May 1, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - A four-run seventh inning pushed the Michigan State baseball team past Penn State, 10-5, Sunday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium to complete its three-game sweep over the Nittany Lions. The Spartans (27-13, 10-5) finish the weekend tied for first place in the Big Ten with Purdue.
The Spartans posted 16 hits, including three each from Jared Hook, Ryan Jones and Justin Scanlon, to finish its second-straight series sweep over Penn State in East Lansing. Tony Wieber doubled twice and tied his career high with four RBIs, while Tortsen Boss tied his career high with four runs. Jones went 3-for-5 with three runs to extend his hitting streak to 29 games.
Down 5-4 in the bottom of the seventh, the Spartans rallied for six runs in the seventh and eighth innings, giving them their second straight comeback victory over Penn State.
"When you have an opportunity, you need be able to seize it," said Michigan State head coach Jake Boss. "I heard guys talking in the dugout today (in the seventh) when we got the four runs - it was like a `here we go' type of thing. That's good to see. As a young club that continues to grow and gets some more character, hopefully that bodes well for the future."
Penn State (25-16, 7-8), who entered the weekend in a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten, jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning, started by a first-pitch, leadoff home run by Sean Deegan. The top three of the PSU order recorded hits and would all eventually score after a throwing error by Boss at third base and an RBI single by Bobby Jacobs.
The Spartans got two back in the bottom of the first on a two-out, two-run double from Wieber.
MSU tied the game in the bottom of the second on a sacrifice fly from Brandon Eckerle, scoring Joel Fisher who led off the inning with a double. Eckerle went 2-for-4 in the game and now has 234 career hits, which moves him into third place all-time at MSU, just 11 hits shy of Bobby Malek's school record 245.
The Spartans took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the third inning. Boss singled and stole second base, and would score on a two-out single from Jared Hook.
Penn State took the lead back in the top of the fourth inning at 5-4, taking advantage of two walks to begin the inning. Mario Eramo, who began the inning with a free pass, scored on a Blake Lynd groundout, while Bobby Jacobs crossed the plate on a two-out, RBI single from Elliot Searer.
After two scoreless innings, Michigan State regained the lead for good in the bottom of the seventh inning, scoring four runs to take an 8-5 lead.
Justin Scanlon led off with a single, and was followed by bunt singles from Eckerle and Jones. On Jones' bunt, the pitcher threw the ball away, allowing Scanlon to score. Jeff Holm followed with a deep sacrifice fly to right to score Eckerle and move Jones to third. After Boss was hit by a pitch, Wieber laid down a squeeze bunt to score Jones. The next batter, Hook, laced a double down the right-field line for his second two-out RBI of the game, scoring Boss.
"Part of our approach was to force the opposition into making some plays," said Coach Boss in regard to the seventh inning, which included three bunts. "That's what we have to do. We're going to continue to put pressure on defenses. We're not going to hit many three-run homers, so that's how we're going to have to play."
The Spartans added two insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth inning on back-to-back two-out RBI doubles from Boss and Wieber for the 10-5 final.
Tim Simpson (1-1) picked up his first career win, pitching two scoreless innings in relief of starter Andrew Waszak. Waszak struck out four and scattered six hits on five runs, four earned, in six innings of work. Bryce Jenney came on to pitch the ninth to close it out for MSU.
"Tim was really big when we needed him to be," Boss said. "He pitched strong and set up it for Jenney in the ninth - I'm real proud of those guys."
Michigan State picked up six two-out RBIs on the day. The Spartans hit .387 for the series, led by an 8-for-13 (.615) effort from Hook.
"Jared is a good hitter," said Boss. "He really settled in after he was given the opportunity (earlier this season). I think you're only going to see him get better and better."
While the Spartan bats were hot, the defense also made some outstanding plays, including diving catches by both Eckerle in center and Wieber in right.
"We've really been playing good defense all year long," Boss said. "We've put a premium on that and it's going to keep you in the ballgame."
The sweep over Penn State was MSU's second consecutive over a conference opponent at home, as the Spartans took care of Minnesota in three games back on April 8-10. It marks MSU's first back-to-back Big Ten series sweeps at home since 2009, when the Spartans swept Northwestern April 4-5, then Penn State May 1-3.
"Our kids are excited to play at home in a first-class facility in front of a great crowd," said Boss. "I think that's why guys come to Michigan State, to play in that kind of atmosphere. It was a really fun weekend."
The Spartans return to action on Wednesday, May 4, when they host Western Michigan at 3:05 p.m. at McLane Baseball Stadium.