Erla Stymies Illinois In 4-2 Victory For MSU Saturday
Redshirt-freshman hurler Erla holds high-powered Illini offense to just one hit over 6.1 IP.
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Mason Erla and the Michigan State baseball team stymied Illinois, 4-2, Saturday, snapping the Illini's seven-game win streak, in the final game of the First Pitch Invitational, played at Fluor Field, home of the Greenville Drive, in Greenville, S.C.
"I'm really happy for our guys, it was a good way for us to finish our trip," MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. "That's a good win, that Illinois team has really been playing well, they've really been swinging the bat well and for Mason to come out and do what he did tonight I though was another great effort. It was a great outing on his part."
Erla got help from the defense behind him, making several great plays in the field, as well as at the plate, as eight of the nine players in the lineup had at least one hit.
"We're showing some signs of hopefully breaking out a little bit offensively with 12 hits tonight, with four guys with multiple hits," Boss said. "Defensively, I thought we moved the baseball pretty well in some spots that maybe we haven't up to this point, so we made some productive outs. But all-in-all I thought this was a really good team win, we played some great defense, our outfielders played outstanding defense all night tonight and kept those guys in check for the first time in a long while, because like I said, they've been rolling and playing really well. I'm very pleased with the effort out of our guys."
Erla limited a high-powered Illinois offense to just one hit over 6.1 IP, striking out five, to improve to 2-0 on the season and his third-straight solid outing.
"Mason's got electric stuff. He's got a big fast ball and an outstanding breaking ball, he's able to locate on both sides of the plate, which really makes him effective. It's easier said than done, especially against a very offensive club that's put up big numbers the last couple weeks. It's Mason's third good outing in a row and it's our third win in a row in the final game of a weekend, so we need Mason to continue to do that and it gives us a good chance to win every time he takes the mound," Boss said.
Illinois came into Saturday evening's game against MSU on a seven-game win streak and hitting .261, including four players hitting over .300. In their first two games of the First Pitch Invitational, the Illini had scored a combined 29 runs on 29 hits. The Illini beat the Spartans, 15-4, Friday afternoon and topped Furman, 14-5, Saturday afternoon before facing MSU.
On the season entering Saturday's game vs. MSU, Illinois was averaging 8.8 hits per game and hitting .261 on the season, but Erla, along with sophomore relievers Mike Mokma and Mitchell Tyranski kept the Illini in check. Erla retired the first four Illini batters he faced and at one point from the fourth to the seventh frames, he retired 10 in a row.
Mokma went 1.1 innings, while Tyranksi also went 1.1 innings, getting a key groundout to end the eighth, then working around a leadoff single in the ninth, getting a flyout to end the game and collect the first save of his career.
With the win, MSU improved to 4-10 on the season, while Illinois is now 8-4. The Spartans have now beaten the Illini in four of the last five meetings, closing the gap in the all-time series to 77-70. Illinois finished the First Pitch Invitational with a 2-1 record, while MSU was 1-2 and Furman was 1-1.
Offensively, freshman first baseman Zach Iverson was 2-for-4 with two runs scored, while the keystone corner combo of junior second baseman Royce Ando and freshman shortstop Ryan King were also both 2-for-4. Ando had an RBI and a run scored. Sophomore left fielder Bryce Kelley was 2-for-5, as the Spartans rapped out 12 hits. Sophomore center fielder Danny Gleaves had one hit and swiped two bases.
The Spartan defense also got some nice glove work in the field, with all three outfielders, Kelley, Gleaves and right fielder Dan Chmielewski flashing the leather with some nice catches. Kelley had one of his web gems of the day in the Illinois first, while Chmielewski had a shoe-top snag in the seventh, and Gleaves ran down numerous potential extra base hits that became flyouts.
MSU took its first lead of the weekend in the second stanza, as Iverson scooted home from third on a passed ball for a 1-0 advantage.
The Spartans tacked on two runs in the fourth, with Iverson and Ando opening the inning with back-to-back singles, and later coming around to score on RBI singles by freshman catcher Adam Proctor and Gleves, respectively, and MSU had a 3-0 lead.
Illinois closed to 3-1 in the top of the seventh, taking advantage of a pair of walks, ending Erla's night, and later scoring a run on balk, but MSU got out of the jam with a lineout to center.
The two-run gap was short-lived as the Spartans responded with a run after the seventh-inning stretch, with freshman designated hitter Justin Antoncic sparking the rally with a walk. Antoncic then moved to third on a King single and later scored on an RBI groundout by Ando for a 3-1 MSU lead.
Illinois tried to rally in the eighth, capitalizing on MSU's lone error of the game, but Tyranski came on and got a key groundout to thwart the threat and end the inning and keeping the Illini at bay in the ninth as well to secure the victory for MSU.
The Spartans now return home to East Lansing, where they'll host their home opener on Thursday, March 15, hosting Niagara in a four-game series, Thursday-Sunday, March 15-18 at Kobs Field at McLane Stadium.