GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Michigan State baseball completed its weekend sweep over Fresno State with an 8-2 victory Sunday afternoon at a sunbathed Fifth Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids. The Spartans relocated the three-game series due to wet field conditions at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field after the Red Cedar River overflowed throughout the MSU campus.
Sunday’s win capped the Spartans’ three-game sweep, out-scoring Fresno State by a total of 27-11 on the weekend after sweeping Saturday’s doubleheader 10-4 and 9-5. With the win, MSU improves to 18-10 overall while Fresno State slid to 16-15.
“I’m really proud of our guys. Fresno State is an outstanding program. Coach Batesole has a national championship ring, so it’s a program with a lot of tradition and one of the more respected programs in the country. To get them here to play in a non-conference weekend, first of all, is a testament to them in their willingness to go out and play some good competition,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., said.
This weekend was the first-ever regular-season meeting between the Spartans and Bulldogs, with the only previous match-up coming in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, won by Fresno State.
“For us to win three games against a tough program like that just makes me really proud of our guys. We knew we had to play extremely well. We knew they were going to pitch extremely well, they compete and they play hard, and they did all of that this weekend. Fortunately for us, we were able to score in some big situations and put them together in bunches. Our bullpen threw really well after our starting pitching was really good. We played very well all weekend long,” Boss said.
The Spartans got their bats going early, plating three runs in the first inning.
“We had a fast start today. We’ve talked about getting out of the gates quickly and fortunately we were able to do that today. I felt like we left a couple of opportunities on the field in the first couple innings, but credit to their pitcher, he started to settle in and we were able to come back with some big at bats in the fourth and a couple in the fifth, and just kind of methodically coming at guys. It was a good approach by our guys all day long,” Boss said.
Sophomore designated hitter Alex Troop was 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored, belting a home run and a triple. Junior center fielder Brandon Hughes was 2-for-4 with three RBI. Senior catcher Matt Byars was 1-for-3 with a two-run home run.
On the mound, junior right-hander Andrew Gonzalez went 6.0 innings, scattering four hits while striking out two, only allowing a two-run home run to Jesse Medrano in the second. Boss and the Spartans turned the last three innings over to the bullpen and behind the combined effort of junior Jake Lowery, senior Walter Borkovich, sophomore Nathan Witt and freshman Mitchell Tyranski, who held Fresno State without a run.
“Gonzalez threw really well today. I thought he really just made one bad pitch that unfortunately, Medrano hit for a home run. Apart from that, Gonzalez really located well, he kept the ball down and he does what he does. It was another extremely solid outing by him today. He could have gone deeper into the game, but with a 7-2 lead in the seventh, I thought we needed to get some guys out of the pen some work and our bullpen is really good so we need to keep those guys fresh,” Boss said.
The three wins on the weekend snapped a five-game losing skid, including four one-run ballgames, so Boss and the Spartans were happy to get back on the winning track.
“We had talked on Thursday and Friday that maybe this was the best thing that could have happened to us as far as our team was concerned. We faced some adversity this weekend with not being able to play at home and having to get on the bus and having to drive nearly an hour and a half both ways to go play and going back-and-forth all weekend long. We knew it was going to be a long weekend and be taxing on them mentally and physically, but it was a good opportunity to regain some focus and get ourselves ready to play everyday, and to our guys’ credit they did that. Again, I’m just really proud of how they came to the park ready to play,” Boss said.
After a 1-2-3 top of the first inning, the Spartans scored three in the home half of the frame, as freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley led off with an infield single to shortstop. Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina followed with a walk, then senior second baseman Dan Durkin reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Troop walked to plate Kelley. The next batter was Hughes, who laced a two-run single up the middle to drive in Bechina and Durkin for a 3-0 Spartan lead.
The three-run advantage was short lived as Fresno State got within 3-2 on a two-run home run by Medrano.
That would be all the scoring until the bottom of the fourth when sophomore shortstop Royce Ando laced a two-out single to right. Byars then followed with a home run to left field. It was Byars’ second home run of the weekend after only one round-tripper entering this weekend.
The Spartans added two more in the home half of the fifth as Durkin sparked the rally getting hit by a pitch. Troop then smacked a triple just inside the bag at first and down into the right field corner to drive in Durkin. Hughes followed with an RBI single to plate Troop and put the Spartans ahead, 7-2.
Troop also scored MSU’s eighth run as he led off the eighth inning with a solo shot to right field for his third home run of the season.
Fresno State threatened to score in the ninth with a two-out rally after back-to-back hits, but Tyranski thwarted the threat with a strikeout to end the game with the 8-2 victory for MSU.
Michigan State will travel to Notre Dame on Tuesday, April 11 in South Bend, Indiana in MSU’s lone midweek game next week, concluding a five-game non-conference stretch.
The Spartans will then return to Big Ten Conference action by hosting Ohio State next weekend, Friday-Sunday, April 14-16, the third and final of three-straight home weekends.
Next weekend’s series is slated for McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, but fans should stay tuned to www.MSUSpartans.com or follow MSU Baseball on twitter at statebaseball for any schedule and location updates.