EAST LANSING, Mich. – After pounding out eight runs on 15 hits in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader against Northwestern, Michigan State’s bats fell quiet in game two, resulting in a 3-2 loss in extra innings.
The 15 hits compiled in game one tied a season high for the Spartans, but the team was only able to manage seven hits in ten innings of play in game two. Michigan State (14-28, 3-11 Big Ten) only collected one hit past the sixth inning, as the Wildcats bullpen allowed the visiting team to salvage one game of the three-game weekend series.
BOX SCORE: Northwestern 3, MSU 2
“Today was a tale of two games,” head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “We really swung the bat well in game one and put a big number up on the board. Northwestern’s second guy settled in today, and we didn’t threaten much.”
Caleb Sleeman would receive the start for the Spartans, his sixth of the 2019 season. The redshirt junior would toss four innings of one-run ball, leaving the game with the score tied at one run apiece.
Just like in game one of Saturday’s doubleheader, the Spartans struck first in the bottom of the first, scoring one run off Northwestern starter Ryan Bader when Bryce Kelley was able to come home and score on a ground-ball double play from Marty Bechina. The Wildcats would immediately respond in the next half inning, bringing home a run on an RBI double from Casey O’Laughlin.
Northwestern (18-22, 6-9 Big Ten) would take their first lead of the afternoon in the top of the fifth, as Evan Flohr allowed a single to Alex Erro that scored catcher Jack Kelly. But like the Wildcats did in the top of the second, the Spartans would respond to tie the game in next inning.
The senior shortstop Bechina lofted a high fly ball deep down the left field line for his fourth home run of the season, tying the game at two. This would be all the Spartans could manage for the rest of the game though, as Bechina’s solo shot would go down as MSU’s final run and second-to-last hit in the low-scoring contest.
Michigan State closer Indigo Diaz took to the mound in the top of the seventh, continuing his recent stretch of dominance with three scoreless innings to propel the Spartans to extra innings with the game still tied at two.
Things would not go as smoothly for Diaz in the top of the 10th, and as the worn-out right-hander’s pitch count increased, his effectiveness decreased. Diaz would surrender a leadoff double to Shawn Goosenberg, and after he advanced to second on a ground ball, the Wildcats’ second baseman came around to score on a sacrifice fly.
A single to right for Zaid Walker was a promising start to the bottom of the inning, but the bats would continue their cold stretch, and the next three hitters went down in order. After winning the first game of the doubleheader in comfortable fashion, the Spartans were forced to exit McLane Stadium with a sour taste in their mouths.
Reese Trahey, who got the start at first for the previously injured Justin Antoncic, led the Spartans at the dish with his 2-for-4 game. Northwestern reliever Josh Levy earned the win, while Diaz took the loss, dropping his record to 2-4 on the season.
All throughout the second game of the doubleheader, the Spartans honored over 50 baseball alumni, including 11 members of the 1954 College World Series team. In celebration of the 65th anniversary of the 1954 team, the members who were present participated in a group ceremonial first pitch.
“Our guys are well aware of our history,” Boss said. “We are able to experience the things we do because of the guys who came before us. It was awesome to have those guys here today, it’s important for our guys to see what Michigan State means to them.”
The loss for MSU snapped a season-high winning streak of four games, but the team was able to secure a series win over Northwestern thanks to a victory in game one. The series victory was the team’s first in Big Ten play.
“We went 4-1 this week, I’ll take that result any week,” Boss said. “At the same time, we had an opportunity to get our first sweep of the year and we couldn’t get it done.”
Michigan State will next take the field against the Purdue Boilermakers in West Lafayette, Indiana next weekend. Mason Erla will take the ball on Friday night, looking to guide his team to a victory as Big Ten play begins to wind down.