RICHMOND, Va. -- Michigan State baseball was clipped by Cornell, 2-1, Sunday in the Spartans’ final game of the Richmond Spider Invitational at Richmond’s Pitt Field.
MSU ends Invitational action with a 2-1 record, having beaten Campbell on Friday, 5-2, and routed host Richmond, 13-4, on Saturday. Cornell improves to 6-3 on the season, also finishing Invitational play with a 2-1 mark. Sunday was the first meeting on the diamond between the Spartans and Big Red since 1973, and the series record is now 4-2 in MSU’s favor.
Junior right-handed starting pitcher Andrew Gonzalez went 6.2 innings, scattering seven hits while yielding two runs and striking out four. The innings pitched and strikeouts were both season-highs for the Spartan junior hurler. Gonzalez was issued the loss, leveling his record at 1-1. Sophomore righty reliever Nathan Witt threw the final 2.1 innings, holding Cornell to just two hits while firing three strikeouts.
“I thought that Andrew Gonzalez and Nathan Witt both threw very well, certainly threw well enough to win,” MSU head coach Jake Boss said. “I’m certainly disappointed in our offensive effort today. We gave ourselves a couple opportunities early and couldn’t cash in on it, and that kind of set the tone for the game.”
Cornell starter Paul Balestrieri went 7.1 innings, limiting MSU to a season-low four hits and just one run, while walking three and striking out four. With the win, Balestrieri improved to 3-0 on the season and lowered his ERA to 0.93.
“Credit their guy on the mound, Balestrieri, because he made pitches when he needed to,” Boss said. “I’m just a little disappointed in how we competed at the plate today. We need to be better as we open up our home season and then our Big Ten season both next week.”
MSU hosts in-state foe Central Michigan in the Spartans’ home opener, currently scheduled for Wednesday, March 22 before opening Big Ten play at Illinois on Friday, March 24.
Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina was 1-for-2 Sunday and scored the Spartans’ lone run after leading off the sixth inning with a triple. Junior center fielder Brandon Hughes was 1-for-4 with two stolen bases, while sophomore shortstop Royce Ando was also 1-for-4, swiping one base. Senior catcher Matt Byars had MSU’s other hit, going 1-for-4.
The Big Red scored two runs in the second after Josh Arndt smacked a two-run double down the left field line and into the corner.
MSU tried to counter in the third, loading the bases with two outs, but the rally fizzled, leaving the bases full of Spartans and no runs.
Michigan State did get on the board in the sixth as Bechina led off with a triple to the corner in right field. After sophomore designated hitter Alex Troop walked, junior first baseman Zack McGuire grounded into a double play, but was enough to allow Bechina to scamper home, cutting Cornell’s lead in half at 2-1.
The Big Red threatened to open a two-run lead or more in the next half-inning, getting the leadoff hitter on, but was quickly erased with a double play and the inning later ended on a fielder’s choice, leaving two one for Cornell.
MSU tried to rally in the eighth, as Hughes led off by reaching on an error and the Spartans later loaded the bases with only one out. However, the Big Red’s reliever Matt Horton got back-to-back strikeouts to thwart the Spartan threat.
Witt chalked up a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to work around a one-out single in the Cornell ninth, giving MSU a chance to tie for win the game in the ninth.
Byars reached on a one-out error to start the Spartan rally and after a strikeout, Hughes stepped to the plate. Hughes crushed a high, deep fly ball into the Richmond air towards right that Cornell right fielder Dale Wickham caught at the wall to end both the rally and the game.
Michigan State’s home opener is currently scheduled for Wednesday, March 22 at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field against in-state foe Central Michigan at 3:05 p.m. Fans should stay tuned to www.MSUSpartans.com or follow MSU Baseball on twitter at statebaseball for any schedule updates.