March 1, 2014
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Michigan State baseball team dropped a pair of games on Friday on the opening day of The Diamond Classic in Starkville, Miss. The Spartans fell to Eastern Illinois, 10-5, in 10 innings in game one, while No. 15 Mississippi State scored three runs in the eighth inning to rally and down Michigan State, 4-2, in the nightcap. The Spartans are now 4-4 on the season.
The 15th-ranked Bulldogs (7-4) opened the scoring in game two of the day by taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when Cody Walker drew a full-count walk with two outs.
The Spartans responded quickly though, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead in the top half of the third inning. A Cam Gibson single, a walk to Ryan Richardson and then a sacrifice bunt by Jimmy Pickens gave MSU a pair of runners in scoring position and Blaise Salter took advantage. Salter doubled down the left field line to plate both runners and give the Spartans' their first advantage of the day.
Michigan State starting pitcher Mick VanVossen and the Bulldogs' Ross Mitchell, who took over after Salter's two-RBI double in the third, took control of the game in the fourth inning as the two hurlers combined to give up just two hits until the eighth frame.
With the Spartans still leading 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Cam Vieaux relieved VanVossen with one on and no outs. A single then gave the Bulldogs a pair of runners on base and a bunt by C.T. Bradford led to the tying run. Bradford's bunt toward third was fielded by catcher Joel Fisher, who committed a throwing error on the play, allowing a run to score.
The next two Bulldog batters both tired break the tie by bringing in runners from third with bunts, but Vieaux threw out both at home plate to keep it a tie game.
But the Spartans couldn't get the final out in the inning before a pair of RBI singles gave Mississippi State a 4-2 lead. Daniel Garner and Cody Walker both drove in runs with back-to-back singles to give the Bulldogs the lead for good.
Mitchell retired the Spartans in order in the ninth to earn his first win of the season. He tossed 6.2 innings in relief, allowing just two hits.
VanVossen took the loss as he went 7.0 innings, yielding two runs (one earned) off four hits.
Eastern Illinois (2-7) scored a solo run in the top of the second inning of game one and the score held until the top of the seventh when the Panthers added a pair of runs on two base hits to make it 3-0.
The top of the seventh also spelled the end of starter Justin Alleman's outing. In 6.1 innings of work, Alleman yielded three runs off five hits, struck out five batters and walked two.
Trailing 3-0, in the bottom of the eighth inning, a leadoff walk to Fisher followed by a single by Anthony Cheky put the Spartans in position to get on the board. The next batter, PJ Nowak, reached on a fielder's choice and a throwing error on the play allowed Fisher to score, making it 3-1.
Richardson cut the deficit to one on a two-out RBI single down the right field line. MSU was then able to load the bases and when Salter was plunked by a pitch, the tying run came across to score.
Joe Mockbee started the top of the ninth, but left with two out and two runners on Jeff Kinley took over and hit the first batter he faced to load the bases. However, Kinley was able to respond and get the next batter to end the threat and keep the game tied, 3-3.
Checky doubled to give the Spartans a threat in the bottom of the ninth, but MSU couldn't come up with another hit in the frame to bring him around to score.
The Panthers blew the game open in the 10th, scoring seven runs off three hits and a pair of Spartan errors.
RBI singles by Salter and Ryan Krill weren't enough to bring the Spartans back in the bottom of the 10th as the game finished, 10-5.
Kinley was tagged with his first loss of the year, while EIU's Joe Greenfield earned the win, pitching 2.0 innings.
The Spartans will continue play in The Diamond Classic tomorrow when they take on Mississippi State at 5:30 p.m. ET.