April 30, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Tony Wieber's sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning scored Jeff Holm for the game-winning run as the Michigan State baseball team edged Penn State, 5-4, Saturday afternoon before a season-high crowd of 2,187 at McLane Baseball Stadium.
With the win, the Spartans kept pace with Purdue for first place in the Big Ten standings at 9-5, as the Boilermakers defeated Indiana, 6-2, in West Lafayette, Ind.
Holm led Michigan State (26-13 overall) at the plate, going 3-for-5 with two runs scored, while Ryan Jones extended his hitting streak to 28 games with a double in the third. Jared Hook also had three hits and an RBI.
Down 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth, the Spartans rallied for single runs in the eighth and ninth to pull off the comeback, walk-off victory.
"I think our kids showed some character today," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "We lost the lead, we were able to tie it, and then we had a good ninth inning. Tony came through with a big at-bat when we needed him to."
Spartan starter Tony Bucciferro tied his career high with nine strikeouts in the no decision. Although he didn't get the victory, Bucciferro scattered seven hits and allowed three runs in his seven innings while throwing 104 pitches to keep Michigan State in the game.
"I felt good out there, I was able to hit my spots," said Bucciferro. "I was changing up speeds a lot and keeping them off balance, and that helped with the strikeouts. My changeup was a little slower and moved a lot more. I was able to locate that away and in. I love home games and the crowds - having this place packed gave me a lot of confidence. It was a fun atmosphere to play in."
"Tony throws his heart and soul out there on the mound," said Holm. "We told our guys we have to do it for him, because he can't pitch much better than that."
MSU went up quickly with a run in the top of the first. A walk to Jones and consecutive singles by Holm and Torsten Boss loaded the bases, and a Joel Fisher single to right field plated Jones from third; Holm, however, was thrown out at home on the play.
Penn State (25-15, 7-7) tied it at 1 on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third. The Nittany Lions went up 2-1 on a Sean Deegan RBI single in the top of the fifth, but the Spartans responded with two runs in the fifth to take a 3-2 lead as Boss and Hook provided RBI singles in the inning.
Bucciferro ran into trouble in the seventh, walking the leadoff batter and then allowing back-to-back singles. On the second hit, Louis Montesinos scored from second base, but Spartan left field Jordan Keur did throw out Ryan Clark at third base on the same play. Bucciferro struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam and keep the game tied at 3.
David Garner came in to relieve Bucciferro in the eighth, and Penn State promptly racked up a single and triple to take a 4-3 advantage. Garner settled down after the first two batters and got the next three in order, stranding Jordan Steranka at third base after his RBI triple gave PSU the lead.
Penn State starter John Walter lasted into the eighth, but was pulled after Hook singled and Wieber walked to start the inning. A bunt single by Keur loaded the bases for Justin Scanlon, who tied the game at 4 with a sacrifice fly to center field. MSU was unable to score any more runs in the inning as Brandon Eckerle grounded into a fielder's choice and Jones popped out to right.
In the bottom of the ninth, Holm led off with an infield single, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. A walk to Boss placed runners on first and second with no outs, and a sacrifice bunt by Joel Fisher moved Holm to third and Boss to second, setting the stage for Wieber's game-winning sacrifice fly. It marked MSU's second walk-off win of the season.
"I saw the ball go up and I just told myself, don't leave early," said Holm. "Once he caught it, I put my head down and ran as hard as I could." Garner (4-4) earned his fourth victory of the season after pitching the eighth and ninth.
The Spartans will look for the series sweep Sunday afternoon as game three of the series is set for 1:05 p.m. at McLane Baseball Stadium.
"It was a great crowd today, it was neat to see," said Boss. "I think our guys feed off of that, and I think that helps with confidence, there's no doubt. To be able to win yesterday in a close ball game and win today in a close ball game, hopefully that will continue to help us build some momentum."