Tough Day For Spartans At First Pitch Invitational Friday
MSU suffers pair of defeats, losing to Illinois and Furman.
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Michigan State baseball was defeated by Illinois and Furman on Friday in the first day of action at the ninth-annual First Pitch Invitational, played at Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive, in Greenville, S.C.
The Spartans lost to Illinois, 15-4, in the opener, before battling back but falling to Furman, 3-2, in the nightcap of the day-night doubleheader as the weekend schedule was altered by inclement weather in the forecast for Sunday.
"It was a tough day for us all the way around," MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. "In the first game we allowed 14 free runners, we walked 12 guys and hit two, and that's not a recipe for winning games. Illinois took full advantage of the opportunities we gave them, and give them credit, but we need to be better all the way around, offensively, defensively and on the mound.
"Game two, I give our guys a lot of credit for coming back after an embarrassing loss that we had in game one, and our guys competed their tails off once again. I thought Ethan Landon threw well enough to win, but unfortunately we didn't give him enough support on the offensive side of it. So we need to be able to take advantage of opportunities when we do get them and that's been a struggle for us lately. We have a great opportunity to come back tomorrow and salvage one win down here. We thank all the people in Greenville that have made our stay so enjoyable."
MSU is now 3-10 on the season with six of the losses decided by two runs or less. Overall, MSU has now been involved in eight games so far this season that were decided by two or fewer runs. Illinois won its fifth-straight game in improving to 7-3 on the season, while Furman has won four in a row and six of its last seven in moving to 9-5 overall.
Friday's loss snapped a three-game win streak over Illinois, as the Illini now lead the all-time series, 77-69. MSU's loss to Furman also halted a Spartan win streak in the series, as Michigan State had won the previous two match-ups, but MSU still holds an 8-5 series edge.
In the opener, junior right fielder Dan Chmielewski was 3-for-5 with three singles all to left field, and scoring a run. Sophomore center fielder Danny Gleaves was 2-for-3, swiping three stolen bases and scoring a run. Junior third baseman Marty Bechina was 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
After seeing his hitting streak halted at six games in the day's first game, sophomore designated hitter Justin Antoncic was the only Spartan with multiple hits in the nightcap, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and stealing two bases. Freshman shortstop Ryan King had a double and junior catcher Nic Lacayo had MSU's other RBI.
Senior right-hander Ethan Landon went 7.0 IP, scattering seven hits while striking out four in the nightcap.
In the opener against Illinois, the Spartans threatened in the second, leading off with back-to-back singles by Bechina and Chmielewski, and later had bases loaded with two outs, but the MSU threat was thwarted with a fielder's choice to end the inning.
Illinois loaded the bases with one out in the third, but sophomore starting pitcher Riley McCauley got out of the jam with a strikeout and a lineout to right to thwart the threat.
However, the Illini got on board in the fourth inning, leading off with a single and double and taking advantage of an MSU error and two wild pitches to open a 2-0 lead.
Illinois plated three runs in the fifth and five in the sixth to open a 10-0 lead before MSU got on the board with two in the sixth. Bechina and Chmielewski had back-to-back one-out singles and later scored to close to 10-2.
The Illini and Spartans both scored two runs apiece in the seventh, with Illinois scoring its two runs on a two-run home run by Bren Spillane. Gleaves sparked the Spartan rally in the home half of the frame with a leadoff single and later stealing both second and third, scoring on an RBI fielder's choice by Bechina and freshman first baseman Zach Iverson scoring on an Illinois error, making the score 14-5 after seven. Illinois tacked on three in the top of the eighth for the final scoring, but not before MSU threatened in the ninth, loading the bases with two outs, but the rally fizzled with a strikeout to end the game.
In the nightcap, Furman opened the scoring in the top of the second, leading off with two singles, then taking advantage of a walk and a wild pitch for an early 1-0 lead.
The Paladins added a run in the fifth and another in the sixth, again stringing together a pair of base hits, before adding a third for an RBI and a 2-0 advantage.
After Furman pitcher Matt Lazzaro had a stretch of getting 13-straight outs in facing the minimum number of batters in that span, junior second baseman Royce Ando broke the streak with a single to center to lead off the sixth. However, the Spartans were unable to get a runner past second to thwart the threat.
MSU got on the board in the home half of the seventh, as Bechina had a one-out single, then King had a ground-rule double to right before Lacayo's RBI fielder's choice plated Bechina. The MSU rally fizzled with two on, but closing the gap to 3-1.
Sophomore relief pitcher Mike Mokma came on in the top of the eighth, and worked around a two-out single, getting a flyout to end the inning.
In the home half of the eighth, Chmielewski started an MSU rally with a two-out single and stole second. Antoncic followed with an RBI single up the middle to drive in Chmielewski for a 3-2 score, but the Spartans were unable to drive in the tying run.
After Mokma fired two strikeouts in setting the side down in order in the top of the ninth, MSU's rally in the bottom of the night also went down in order to end the game.
First Pitch Invitational action wraps up on Saturday after Fluor Field, with Illinois and Furman playing at 1 p.m., before MSU and Illinois conclude the weekend play at 5 p.m.