May 4, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Michigan State baseball team slugged out 17 hits en route to a 15-8 victory over Illinois Friday night at Illinois Field in the opening game of the series. With the win, MSU improves to 28-15 (9-7 Big Ten) for the season.
Freshman right fielder Jimmy Pickens went 3-for-5 with a career-high six RBIs - the most by a Spartan in 2012 - including a two-run double in the fifth and a bases-clearing triple in the sixth that drove in three runs.
Pickens also had an RBI single in MSU's four-run fourth inning, which gave the Spartans a 4-2 lead after Illinois (25-20, 8-8) scored two runs in the bottom of the first.
MSU pushed its advantage to 10 runs at 13-3 after scoring four runs in the fifth and five more in the sixth.
Jared Hook hit his second homer of the season in the seventh and Ryan Krill delivered an RBI single in the ninth to give the Spartans a comfortable 15-4 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. The Illini did score four runs in their last at-bat to make the final 15-8.
Pickens wasn't the only one producing at the plate, as eight starters in the lineup collected at least one hit. Krill and Justin Scanlon each had three hits and scored three runs, while Joel Fisher had two hits and three RBIs. Ryan Jones singled up the middle in the ninth to extend his hitting streak to 15 games.
"We had some really good at-bats tonight and were able to take advantage of our opportunities to score some runs," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "Our freshmen really came through. Jimmy Pickens had a single, a double and a triple; he just hit the ball hard all over the park. Ryan Krill also hit the ball hard (three hits), and Anthony Cheky had a couple of hits and a sacrifice bunt.
"The freshmen are getting there. They're continuing to learn the nuances of the game, and all three have been playing good defense as well."
Although Spartan starter Tony Bucciferro gave up a two-run homer to Illini center fielder Willie Argo in the first, the co-captain and Illinois native settled in and lasted until the seventh inning. Overall, Bucciferro gave up five hits and four runs while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings to record his fourth win of the season and 24th of his career.
"Tony battled after the first inning," said Boss. "He started off slow, but fought through and gave us a good performance to start the series. I'm glad our guys could give him some run support and give him a lead to work with."
Michigan State tagged Illinois starter Kevin Johnson (7-4) with the loss, as he surrendered a season-high eight runs, seven earned, on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. It marks the third straight year the Spartans have defeated Johnson, who entered the game tied for second in the Big Ten with seven wins.
Game two of the three-game series is set for Saturday at 4:05 p.m.; Gametracker will be available at msuspartans.com, and a live broadcast is available for purchase at BTN.com.