Wunderlich's Complete Game Shutout Leads Spartans Past Northwestern, 3-0
May 19, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Taking the mound at McLane Baseball Stadium for the final time, senior Kurt Wunderlich pitched his best career game as a Spartan, throwing his first complete game shutout as Michigan State defeated Northwestern, 3-0, Thursday afternoon.
In a dominating performance, Wunderlich scattered three hits and didn't allow a runner to reach second base as he earned his Big Ten-leading ninth win of the season. Wunderlich (9-2) struck out three against no walks while hurling 116 pitches, 76 for strikes.
"It felt great to do it, especially at that big time since it's my last time pitching at McLane Stadium," said Wunderlich. "It's a good ending to have."
"Kurt was outstanding - that's the kind of effort we need out of our leaders and our seniors," said MSU head coach Jake Boss. "He's been really, really good for us all season long in game one of the series. He got ahead early in the count, kept his pitch count down, and he was throwing so well we decided to let him ride it out. It's that time of the year when we need our best guys to be our best guys, and he certainly was today."
The victory puts Michigan State (33-18, 14-8 Big Ten) within one game of claiming at least a share of the Big Ten title, and also clinches a berth in next week's Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio. The Spartans entered the day with a one-game lead over Minnesota and Illinois in the league standings; the Gophers beat Ohio State, 3-2, in game one of a doubleheader earlier on Thursday.
MSU took an early lead with a run in the bottom of the first. Leadoff man Brandon Eckerle was hit in the head by a pitch and knocked to the ground, but after taking several minutes to compose himself and also clean a cut on his ear, he felt good enough to stay in the game. Eckerle advanced to third as the next batter, Ryan Jones, delivered a single through the right side, and then scored on a Jeff Holm RBI groundout.
The Spartans took advantage of two Wildcat miscues in the third as they scored two unearned runs. With Eckerle on third and two outs, Jared Hook hit a grounder to Northwestern first baseman Jack Havey, but the ball went through Havey's legs and into right field to score Eckerle. MSU put its second run of the inning on the board when Torsten Boss came home on a wild pitch by Wildcat starter Luke Farrell.
The 3-0 lead was more than enough for Wunderlich. He retired seven consecutive batters during one stretch covering the second, third and fourth innings, and also had a run of eight consecutive outs spanning the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Wunderlich retired the Wildcats in order four times, including the ninth. Just five Wildcats reached base the entire game.
When Wunderlich did allow runners, they didn't go anywhere. He induced two double play groundouts, and even picked off his team-best fourth runner of the season by getting Geoff Rowan at first base in the eighth inning.
Wunderlich was also the beneficiary of several strong defensive plays by Michigan State, led by six putouts by Eckerle in center field, including two running catches that prevented extra-base hits for Northwestern.
"I'll take our center fielder over anyone else's in the country," said Boss. "When the ball goes up, unless it leaves the park, I have a pretty good feeling it's going in his glove."
Although Northwestern (19-28, 9-12 Big Ten) was held to three hits, Michigan State collected just six against Ferrell, who also went the distance. Ferrell (6-3) fanned four and walked three while surrendering just one earned run. Eckerle and Jones led MSU at the plate with two hits apiece.
Game two of the series is set for Friday at 3:05 p.m. at McLane Baseball Stadium. A live broadcast will be available at spartansportsnetwork.com.
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