Spartans down Oakland behind career night from Panaranto


Photo: Joe Dandron/WDBM

Nathan Stearns, General Assignment Reporter

EAST LANSING, Mich. – A non-observant passerby could have easily mistaken Michigan State baseball for Oakland and vice versa before the brief one-game series on Tuesday night. Both teams had 10 wins on the year, as well as upwards of 25 losses.

Furthermore, both teams were starting freshmen who had yet to make a start this season. With so many similarities, it was anyone’s guess as to how the chips would fall when these two clubs took to the diamond. Despite both pitchers struggling to find the strike zone early, the Spartans were able to get some clutch base knocks en route to a 12-2 win.

BOX SCORE: MSU 12, Oakland 2 

Despite winning the last meeting in 2016, Oakland has had very little success in the all time series against the Spartans. The Green and White had bested the Grizzlies 34 times in 38 total meetings over the course of this rivalry. Safe to say, Michigan State has had Oakland’s number over the last several years.

Both young hurlers struggled mightily with control in the early part of the game. Ethan Hoffman issued three free passes in the bottom of the first, but MSU was unable to capitalize on his wild control.

Colten Panaranto, who got the starting nod for the Spartans, walked two of the first three batters in the top of the second and unlike MSU, Jace Matkin and the Oakland faithful were able to scratch across the first two runs of the game, courtesy of a Matkin two-RBI double.

Hoffman’s inability to throw a strike finally caught up with him in the bottom of the second. After issuing two more walks, as well as giving up a single, Justin Antonic ripped a screaming liner down  the right field line that tied up the game at two. A subsequent sacrifice fly by Marty Bechina propelled the Spartans to their first lead of the contest.

Marty Bechina/Photo: Alexa McCarthy/Impact

Panaranto settled down after that rough second inning by striking out the side in the top of the third.

He came back out for the top of the fourth and was yet again able to find success with several of his secondary pitches, en route to a scoreless fourth inning.  

Before a single by Jace Matkin in the seventh, Panaranto had retired 14 straight batters. All in all, he ended up rebounding nicely from a rough early start by twirling seven innings of two-run ball with seven strikeouts recorded.

“I was overthinking and I just needed to go out there and trust my stuff and not think about it,” Panaranto said. “That’s what I did and I settled in and I started to get into a groove.”

Perhaps the most revealing trend for the entire game was the fact that through four innings, Michigan State had drawn a whopping eight walks. Hoffman and reliever Kyle Gibson were wild and erratic, however, Michigan State only scored three runs off of these two hurlers through four innings.

The Spartans had better luck in the bottom of the fifth when after yet two more walks drawn, Zach Iverson roped a double to left field that scored Casey Mayes and Zaid Walker to push the lead to three. This three-run advantage would prove to be more than enough for Panaranto to collect his second win of the season while throwing a season high 111 pitches. A six spot in the eighth from the MSU lineup would put the game out of reach for the Grizzlies.

When asked about why in his first ever start, Panaranto was allowed to throw 111 pitches, coach Jake Boss Jr. attributed it to his control and the fact that he hadn’t pitched since Friday.

“He was fresh and hadn’t thrown since Friday. We are not going to use him this Friday in the bullpen and he came here as a starter out of high school, so it was something where if he could go deep into the game with a game tomorrow, we could save the bullpen a little bit, which sets us up better for tomorrow.”

With the win MSU improves to 11-27 on the season, while Oakland drops to 10-27 on the season. The win for the Spartans is their sixth home win of the season.

Michigan State takes on yet another non-conference opponent Wednesday night, when they welcome the 15-23 Toledo Rockets to McLane Stadium at 6:35 p.m.