Spartans Complete Their First-Ever Three-Game Sweep of Minnesota
April 10, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - For the first time in school history, the Michigan State baseball team swept Minnesota in a series of three games or more after defeating the Gophers, 6-4, Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 1,327 at McLane Baseball Stadium. With the score tied at 4 in the bottom of the seventh, senior first baseman Jeff Holm hit a two-run homer to right field to give the Spartans the victory, their 20th of the season.
Michigan State (20-7) also improved to 5-1 in the Big Ten and sits at the top of the conference standings alone after two weekends of league play. Minnesota fell to 10-12 (2-4). MSU won on Friday in game one of the series, 4-2, and shut out the Gophers on Saturday for the first time since 1991, 2-0.
"It feels good," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "That's an outstanding program and they've been the class of the Big Ten for a long, long time. Sweeps are tough to come by. We feel pretty fortunate to have played well all weekend."
In a series that dates all the way back to 1925, Michigan State had defeated Minnesota in a two-game series twice (1954 and 1965), but never in a series of three or more games. It also marks the first time MSU has claimed back-to-back series wins over Minnesota after taking two of three games last season in Minneapolis.
Before Holm's blast gave MSU a 6-4 lead in the seventh, neither team could go up by more than one run. Holm finished the day 2-for-4 with three RBIs and was 5-for-12 (.417) with two homers and six RBIs in the series.
"That's what we need out of our leaders, and he's a captain," Boss said on Holm. "We need him to lead our guys - that's why he hits in the middle of the order."
Ryan Jones hit a leadoff single to right field to start the Spartan seventh, setting the stage for Holm's game-winning homer that sailed well over the 16-foot fence in right.
"(Tom Windle) was throwing me inside, so I figured he would be coming in there. He threw me a slider for a strike, and the next pitch was a slider in the same spot, and I got lucky with it," said Holm of the homer, his team-leading fourth of the season.
The Gophers got the scoring going with a run in the top of the first, but MSU answered with single runs in the second and third to take a 2-1 advantage. Joel Fisher delivered a two-out RBI single to left in the second that scored Justin Scanlon to tie the game at 1.
In the third, a bizarre play gave Michigan State its first lead. With Brandon Eckerle on third and Jones at first with no outs, Holm crushed a fly ball deep to center, and the ball dropped in for a hit after Gopher center field Dustin Gominsky lost it in the sun. Anticipating a catch, Jones remained on the bag at first to tag up, but Holm passed Jones on the bathpaths after seeing the ball landed safely in center. Holm was credited with an RBI single on the play.
Freshman starter David Garner, in his first appearance at McLane Baseball Stadium, settled in after the first inning with two scoreless frames in the second and third; however, an errant pickoff throw to first base in the fourth led to an unearned run that tied it at 2.
MSU reclaimed the lead at 3-2 in the bottom of the inning on a two-out RBI single off the bat of freshman Jeff Kinley.
The cat-and-mouse game between the Gophers and Spartans continued into the fifth, as Minnesota scored once to tie it at 3, only to see MSU go back up 4-3 after a Jared Hook two-out RBI single.
Tony Wieber relieved Garner with no outs and a runner on first in the seventh, and promptly picked off Trip Schultz at first before getting AJ Petterson to ground out. But Minnesota answered as Gominksy hit a two-out double and scored on a Dan Olinger single up the middle, tying the game once again at 4. Garner struck out five in his six innings and allowed three runs, two earned, in the no decision.
"He's a talented kid," Boss said of Garner. "He was drafted out of high school and decided to come to Michigan State. I think the future is really bright for him."
Following Holm's homer in the bottom of the seventh that put MSU up 6-4, Wieber pitched a scoreless eighth, including another pickoff in the inning. Junior Bryce Jenney came on the mound to close it in the ninth with a 1-2-3 inning to earn his third save of the season. Wieber (3-0) picked up the win and is now 7-0 in his two-year career.
Windle (2-1) took the loss for Minnesota, scattering four hits in his 1.2 innings, including the homer to Holm.
On a picturesque spring day that saw temperatures reach the mid-70s, the crowd was also impressive at McLane Baseball Stadium on Sunday.
"We have a beautiful ballpark and had an outstanding crowd here today," said Boss. "It's exciting for our kids to play at home in front of a great crowd and playing against a good opponent - that's what college baseball I think should be about."
"We got a great crowd on a great day," said Holm. "I think word is spreading that we're for real this year. Hopefully they'll keep coming out to support us."
Michigan State returns to action for a doubleheader against Oakland on Tuesday, April 22 at Cooley Law School Stadium in Downtown Lansing.
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