May 3, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State baseball started fast and never let up against the Fighting Illini on Friday afternoon at McLane Stadium, earning a 12-3 win in the opening game of the three-game series. The Spartans got an offensive explosion out of the 4-5-6 hitters in the lineup. The trio of Blaise Salter, Jimmy Pickens and Joel Fisher hit a combined 10-for-13 with 10 RBIs, four homers and three doubles.
"Friday is the biggest game of the series and we played well today," head coach Jake Boss said. "It's important to get game one and set yourself up for a chance to win the series tomorrow. At the same time, Illinois is a good ball club and we know we're going to get their best effort tomorrow."
Michigan State had 15 hits in the game, its most since Santa Clara on March 16. The 10 combined RBIs for Salter, Pickens and Fisher is the most by any three players this season.
"The middle of the order is very important," Boss said. "If the middle of the order goes the team is usually successful. Those three were really good today and we were able to put up a big number."
Senior right-hander Andrew Waszak earned his fifth with of the season. He allowed just seven hits and three runs, two of which were earned. He also walked three and had three strikeouts.
"It was emotional," Andrew Waszak said of his last home start. "It's my last start here in front of all these fans. It's been a great career but for the team, getting this first win was huge."
The Spartans jumped all over Illinois starter Kevin Johnson in the first inning, scoring six runs on six hits. Salter had been lethal at the plate coming into the weekend and continued his hot-hitting with a three-run home run down the left field line in the first inning.
Pickens walked on the next at-bat and Joel Fisher homered to left field to give the Spartans an early 5-0 lead. Justin Hovis added an RBI-sacrifice bunt and the Spartans put six runs on Johnson in the first.
Salter is now 11-for-16 dating back to last weekend against Purdue
Ryan Castellanos replaced Johnson in the second inning. Johnson took the loss and it would be his shortest outing of the season. He had gone at least five innings in each start up until today.
Illinois scored an unearned run in the second on a passed ball and added another in the third on an RBI-single from Michael Hurwitz.
MSU added a pair on an RBI-double from Pickens and an RBI-single from Fisher in the second. In the fourth inning, the Spartans added two after Salter scored on a wild pitch and Pickens came home a double by Fisher.
Salter and Pickens hit back-to-back solo home runs in the sixth inning to give the Spartans a 12-2 lead. Salter sent his to left field, while Pickens shot went to right.
Waszak went 8 1/3 innings and threw 122 pitches. He was relieved by Popp in the ninth. He admitted to not having his best outing but he utilized one pitch to get him deep into the game.
"My changeup," Waszak said. "My curveball has been my best pitch all year and I couldn't find that. I just was able to grind through it and locate my pitches."
For Jake Boss it was fitting for the senior to end his home career with that type of performance.
"That's what he does," Boss said. "That's why he goes on Friday and we know he is going to get deep in the game for us and save the bullpen. He's a competitor and even if he doesn't have his best stuff we're going to him. It was a gutty performance and I know he wanted to finish it. But it was good we were able to get him a curtain call here because he certainly deserves it."
Michigan State and Illinois are back at the ballpark tomorrow for game two with the first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. David Garner will get the start for the Spartans and Illinois will throw freshman Kevin Duchene. The game will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network and have audio broadcast on SpartanSportsNetwork.com.