Wolverines blow out Spartans in series finale

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan State (6-16; 0-3) dropped their fifth straight game, and begin conference play 0-3, as Michigan (12-11; 3-0) used four multi-run innings to surge past the Spartans 11-0.

The Spartans rallied in the top of the first, getting Justin Antoncic on via hit-by-pitch. Chad Roskelly followed with a hit-by-pitch that was called back by home plate umpire Brent Rice, claiming he didn’t attempt to avoid the pitch. Head coach Jake Boss Jr. plead his case to Rice in an animated dispute, but to no avail. Roskelly eventually walked, but Zack McGuire popped out for the third out.

“Nine hits and we couldn’t get a timely one, it seems like.” Boss Jr. said. “I feel like we’re one swing away, we’re kind of waiting for something to happen where everybody can kind of take a deep breath and get an RBI early in the game, and then everybody can kind of relax a little bit.”

Erla’s 2.15 ERA was attacked early, with the Wolverines tacking an early two runs. Christian Bullock reached on a single, and quickly tested Spartan catcher Nic Lacayo. Bullock stole second and third, for Lacayo’s 11th and 12th allowed stolen base. Jonathan Engelmann singled to score Bullock, and Englemann scored on a Lewis triple – a misplayed fly ball by left fielder Bryce Kelley. The Wolverines finished the first inning up 2-0.

Wolverines struck again the third, plating Blake Nelson on a Jesse Franklin double to right center. Jordan Nwogu followed scoring Lewis on a fielder’s choice, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Erla gave up a leadoff fourth-inning home run to Jack Blomgren, and a Nelson double, which scored Ako Thomas and gave the Wolverines a 6-0 lead.

Mike Mokma came in relief for Erla, who gave up four runs on three hits in a third of an inning. Caleb Sleeman entered after Mokma and was able to secure the final two outs to end the four-run sixth. U-M extended their lead to 10-0.

Defensive substitute Will Salter made the most of his only at-bat. He reached on an infield single to the left side. Ryan King doubled to put him and Salter in scoring position, but Bryce Kelley field out and Marty Bechina grounded out to end their half of the eighth.

Aside from the first-inning rally, MSU bats didn’t bother U-M starter Karl Kauffman. He allowed six hits and two walks, striking out five hitters over six innings. Troy Miller, Jayce Vacena, Jeff Criswell pitched out of the pen for the Wolverines, and combined for three hits, a walk and two strikeouts over the final three innings.

“I think you learn from wins, you learn from losses,” said Boss Jr. after the game. “We got some young guys on this team that learned a lot from this weekend, both on the positive end and on the negative side of it.”

Boss Jr. is still searching for his 300th career win.

“I’m not concerned about anything as far as any attitude issues. They do try, very hard. I do get concerned that guys are getting a little bit frustrated, and understandably so. But at the same time, it hasn’t impacted any type of effort, it hasn’t impacted any type of attitude in the dugout or anything like that. Guys just want to win for Michigan State and it’s frustrating when it’s not happening.”

Final Line:

WP – Karl Kauffman (3-2; 6 IP, 0 R, 6 H, 5 K)

LP – Mason Erla (3-1; 5 IP, 6 R, 10 H, 4 K)

The Spartans return to McLane Stadium on Wednesday, March 28 against Western Michigan. The Broncos and Spartans split their two-game series in 2017. This will be the first of their two games against one another this year. First pitch is set for 3:05 EST.