Baseball Stages Dramatic Rally
Mike Wagner's ninth-inning blast lifts Spartans.
March 24, 1998
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - Michigan State junior Mike Wagner's dramatic three-run home run with two outs in the ninth capped a five-run ninth-inning, as the Spartans knocked off Western Michigan, 5-4, in Kalamazoo.
For 26 outs, Bronco pitchers kept MSU off the board, scattering singles while not allowing a Spartan past second base, as WMU jumped out to a 4-0 lead. But with just one out between themselves and defeat, Michigan State awoke, pouring in five runs. After two Spartans scored to cut the WMU lead to 4-2, Wagner delivered with a 400-foot blast beyond the left-center field wall to put MSU up to stay, 5-4.
The victory extends Michigan State's three-game winning streak, as the Spartans even their record at 8-8. Casey Reader (1-1) came on in the eighth to pick up his first victory as a Spartan. Reliever Chris Yens picked up his second save of the season, coming in out of the bullpen to get MSU out of trouble. Western Michigan drops to 4-9 following the defeat. The Broncos' Eric Place, who fell victim to all five Spartan runs in the ninth, took the loss to drop to 1-3.
The Spartans had their difficulties early in the ball game, as Bronco starter John Stewart threw seven strong innings, fanning eight and keeping MSU off the base paths. While Stewart was going through the Michigan State lineup, Western Michigan slowly built a 4-0 advantage, picking up single runs in the third, fourth, fifth and eighth innings. But with Place on the hill in the ninth, the Spartans went to work.
Down 4-0 in the final frame, Joe Kalczynski opened the ninth by lining out to center. Third baseman Mike Pisani followed with a blooper down the right field line. The ball dropped just inches out of the reach of a diving WMU right fielder Kris Gundrum, and a mere six inches inside the foul line for a two-bagger, just the first of MSUis fortunate breaks in the final inning. But next batter Carlos Fernandez flied to right, leaving the Spartans down four with one out left.
Freshman Eric Doyle came on to pinch-hit, pairing his right-handed bat against the southpaw Place. The Bronco hurler got Doyle to ground what looked to be the final out to the right of Bronco first baseman Derek Ottevaere. But the ball skipped under his glove and into right field, allowing Doyle to reach first and scoring Pisani from second, putting MSU on the board.
Following a walk to Scott Colvin, Place threw his second-base pickoff attempt into center field, allowing Doyle to move to third. Sophomore second baseman Ted Demetral fought off Placeis efforts before lining sharply into left-center field, scoring Doyle to cut the Bronco lead to 4-2. That put runners at first and second for Wagner.
Wagner promptly crushed Place's first offering, a belt-high changeup, over the left-center field wall for a dramatic three-run round-tripper to cap the Spartans' improbable five-run, two-out rally. The Spartan leadoff man, it marked Wagner's second home run of the year.
After the Broncos retired the last out of the Spartan ninth, WMU looked to tie the score, as pinch-hitter Derek Lindsay led off the bottom half of the inning with a walk off MSU reliever Casey Reader. MSU closer Chris Yens, who rushed to the Spartan pen following Wagner's blast, then came on put out the fire. Following a sacrifice bunt to put the tying run in scoring position with one out, Yens delivered with help from his outfield, who raced down a pair of line outs to retire the side, sealing the victory for the Spartans.
Michigan State banged out ten hits on the day, marking the eighth time this season it has reached double figures, including the last three games. Tom Grigg, Fernandez and Demetral each had two hits.
Spartan Head Coach Ted Mahan looked to get his starting rotation some innings before their conference-opening series with Iowa on Mar. 27-29. Southpaw Mark Mulder started, working two innings, facing the minimum six batters. Veteran Brian Murphy and sophomore lefty Gary Zsigo followed with two innings each. The bullpen then came on in the seventh, as freshman Scott Brandell worked a 1-2-3 seventh. Reader and Yens combined to finish off the eighth and ninth frames. Lost in the heroics of Wagner was the catching of Kalczynski, who threw out all three runners trying to steal against him, including picking off Gundrum at third to stall a potential Bronco rally in the eighth. The 6-4 sophomore has now thrown out 60% (6-10) of runners trying to steal against him this season. The Spartans played errorless ball for the ninth game this season, raising their team fielding percentage to .976. That would be the highest team percentage in the history of the Michigan State program, bettering the .975 mark of 1989, when MSU led the nation in fielding percentage.
Michigan State has announced a game with Wayne State on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., at Kobs Field. The Spartans will hook up with WSU to help them prepare for Iowa, as last weekend's four-game set with Illinois was cancelled. Freshman John Steiger, who struck out eight in five shutout innings in his collegiate debut on Mar. 11 vs Campbell, will start for the Spartans.
_____________________________________________ Michigan State 000 000 005 - 5 10 0 Western Michigan 001 110 010 - 4 7 2 MSU: Mulder, Murphy (3), Zsigo (5), Brandell (7), READER (8), Yens (9) and Kalczynski WMU: Stewart, Place (8), Busch (9) and Richards W: Casey Reader (1-1) L: Eric Place (1-3) Sv.: Chris Yens (2) HR: Joel DeVisser, WMU (1) HR: Mike Wagner, MSU (2)
NOTES: Wagner's home run was just the second Spartan round-tripper in the last 12 games.Brandell has lowered his ERA to 2.79 (tops in the MSU pen), as he leads the Spartans in appearances (six). Junior outfielder Tom Hartley made his first appearance since a hand injury on Mar. 9. He played left field as a defensive replacement in the last half of the ninth after lefty Joe Albaugh was pinch-hit for MSU is now 1-5 in one-run games. Head Coach Ted Mahan is now two wins shy of career victory number 50Oe. With two hits, Carlos Fernandez now leads the team in hitting (.368). The Spartans are 6-3 with Joe Kalczynski behind the plate..