FINAL: MSU baseball drops home opener to Indiana, 8-2


McLane Baseball Stadium/ Photo Credit: Zach Surdenik/ WDBM

Michael Markoch, Baseball Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — On a day in which the Michigan State Spartans returned to McLane Stadium for the first time in 678 days, the Spartans struggled to gain any momentum in their 8-2 loss to the Indiana Hoosiers on Friday.

MSU coach Jake Boss Jr. said the team was very excited to finally play at home after a long time on the road.

“It’s great to play at home, the guys were excited all day long,” Boss said. “It was nice to settle back into the routine of things. We probably took batting practice a little bit earlier today just because guys were excited to go.”

As for the game itself, it was certainly a pitchers’ duel early on as the Spartans’ Mason Erla and Hoosiers’ Tommy Sommer settled into the game fairly easily on the mound, but it wasn’t that way at first.

Both teams threatened in the first inning, with the Hoosiers getting two of their first three runners on base by way of singles off of Erla. Hoosiers third baseman Cole Barr then lined a single to right field before Spartans’ right fielder Zaid Walker threw a laser to the plate to get the lead runner out at home. Erla was able to escape the first unharmed.

In the home half of the first, the Spartans got runners on first and third with two outs, and had their best hitter by average this season, Walker, at the plate. Unfortunately for the Spartans, Walker struck out and the first inning ended scoreless.

MSU outfielder Zaid Walker swings at a pitch during a game/ Photo Credit: Jeremy Fleming/MSU Athletic

Most of the early innings were more of the same, with both teams leaving many runners on base, failing to get the one hit that could drive in that first run. Both pitchers were throwing a lot of strikes and pitching to contact, but always were able to buckle down and get an out when needed.

That all changed in the bottom of the fourth when Walker lined a leadoff single to right and then came around to score on a two-out single by shortstop Mitch Jebb, giving the Spartans a 1-0 lead. 

But the lead was short lived as Erla got into trouble early in the fifth. Morgan Colopy led off the inning with a pinch-hit single and then was able to get into scoring position on an error by Spartans’ center fielder Joe Stewart. Colopy would score on a groundout by the next batter, but the Hoosiers weren’t done then. Barr came up again two batters later and plated another run on an RBI infield single, giving the Hoosiers a 2-1 lead.

After getting an out, the nightmare inning would continue for Erla as he was struggling to get outs and had the bases loaded with two outs before Hoosiers’ first baseman Jordan Fucci doubled to right center, scoring two more runs. Erla would get the next batter out to retire the side, but left the mound giving up four runs in the inning, with the Spartans trailing 4-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, Stewart would make up for his error with a one-out home run to straight-away center field. Unfortunately for the Spartans, that would be the only run they would get back in the inning, and still trailed 4-2 after five innings of play.

Erla’s day would end in the sixth after loading up the bases once again with two outs and then walking in the Hoosier’s fifth run of the game. His final line was five and two-thirds innings pitched, eight runs, four earned, two walks, and two strikeouts. And even though he had a couple rough innings, Boss thought Erla battled well against a tough Indiana lineup.

“I don’t think (Erla) had his best stuff, but I think he really competed without having his best stuff,” Boss said. “I think he got himself out of some jams, but when you play with fire like that against a good ball club, you’re kind of rolling the dice, and they got to him.”

Jordan Beatson would relieve Erla, but with the bases still loaded, Hoosiers’ second baseman Paul Toetz lined a shot into the right field gap which cleared the bases. All the runs were given to Erla, and the Hoosiers led 8-2,  a lead they would hold till the end of the game.

Sommer pitched well for the Hoosiers, giving up only the two earned runs on five innings pitched, six hits, three walks and two strikeouts. With a six run lead and only at 73 pitches, the Hoosiers chose to take him out and rest him for another day.

The Spartans got some more scattered base runners throughout the rest of the game, but struggled to get runs home, stranding 11 runners on base for the game.

“Tough one for us today against a really good Indiana ball club,” Boss said. “We gave ourselves a few chances, capitalized on a couple of them, missed on a couple of them, but that’s the way the game goes.”

The Spartans fall to 6-7 on the season and will play Indiana again on Saturday and Sunday. Both games will be at 1:05 p.m. at McLane Stadium.