ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan State baseball got down early but fought back to rally before the comeback came up short, falling to No. 15 Michigan, 11-6, Friday night, leveling the three-game series at a game apiece.
With the loss, MSU is 29-22 overall and 10-13 in Big Ten action, being eliminated from Big Ten Tournament contention, just missing a top eight spot. Michigan improved to 41-13, 15-8 in B1G play, remaining in the hunt for the regular-season title and the top seed in the conference tourney.
The Spartans got down 7-0 in the first three innings, but scratched and clawed their way back, loading the bases and having the tying run on deck in the ninth inning before the rally came up short.
“It was a tough night. Obviously that was a tough start for us. Jake Lowery didn’t have his best stuff early and it took Joe Mockbee a while to settle into the ballgame. If you dig yourself into a 7-0 hole that can be tough, but our guys kept fighting and we got back into the ballgame in the middle of it, and we had the tying run on deck in the ninth. I’m proud of the way they competed,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., said.
Saturday’s series and regular-season finale is also the Spartans’ Senior Day, as they’ll honor their six senior players and one senior manager.
“We get to honor our seniors tomorrow. Obviously we want to keep competing, but I think it’s a great group of kids, I’ll go compete with these guys any day. I think the mark of a senior class with the legacy that they leave is if the program is in a better place than when they found it and I think that it is. I know that doesn’t always equate to wins and losses, but this is a first class group of kids who work really hard,” Boss said.
Senior second baseman Dan Durkin was 3-for-5 with a solo home run as part of his two RBI. Sophomore shortstop Royce Ando was 3-for-4 with three runs scored, while junior center fielder Brandon Hughes was 2-for-5, extending his hitting streak to 15 games, the longest of the season by a Spartan. Junior first baseman Zack McGuire was 1-for-2 with two walks, just missing a home run by inches.
Michigan plated three runs in the home half of the first before Michigan State could register an out, chasing junior starter Jake Lowery. The Wolverines added one more off senior reliever Joe Mockbee, before Mockbee struck out the side, taking a 4-0 lead after the first frame was in the books. UM added three more in the second to open a 7-0 gap.
MSU got on the board in the top of the third as Ando led off with a single to left. McGuire followed with a double to left center that bounced off the top of the wall just inches from a home run to cut the margin to 7-1.
The home team added two more in the bottom of the third on a two-run home run for a 9-1 lead.
After a scoreless fourth inning by both teams, MSU broke through with a four-run fifth frame. Ando led off with a single, then McGuire followed with a walk. Hughes then drove in Ando with a single to right on a blooper and moved up to second. Freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley then grounded out to first, but the play was able to drive in Hughes. Two batters later, Durkin drilled a home run to right center that smashed off the UM track & field indoor building beyond the right field fence, as the Spartans sliced the gap to 9-5.
Mockbee went 4.1 innings, before giving way to sophomore reliever Riley McCauley, who came on and kept UM off the board until the eighth, when the Wolverines plated a run. Mockbee fired six strikeouts, as did McCauley in 3.0 IP. Freshman lefty Mitchell Tyranski came out of the bullpen in the eighth, closing the door on a Wolverine rally.
The Spartans loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, as Ando led off with a single, then Hughes singled and junior designated hitter Chad Roskelly walked to load the bases. Durkin drove in Ando with an infield single to pull within, 11-6, forcing UM to make a pitching change, bringing in closer Jackson Lamb, who got a strikeout to end the game.
Saturday’s regular-season finale has been adjusted to one hour earlier due to inclement weather in the East Lansing area forecast for Saturday afternoon. The Spartans will now square off with the Wolverines starting at 12:02 p.m. ET. Saturday’s game will still be nationally televised on Big Ten Network.
Saturday’s game at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field is MSU’s Senior Day, as the Spartan Senior Seven: Walter Borkovich, Josh Buchalski, Matt Byars, Dan Durkin, Taylor Grace, Joe Mockbee and manager Gabe Jasinski, will be honored in a pre-game ceremony.
Fans should stay tuned to www.MSUSpartans.com or follow MSU Baseball on twitter at statebaseball for any other schedule updates.