RICHMOND, Va. -- Behind 19 strikeouts by its pitching staff, Michigan State baseball topped Campbell, 3-1, Friday in the opening game of the Richmond Spider Invitational at Richmond’s Pitt Field.
Sophomore starting pitcher Alex Troop fired a career-high 10 strikeouts in five innings, while junior reliever Jake Lowery also struck out a career high with eight Ks in four innings of relief, including striking out the side in the eighth and getting all three outs via strikeouts in the seventh. Sophomore closer Riley McCauley got the final out on a strikeout in the bottom of the ninth after senior reliever Joe Mockbee got the first two key outs in lefty-lefty match-ups. The 19 strikeouts is the most since at least 2006, according to available records.
“We pitched extremely well today,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., said. “For Alex Troop to go five innings and strike out 10, I thought it was a dominant performance by him. The bullpen was outstanding as well, striking out nine guys in four innings. Once we got that lead, we feel really good about our pitching staff and bullpen and those guys were as advertised today. Bryce Kelley made a big play to take away the three-run homer in the sixth and we coasted through the last three innings.”
With the win, MSU improved to 10-4 while Campbell lost its second in a row in slided to 7-11. Friday was the first meeting between the Spartans and Camels since 1998 and the sixth overall with the series now tied at 3-3.
Junior center fielder Brandon Hughes led the Spartans’ effort at the plate, going 2-for-3 as MSU rapped out six hits. Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando was 1-for-4 with a two-run double in the fourth for MSU’s first runs of the game, while Troop was 1-for-1 with a double in his only at bat as designated hitter.
“Offensively, I thought we had some chances, and left some chances out there, but we took advantage of one opportunity and Royce had a big double to give us the lead, Boss said. “It was a good day overall, when you can pitch like that, you’re going to win a lot of ballgames.”
After leaving a runner on base in each the first and third innings, the Spartans broke through in the fourth as Hughes started the rally with a two-out bunt single. Junior designated hitter Chad Roskelly followed, reaching on a fielder’s choice chopper to short that Hughes beat the throw to second. Ando was up next and after smacking a laser just inside the bag at third on first pitch, later smacked on inside the bag and down the line for a two-run, two-out double to plate Hughes and Roskelly.
MSU added a run in the top of the fifth, as freshman right fielder Bryce Kelley led off by reaching on a Campbell throwing error and moved up to second on a sacrifice bunt by fellow freshman, left fielder Danny Gleaves. Kelley advanced to third on a single by senior second baseman Dan Durkin. Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina was up next and flew out to right, but Campbell right fielder Jeff Hahs tried to double off Durkin at first, but the throw was wild, allowing Kelley to score, but the rally ended with the bases loaded before the Spartans could score anymore.
Campbell got on the board in the sixth, getting the first two on after a hit by pitch and a single off Troop, and MSU brought in Lowery. After striking out the first two batters, Kyle Mehl followed with an RBI double to put the Camels on the board. Campbell pinch hitter Jimmy Monaghan belted a high, deep fly ball to right that Kelley caught while leaping and crashing into the wall, robbing the three-run home run to end the inning and keep the score 3-1.
The Spartans continue Spider Invitational action on Saturday, March 18, taking on host Richmond at 2 p.m. before wrapping up with Cornell on Sunday, March 19 at 10 a.m.
Michigan State’s home opener is Wednesday, March 22 at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field against in-state foe Central Michigan at 3:05 p.m.