March 23, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State baseball team defeated Oakland, 2-1, in the 2012 home opener Friday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium. Tony Wieber delivered the game-winning hit with an RBI double in the bottom of the eighth inning that drove home Jordan Keur from first base as the Spartans (11-7) won for the seventh time in eight games.
Wieber then recorded the final two outs in the ninth to collect his 14th career save, which ties an MSU school record along with Brad Lamont.
"Tony Wieber is a competitor," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "He came up in a big situation and was able to hit a ball hard and fortunately we had a guy on first base (Keur) that could run a little bit and was able to score. Then he came in the ninth and closed it down, and that's what he's done for us all year long. Fortunately today we had the right guys up in the right spots late in the ballgame and it worked out."
MSU, which began the year 0-4 in one-run contests, has now won four consecutive games that have been decided by one run.
"At the end of the day, you need to win, and we did that," said Boss after the victory, which was played in a steady rain all afternoon. "It was a tough day, especially with the weather on and off and if we were going to play or not. Our older guys did a nice job of making plays when we needed to make plays."
Spartan starter Tony Bucciferro took the no decision although he didn't allow an earned run in his seven innings of work. Oakland (3-14) scored an unearned run in the top of the first as leadoff batter Tim Ryan reached on a throwing error by shortstop Justin Scanlon, then stole two bases before getting knocked in by Aaron Cieslak.
"I think Tony would admit that he didn't have his best stuff today, but he really competed," commented Boss. "We have a lot of guys that could learn an awful lot from Tony and the way he competed today. He gave us a chance to win. Even if he doesn't have his best stuff, we know we're going to get a great effort out of him, and that's what a No. 1 has to do on Friday."
Michigan State tied it at 1 in the bottom of the third. Jared Hook led off with a double to right-center, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Anthony Cheky, and scored on a Ryan Jones sacrifice fly. Jones also collected two of MSU's seven hits.
After the first inning, Bucciferro received great support in the field, including diving stops by Jones at second in the fourth and Jimmy Pickens in right field in the sixth.
"Ryan Jones is as good of a player as there is in the Big Ten in my opinion," Boss remarked. "He played really well defensively, swung the bat well, and really gave us a chance."
The game remained scoreless until the eighth, as Keur reached first on a walk and came around to score on Wieber's RBI double. On a 3-2 count, Wieber fouled off three straight pitches before connecting for his double.
"He was pitching me well and got me to a full count, and I was just kind of battling," said Wieber. "Sometimes you end up striking out, and sometimes he leaves one over the middle and you get a hit. That just happened to be me today."
In the ninth, David Garner came on to attempt his first save of the season, but was hit in the back on a stolen base attempt and had to exit the game. With one out and a runner on second, Wieber finished off the Grizzlies for his fifth save of the season with a strikeout and popout to end the game.
Kevin Korkate (0-1) suffered the loss for the Grizzlies, while OU starter Jeff Gorecki scattered five hits and allowed just one run in six innings in the no decision.
Spartan reliever Jeff Kinley (2-2) pitched a scoreless eighth to pick up his second win of the year.
Michigan State improved to 3-1 on Opening Day games at McLane Baseball Stadium.
"It wasn't even a nice day, and a lot of people were out here," said Wieber on playing at home after spending the first month on the road. "Especially after last year, sharing the Big Ten and getting a lot of fan support, it's definitely nice playing in front of your home fans."
Michigan State and Oakland return for game two of the series Saturday at 1:05 p.m. at McLane Baseball Stadium.