COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Michigan State baseball battled No. 10 South Carolina tough before falling, 5-2, Saturday evening.
The loss evens MSU’s Spring Break mark at 3-3 while sliding its overall record to 9-4. South Carolina improved to 11-5, winning its fourth in a row.
Junior right-handed starting pitcher Ethan Landon was dealt the loss. South Carolina’s Wil Crowe got the win, improving to 3-0 on the season, striking out nine while limiting the Spartans to three hits in 6.2 innings before giving way to Josh Reagan who went the final 2.1 innings and only allowed two hits.
“The last two nights we have faced two of the better arms in the country for sure. We missed out on some opportunities again tonight and I think that’s in part in credit to their guy. Crowe made pitches when he needed to make pitches and he just seemed to get better and better as the game wore on,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., said. “We got behind early, which was disappointing, but I’m proud of our guys for continuing to fight and getting back into it. I think I left Joe Mockbee in a couple pitches longer than I should have and just didn’t pull the trigger on it when I should have. I thought our bullpen was really good, I think they threw well tonight.”
Senior pitcher Joe Mockbee came on in the second and pitched 2.2 innings, before giving way to junior Jake Lowery for four batters, then freshman Mitchell Tyranski got a big match-up out and senior Walter Borkovich went the final 3.1 innings, only yielding two hits while striking out three.
“We made a move when we thought we needed to at that point just to try to keep the game within reach early. Because our bullpen is so deep and because Alex Troop went a complete game last night, we were all hands on deck tonight and knew we could go to them earlier tonight if we needed to. I thought Joe threw well. I wanted him to stay for the match-up with (Alex) Destino, but he was done at that point, throwing nearly 60 pitches. Freshman Mitchell Tyranski came in in a big spot with the bases loaded and got a big pop up. Walter Borkovich bounced back after having a tough night against Clemson and threw real well tonight,” Boss said.
After providing the highlights on the mound last night, pitching a complete game, Troop had the highlights at the plate Saturday, going 2-for-2 with a solo home run in the second. Senior catcher Matt Byars was 1-for-3 with a double, while senior second baseman Dan Durkin was 1-for-4 and scored the Spartans’ other run. Sophomore right fielder Dan Chmielewski had MSU’s other hit as part of a 1-for-4 outing.
“We thought Alex was a better match-up today. We thought Crowe was going to attack us the same way that Schmidt did last night. We thought with Alex being left-handed, it might better a match-up and he squared one up early and had a couple of really nice at bats and got a couple hits tonight. Alex is a talented kid. Chad (Roskelly) was swinging the bat so well for so long it was tough to get Troop back in the lineup. I was glad to get Alex some at bats tonight, he was very good and Chad is another very good option for us as far as DH is concerned. We’ll see how it plays out but it’s good to have a couple different options from either side of the plate.”
MSU was out-hit, 9-5, Saturday, after having a 9-3 advantage in the hits category Friday night.
“Some of the at bats were better tonight. I thought we hit some balls hard tonight, we just hit a couple balls right at some guys. We didn’t have as many hits as we did last night, but I think the approach is starting to get a little bit better, our two-strike approach still needs to be a little bit better, but when you’re facing the arms that these guys are running out there at us, they’re striking guys out right and left also. Part of that I think you can kind of understand, but at the end of the day we still need to be better,” Boss said.
The Spartans have lost their last three games on their Spring Break trip to South Carolina after winning the first three on their seven games in 10 days trek.
“We didn’t come down here just for the experience. This is a great park and we’ve played in great parks before. We’ve played in front of great crowds before and we’ve played some outstanding opponents before, so the experience isn’t the reason that we’re here, so it’s disappointing last night and tonight. Hopefully, we get one more chance tomorrow,” Boss said about Sunday’s series finale.
The home team got on the board with two runs in the home half of the first, taking advantage of a walk, single, wild pitch and a two-run single by Alex Destino for the early 2-0 lead.
The Spartans weren’t kept of the board long as Troop smacked the first pitch he saw from Crowe deep over the right field fence to cut the gap to 2-1.
Michigan State’s defense flashed some leather in the bottom of the fourth as sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina made a nice scoop and throw on the leadoff hitter, then two batters later made another nice play on a sac bunt to get the lead runner. Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando followed with another solid defensive scoop and throw.
South Carolina tacked on three in the top of the fifth, as Matt Williams led off with a home run to right, and the Gamecocks added a pair on a two-run double that bounced off first base and down the right field line, giving USC a 5-1 advantage.
In the seventh, Troop walked and Byars smacked a two-out double to left center to chase Crowe after putting Spartans on second and third, but Reagan thwarted the threat with a strikeout.
The visitors were able to cut the gap to 5-2 in the top of the eighth as Durkin sparked the rally by lacing a one out single to right. Reagan tried to pick Durkin off, but his throw was off the mark and went down the baseline and Durkin scooted to third. Bechina plated him on a groundout to second for the final scoring of the game.
MSU and USC wrap up their three-game weekend series on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Inclement weather is in the forecast for Sunday, so fans can follow @statebaseball on twitter for updates.