MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. -- Junior center fielder Brandon Hughes broke the Michigan State baseball single-season stolen bases record with his 30th swipe of the season in the Spartans’ 7-0 shutout win over Central Michigan Tuesday at CMU’s Theunissen Stadium. Tuesday was MSU’s final midweek game of the regular season.
Hughes stole three bases in the game, including his third of the day in the top of the fourth, for his 30th swipe of the season, passing Anthony Cheky’s 29 stolen bases in 2014.
“Brandon is a dynamic base runner, that’s for sure. He’s a guy that understands the nuances of what it takes to steal bases. He obviously runs well, and while he may not be the fastest that I’ve ever coached, he is definitely one of the best, if not the best, base runners that we’ve ever had here. He takes a lot of pride in it and he works hard at it, and it’s good to see him reap the rewards of all of his work,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., said.
Tuesday’s three stolen bases was Hughes’ sixth game with multiple stolen bases and his second outing with three swipes. Hughes has nine stolen bases in his last eight games, rapidly climbing up the MSU stolen base list.
“It was just a season of stealing bases. Coach Boss challenged me in the beginning of the season, he said I was fast and I didn’t really use my speed well enough in the past, so I took that challenge and I guess just ran away with it you could say. It’s exciting and an honor,” Hughes said, who was congratulated by coaches and teammates after the game.
Hughes’ first two stolen bases were after singles in the first and third inning, but his record-setting stolen base in the fourth almost didn’t happen at the time. He was initially called out on the play, which would have been the third out of the inning and CMU left the field to its dugout, but after a conference between the umpires, it was ruled that the first baseman’s foot came off the bag and Hughes was safe.
“On both base hits, I was thinking that I’ve got to get this bag,” Hughes said about his base-stealing mentality for the game. “On the play that I reached on the error, which was a weird situation of its own with the team running off, but once they called me safe, I was thinking that I could get the record here.”
Hughes also had a solid day at the plate, helping the Spartans belt out 14 hits and had five players notch multiple hits in the contest, led by junior first baseman Zack McGuire with a 3-for-5 outing and one RBI. Junior designated hitter Chad Roskelly continued his hot streak with a 2-for-4 outing with two RBI and three runs scored. Senior second baseman Dan Durkin was 2-for-4 with a run scored and one driven in, while Hughes was 2-for-5 with a run scored. Freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley was 2-for-5 with one RBI and two runs scored in his first game at the school where his mom was a star women’s basketball player, setting several CMU records and is in the Chippewas’ Athletics Hall of Fame.
Roskelly now has a 12-game hitting streak, hitting .434 (20-for-46) with 14 RBI over that 12-game span. Hughes now has a 13-game hitting streak, tying Kelley for the longest of the season on the team. Kelley’s 13-game hit streak was snapped on April 28, but the freshman has hit safely in the last 10 games since, giving him a hit in 23 of the last 24 games.
MSU’s 1-4 hitters in the lineup were a combined 8-for-18 with four RBI and scored all seven runs in Tuesday’s win. Seven of the nine Spartans in the starting batting order had hits.
“I’m very pleased with the effort from everybody today. I thought we pitched extremely well and got some big hits. We started off quickly in the first and never really let up. We hit a lot of balls hard today, which was good to see on the offensive side of it,” Boss said. “I’m really happy with the pitching. I thought Mike Mokma threw well, Nathan Witt came in in a big spot and got two big strikeouts for us, and Ethan Landon in the ninth was really, really good, and we got him back on track, so a good day overall.
With Tuesday’s win, MSU improved to 28-21 on the season, while CMU slid to 28-24 overall. The Spartans swept the home-and-home season series with the Chips, out-scoring them, 18-2, in the two meetings after the 11-2 victory for MSU on March 21 in the Spartans’ home opener. Michigan State has now won 14 of the last 18 meetings with Central Michigan and are 17-9 against the Chips under Coach Boss.
The Spartans plated three runs in their first at bat, as Hughes led off with a single, stole second, then was driven in by a single by Kelley. The freshman then swiped second as well, and came around to score on a single from Roskelly. Later, McGuire drove in Roskelly with a single up the middle for an RBI single and a 3-0 MSU lead.
MSU added two more in the top of the fifth, scoring on a sacrifice fly by sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina and another run on a failed pickoff attempt by CMU.
Two more runs got hung on the scoreboard in the visitor’s sixth, as Kelley sparked the rally with a bunt single, then stole second. Roskelly followed with a single up the middle to drive in Kelley and promptly stole second, for his second swipe of the season. Next up, Durkin drilled a double to left center to drive in Roskelly and give the Spartans a 7-0 lead.
The Chips loaded the bases in the bottom of the sixth, and MSU made pitching change, as sophomore Nathan Witt came on to relieve freshman starter Mike Mokma, who went a season long 5.1 innings. Witt chalked up back-to-back strikeouts to thwart the threat and keep the score 7-0 in the visiting Spartans’ favor.
That would be all the scoring in the contest, as the Spartans were able to utilize their bench, getting some playing time for some reserves as they coasted to the 7-0 victory for MSU.
Michigan State wraps up regular-season action with a big three-game series against in-state rival Michigan, opening on Thursday, May 18 at 4:05 p.m. at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, then to Ann Arbor on Friday, May 19 at 6 p.m., before the series and regular-season finale on Saturday, May 20 at 1:05 p.m. MSU enters the final weekend of regular-season action in ninth in the Big Ten Conference standings, fighting for spot in the B1G Tournament as the top eight teams qualify.
Fans should stay tuned to www.MSUSpartans.com or follow MSU Baseball on twitter at statebaseball for any schedule and location updates.