April 21, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State baseball team split a doubleheader with Minnesota Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium. The Spartans (25-13, 6-5 Big Ten) claimed a 3-2 victory on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the 11th inning in game one, but had their five-game winning streak snapped with a 4-2 loss in game two.
Game one was a pitcher's duel not only between two of the top starting pitchers in the Big Ten, but also two of the best relievers.
Big Ten strikeout leader Tony Bucciferro went toe-to-toe with Gopher ace TJ Oakes, who entered the game ranked No. 1 in the Big Ten in ERA, innings pitched and wins.
The Gophers (23-18, 7-4) got to Bucciferro early with three hits and one run in the first, but MSU tied it in the third on a Jordan Keur RBI single.
After four scoreless innings, Gopher catcher Matt Hallaron delivered a run-scoring single in the sixth to knot the game at 2.
Bucciferro exited the game with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh, giving way to Jeff Kinley. The sophomore lefty got out of the jam, getting Dan Olinger to ground out to second base.
Oakes also pitched 6 2/3 innings and left runners on first and second for Gopher southpaw Tom Windle. Against his first batter, Windle got Boss to pop up to the catcher, ending the Spartan threat.
Bucciferro struck out five and allowed two runs and eight hits in his 6 2/3 innings, while Oakes fanned six, scattered six hits, and gave up two runs.
Kinley and Windle continued the pitching duel into the 11th inning. Kinley, who hasn't allowed a run in his last eight outings, only allowed one hit in 4 1/3 innings and struck out four.
Meanwhile, Windle was also cruising until running into trouble in the 11th. Joel Fisher's two-out single placed runners on first and third, knocking Windle out of the game in favor of closer Kevin Kray.
Kray proceeded to walk Jones, loading the bases, then walked Boss on five pitches to bring home Jimmy Pickens from third for the game-winning run.
It marked the Spartans' third walk-off win of the season and improved their record to 5-0 in extra-inning games.
Kinley earned his team-leading fifth win of the season, while Windle (2-3) took the loss.
Jones led the Spartans at the plate with three hits and two runs, while Boss drove in two runs with his double and walk in the 11th.
"We showed some character in game one - we had a big at bat when we needed it," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "We got a great pitching performance out of Jeff Kinley; he came in and was just lights out. He held us there and kept us in the ballgame. The pitchers did what they have done all year long, and that's give us a chance to win. We were fortunate enough to get one across there in extra innings and come away with a big win."
Michigan State looked to keep its winning streak going in game two after the walk-off win in game one, and took an early 1-0 lead in the first on a Ryan Krill RBI groundout. Unfortunately for the Spartans, they left four runners on base in the first two innings and couldn't convert any more scoring chances into runs.
The Gophers came right back in the top of the second to take a 2-1 lead, and extended their lead to 4-1 in the fifth, scoring both runs with two outs and no one on base.
After the first two innings, MSU struggled against Gopher starter DJ Snelton, as he faced the minimum number of batters through the next four innings. Snelton allowed an RBI groundout from Pickens in the seventh, but that's all the Spartans could get against the sophomore left-hander. Snelton (4-2) threw his first complete game of the season on 121 pitches, scattering seven hits with three strikeouts.
Spartan starter Andrew Waszak (4-3) suffered the loss after surrendering four runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings.
"We scored first, which was big, and had a chance to gain a lot more momentum and missed some opportunities, which was disappointing," said Boss on game two. "Against a good ballclub, you have to take advantage of those opportunities when you get them. We didn't do that, and they capitalized on a few of theirs. That was the story of the ballgame. You need to credit Minnesota and their pitching staff, they really threw it well all day long."
The third and final game of the series is set for Sunday at McLane Baseball Stadium, beginning at 1:05 p.m. A live audio broadcast will be available at SpartanSportsNetwork.com.