Erla, Bullpen Lead Spartans To 1-0 Grounding Of Waves, 1-0, Sunday
Second-straight victory for MSU to take weekend series, Erla collects first college victory
MALIBU, Calif. -- Behind starting pitcher Mason Erla and a shutdown bullpen, Michigan State baseball blanked Pepperdine, 1-0, Sunday afternoon in the series finale of the three-game weekend series at Pepperdine’s Eddy D. Field.
Sunday’s victory for MSU was the Spartans’ second in a row as they captured the series, two games to one, in the hard-fought weekend. Pepperdine captured Friday’s opener, 5-1, before Michigan State bounced back with a 5-2 win Saturday, setting up Sunday’s rubber match victory.
“I’m very pleased with how we played these last two days,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., said. “I thought, even though we only had four hits today, that we made some strides offensively today. But the story of the day was pitching, I couldn’t be happier for Mason Erla, coming back from an injury and getting his first collegiate win today. I thought he was really, really good. Then the bullpen was equally as good. Caleb Sleeman and Evan Flohr did a heck of a job keeping the score where it was and not allowing any hits, and then Jake Lowery was dominant in getting the save. It was a very good day and anytime you can get a series win on the road, it’s a good weekend, so we’ll gladly take it against a very good Pepperdine club.”
For the second outing in a row, redshirt-freshman pitcher Erla was effective, going 5.0 IP with four strikeouts and allowing just two hits while not walking anyone, retiring the last 11 of 13 batters faced to earn his first win as a college pitcher. Erla now has 10.0 IP with eight strikeouts, spraying eight hits, in his two games this season after returning to action from a season-ending injury last February.
The combined bullpen effort of sophomore Caleb Sleeman, junior Evan Flohr and senior Jake Lowery, stifled the Waves’ bats, holding them without a hit over the final four innings, while striking out three. Erla improved to 1-1 on the season with the win, while Lowery earned his first save of the season and second of his career.
MSU’s offense was led by sophomore left fielder Justin Antoncic with a triple to lead off the fourth inning and he scored on sophomore second baseman Bailey Peterson’s sacrifice fly to in foul territory in deep right field. Junior third baseman Marty Bechina, junior catcher Nic Lacayo and junior right fielder Dan Chmielewski also had hits for MSU, with Bechina the other extra base hit with a double.
It was a pitcher’s duel from the beginning between Erla and Pepperdine’s Easton Lucas, as both hurlers were dealing in the early going, not facing more than four batters in any of the first three frames. Erla didn’t allow a hit until the third inning and Antoncic’s triple in the top of the fourth was the Spartans’ first hit off Lucas, who went 6.0 IP with four hits, striking out seven while walking one and allowing the lone run of the sunny afternoon.
Sleeman came on to start the sixth and went 1.1 IP, before giving way to Flohr in the seventh. Flohr went 1.0 inning with two Ks, before turning it over to Lowery, who pitched the final 1.2 innings, striking out one in retiring all five batters he faced.
Sunday’s win moves MSU to 2-5 on the young season.
“Our guys have always played hard, and they played very hard last week in Fresno, we just came up a little bit short,” Boss said in reference to MSU four losses last weekend at Fresno State in which the Spartans suffered three one-run losses.
With Sunday’s one-run win, the Spartans have now had four of their eight games decided by one run, and have now had 21 one-run games in the last two seasons.
“I think guys have continued to work during the week, and I felt like over the course of the entire weekend, we got a lot better as the weekend progressed. I think we had some guys that broke out of it a little bit at the plate, and that’s what our guys do, they continue to work, they continue to grind, and they continue to fight, and good things happen. I’ll go to compete with guys like that any day.”
Michigan State continues to compete on the road next weekend, heading to Minneapolis, Minn., for the Dairy Queen Classic/Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge at US Bank Stadium, home of Super Bowl LII, Friday-Sunday, March 2-4. The Spartans open against Washington on Friday, March 2 at 4 p.m. ET. They then take on UCLA on Saturday, March 3 at Noon, before wrapping up against Arizona on Sunday, March 4 at 11 a.m.