Spartans top Nebraska late, 5-3

EAST LANSING, Mich — The Michigan State baseball team (9-19) defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers (14-16) by a score of 5-3 on Sunday afternoon to complete atwo-game sweep.

“We had a good week of practice, and thought we really made some strides to get better,” coach Jake Boss Jr. said after the game. “I’m happy for our guys that they got to see some of the fruits of that on the field this week.”

Getting the start on the mound for the Spartans was the freshman righty Mason Erla, who had dazzled in his seven starts prior, posting 2.61 ERA and striking out 34 batters in 41.1 innings pitched.

However, Erla got into trouble in the first inning, giving up a pair of runs to Nebraska. Erla gave up an RBI double to Nebraska first baseman Scott Schreiber after walking the leadoff hitter to score arun. Next, a sacrifice fly from catcher Jesse Wilkening would score the Cornhuskers’ second run in the early going.

The Spartans were able to get one back in the bottom half of the first inning thanks to a two-out single from first baseman Zach McGuire in which right fielder Dan Chmielewski was able to score from first base thanks to a fielding error from Nebraska left fielder Mojo Haggie.

Michigan State was able to tie it up in the second inning. With two outs and runners on first and third, Chad Roskelly would be able to advance home thanks to a wild pitch, tying the game at 2.

The Cornhuskers would strike back in the third inning as Schreiber launched a leadoff home run over the wall in right field, his 11th home run of the season, to put Nebraska back in front.

Jake Lowery came on in the sixth inning to take over on the mound for Erla, who finished the day giving up three runs off four hits while walking four and striking out one over five innings pitched. Lowery was able to strike out the side in the sixth as well as throwing a scoreless seventh inning to keep the Spartans within one run moving into the late innings of the game.

Not much was brewing for either team in the middle innings, as the score would remain 3-2 until the seventh inning. An RBI single to the right side of the infield from second baseman Zach Iverson to score left fielder Bryce Kelley from third, making the score even at three runs apiece.

MSU’s Riley McCauley came on to pitch in the eighth inning, making his first relief appearance of the season. McCauley ran into trouble after loading the bases with two outs, but was able to strike out right fielder Jaxon Hallmark to end the inning with no damage.

The Spartans would pull ahead in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two runners on, Nebraska pitcher Reece Eddins threw back-to-back wild pitches to score both baserunners, giving Michigan State a 5-3 lead, their first of the game.  

McCauley came back out to throw a scoreless ninth inning and pick up his second win of 2018, claiming MSU’s third straight victory after losing nine straight prior.

The Spartans have now outscored their opponents 28-8 over their three-game winning streak.

“We’ve hit more balls hard this weekend than we have in the past,” Boss said. “We put up a big number yesterday and 11 more hits today. I think we’re starting to get a little more comfortable and play with some confidence.”

Final Line:

WP: Riley McCauley ( 2-4, 2 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 3 K, 3 BB)

LP:  Paul Tillotson ( 1-2, 0.2 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 1 K, 0 BB)

The Spartans now move to 3-5 in conference play after losing their first five conference games.

“I feel like we’ve livened up a lot and we’re having fun with it now,” catcher Adam Proctor said. “It’s not a job anymore.”

The Spartans will return to action on Tuesday as they take on Notre Dame (13-16) First pitch is scheduled for 3:02 p.m. E.T. at McLane Baseball Stadium.