March 16, 2012
CINCINNATI, Ohio - Michigan State senior right-hander Tony Bucciferro struck out a career-high 10 and won the 23rd game of his career as the Spartans topped Cincinnati, 4-3, Friday night at Marge Schott Stadium.
"Tonight was one of our more complete games we've played all year, which is encouraging," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "We continue to pitch very well, we played solid defense, and we finally got some timely hits when we needed them."
Bucciferro (3-1) moved into a tie for fourth in all-time victories at MSU, along with Larry Ike and Brian Wolcott. Bucciferro also eclipsed the 200-strikeout mark for his career, becoming just the third Spartan in history to record at least 200 K's. His previous career high was nine strikeouts, a feat he accomplished four times. He now has 207 strikeouts for his career.
Cincinnati (8-7) answered with two runs in the bottom of the first, but it would be the only runs Bucciferro would give up. He retired 10 straight batters at one point, spanning the second through fifth innings.
"Cincinnati is a good club - they capitalized early on Tony, but he settled down and really threw well," said Boss. "I was really proud of him tonight and I'm happy for him that he set a career high in strikeouts."
MSU took the lead for good in the sixth. Pickens, who led off the inning with double to left center, scored on a two-out RBI single off the bat of John Martinez.
"Those two (Krill and Pickens) are really gaining valuable experience," remarked Boss. "Jimmy connected well on his double, and Ryan came through with a big run in the fourth. It was great to see them help contribute to the win."
The Spartans added to their advantage with another run in the seventh as Boss knocked in Jordan Keur with an RBI double. Boss went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and walk, while Keur also produced two hits.
Bucciferro was relieved in the eighth by junior lefty Trey Popp. Popp, who has been effective all season, allowed three hits to his four batters, including a leadoff homer that trimmed MSU's lead to 4-3. The Bearcats also collected a single and a double off Popp, putting runners on second and third with just one out for David Garner.
Garner began his outing with a strikeout, but followed it with a walk to load the bases with two outs. He got out of the jam by striking out Kiley Jones looking.
In the ninth, Tony Wieber fanned all three batters he faced to pick up his fourth save of the season and the 13th of his career. He is just one save away from tying Brad Lamont for the school record.
"David really did a good job tonight and pitched smart," commented Boss. "He wasn't going to give in with a base open on the walk, and then finished the inning with a strikeout. And Tony continued to look great by striking out the side in the ninth."
Overall, Spartan pitchers recorded 15 strikeouts in the game.
Bearcat starter Christian McElroy (1-1) surrendered six hits and three runs in 5 2/3 innings in the loss, which snapped UC's four-game winning streak.
Game two of the series is set for Saturday at 4 p.m. Gametracker will be available at msuspartans.com, and live video and audio will be available at GoBearcats.com.