EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State came back to East Lansing after taking a series from Iowa, but began its final home series of the year with a loss to Illinois. The 8-4 loss eliminates the Spartans from competing in the Big Ten tournament.
“I was proud of the way our guys competed” head coach Jake Boss said. “We had the tying run in the on-deck circle in the ninth, and we’ll come back and compete tomorrow.”
The Spartans started the game strong and the contest was pretty tight for the first seven innings, but once Evan Flohr was pulled after relieving Erla, the game was broken open. The Illini extended their 4-3 lead to an 8-3 late in the game once the Spartan bullpen lost control of and allowed Illinois’ bats to heat up.
Erla gave the Spartans three lockdown innings to start, only needing 13 pitches to get through the first two innings, and holding Illinois scoreless through three. But the fourth inning is when things took a turn.
Two of the first three pitches from Erla went over the McLane Stadium walls and a 2-0 Spartans lead quickly shifted to a 3-2 deficit after those two home runs were paired with a series of hits that inning that led to Illinois scoring one more time.
Illinois starter Andy Fisher came out a different pitcher after letting the Spartans hit well early on, he sped up his pace and dominated most of the Spartan lineup.
The only Spartan hitters that had success against Illini pitching was the top three players in the order. Senior Dan Chmielewski went 3-for-5 on the day including a double which allowed him to later score. Bryce Kelley drove in a runs well, but the MVP in the Michigan State lineup was senior Marty Bechina.
“He’s the best leader we have,” Boss said. “He hits in the three hole and that’s where you put the best hitter you have, he’s the guy that makes us go.”
Bechina had two RBI and two doubles, coming up clutch every time the Spartans needed him to. But the rest of the lineup disappeared and the four through nine hitters for Michigan State combined for only one hit against Fisher.
The game started to get ugly when the Spartans put relievers other than Flohr out there. Once he was taken out of the game, Illinois was lights out at the plate and added four runs in two innings against Indigo Diaz and Colton Panaranto to end the game.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Spartans needed five to tie. They loaded the bases but only scored one to end the game with an 8-4 loss,eliminating the team from a chance to play in the Big Ten tournament.
The two teams will meet again tomorrow night at McLane Stadium for another night game.