Jake Boss Jr. was denied his 300th win yet again as Michigan State baseball (6-13) fell to the Central Michigan Chippewas (5-15-1) by a score of 3-1 on Wednesday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium.

“We had plenty of chances offensively and couldn’t take advantage of those,” Boss said. “Bad at bats in big spots of the game is something that we’ve been talking about since September, and unfortunately, it came back to haunt us again today.”

On the mound for the Spartans was senior Andrew Gonzalez, getting his first start of the young season. The righty has struggled in his two appearances entering Wednesday’s game, giving up five earned runs in two innings pitched. Despite problems locating the the strike zone, Gonzalez was able to find his niche against the Chippewas.

Gonzalez started off the top of the first inning by getting two quick outs via groundouts from Central Michigan’s center fielder Jacob Crum and second baseman Jason Sullivan. However, control problems would arrive early, as Gonzalez issued back-to-back walks to put two runners on. However, he would escape the early jam thanks to a ground ball hit right at Spartan first baseman Zach McGuire, who would record the out unassisted to end the inning.

The Spartans would get their first hit of the game in the bottom half of the second inning thanks to a single to center field from McGuire with one away. However, Michigan State would be held off the board as catcher Nic Lacayo went down singing for out number two and third baseman Marty Bechina grounded out to shortstop to end the inning.

Control problems hit Gonzalez again in the third inning. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, Gonzalez walked consecutive batters to put two runners on for the middle of the Chippewas line up. However, he was able to escape the jam yet again, striking out catcher Evan Kratt to end the Chippewa rally.

Gonzalez settled back down in the fourth, thanks to two quick fly outs from Warren and Cole to start the inning. Gonzalez would end the inning by striking out Heeke to retire the side in order.

The Spartans’ bats fired up in the bottom of the fourth inning. Antoncic beat out a bunt to the left side of the infield to reach base, and then would end up stealing second base right after. After a McGuire single to move Antoncic over to third base, Lacayo singled into center field to score Antoncic, giving the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

Gonzalez issued two more walks in the fifth inning to put a pair on for Sullivan, who hit a fly ball to right field to advance the lead runner Adams to third. The Chippewas would record their first run of the game before recording their first hit of the game, as a wild pitch with two outs by Gonzalez would allow Adams to score, tying the score at one apiece.

Gonzalez was able to work out of the inning with limited damage, striking out designated hitter Powell Lockwood to end the inning.

Gonzalez would be taken out of the game after throwing five no-hit frames. Gonzalez would end the day with one run, six strikeouts and seven walks.

“He struggled with command a little bit,” Boss said after the game. “On the positive side, he walked his share of guys and got out of it. You know, it was good to see him throw zeros up there.”

Fastforwarding to the top of the seventh inning, senior Jake Lowery took over on the mound for Jesse Heikkenen and put two runners on via a hit by pitch and a walk. Crum laid down a bunt bunt to slide the two Chippewa runners over to second and third with one away.

Michigan State’s no-hit bid would come to an end as Kratt lined one through the gap on the right side for a two-RBI single, giving Central Michigan a 3-1 lead late in the game.

Lowery went back out to pitch in the eighth inning and got into a little bit of trouble, putting Warren and Heeke on base via the walk. With one away, Lowery got third baseman Jordan Patty, who came on for Adams earlier in the game, to fly out to center field for out number two and then got right fielder Daniel Robinson to strike out looking to end the inning.

The Spartans went into the bottom of the ninth looking for some late-game heroics. Bechina drew the count full on Central Michigan pitcher Colton Bradley, and eventually walked. Bechina would advance to second base on a wild pitch. Hope looked bleak for the Spartans as Iverson and Young were both set down on strikes. With two away, Kelley walked, and suddenly, the tying run was at the plate in the form of Chmielewski.

However, Chmielewski was unable to be the hero for the Spartans, as he flew out to right field to end the game. The final score, 3-1 in favor of the Chippewas.

“If you’re not going to hit, it’s probably unfair, but I have to ask those guys to be a little more clean on the mound,” Boss said. “But all the way around, we need to be better on the pitching side of it, offensively, defensively, the whole deal.”

Spartan pitchers let up a total of 10 walks in the game and hit one batter, resulting in 11 free base runners for the Chippewas, allowing them to score three runs off of two hits.

Final Line: WP – Jack Collins (2.1 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 3 K) LP –  Jesse Heikkenen (1 IP, 2 R, 0 H, 1 K)

Michigan State will begin conference play on Friday afternoon as they travel to Ann Arbor to take on their rival University of Michigan (8-11). First pitch is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. EST at Ray Fisher Stadium.