Spartans Knock Off Maryland, 4-3, in 13 Innings
MSU clinches a spot in the Big Ten Tournament with the win.
EAST LANSING - Matt Byars' sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 13th inning lifted the Michigan State baseball team past Maryland, 4-3, on Friday afternoon at McLane Stadium. With the victory, MSU improved to 34-17 overall and 13-10 in league play, clinching a berth in next week's Big Ten Tournament, May 25-29, in Omaha, Nebraska.
"I'm really proud of our guys," said head coach Jake Boss Jr. "I thought they really competed well. We probably weren't as sharp, we certainly made our share of mistakes, but we kept coming at them and kept grinding. We gave ourselves multiple opportunities and finally cashed in on one."
After leaving the bases loaded in the 11th, runners on second and third in the 12th, the Spartans finally ended the game in the 13th.
Brandon Hughes was plunked with one out and Jordan Zimmerman followed in the next at-bat by lofting the ball into right field. The ball dropped and when Hughes made the turn at second base, right fielder Anthony Papio came up throwing toward third. Hughes stumbled on the play and got caught in a rundown, but the third baseman, Andrew Bechtold, missed applying the tag, and both Hughes and Zimmerman were safe.
An intentional walk to Dan Durkin loaded the bases to bring up Byars, who sent the second pitch he got into right field, easily plating Hughes for a 4-3 win.
"That was a good at-bat by Matt in that spot," said Boss.
Dakota Mekkes came into the game in the eighth and threw a career-long six innings in relief, holding Maryland to just one hit over the span to earn the win. He retired the final 11 Maryland batters.
"I'm kinda like the `closer,'" said Mekkes. "I'm not really a one-inning guy, so I know there's always a chance I throw six innings. I'm always ready to go as many innings as I need to."
"That's what he does. He's really good," said Boss. "You live with the walks sometimes, but knowing that he has got a couple swing and miss pitches that can bail him out of jams."
The Spartans capitalized on a pair of Maryland errors in the bottom of the second inning to take a 1-0 lead. Dan Chmielewski got on base with the first error and scored three batters later on another misplay by Bechtold.
The lead was short lived as a two-out RBI single into the right field gap by Nick Dunn in the top of the third tied the game, 1-1.
Like Thursday's MSU starting pitcher Ethan Landon, Friday's starter Joe Mockbee racked up seven strikeouts, but ran into trouble in the fifth inning. A leadoff single and sac bunt put Bechtold on second base and Papio dropped a single into left field, scoring the runner and giving Maryland a 2-1 lead.
After loading the bases in the bottom of the sixth, MSU threatened again in the seventh and cashed in, scoring two runs to take a 3-2 lead. A pinch-hitting Zack McGuire followed a single by Justin Hovis with an RBI base hit through the right side to tie the game. Hughes gave MSU the lead in the next at-bat with a single into right field.
Unfortunately, the MSU lead didn't last long as a leadoff triple by Madison Nickens to start the eighth later turned into a run on an RBI groundout, making it 3-3.
Maryland (27-25, 12-11) reliever Hunter Parsons, who threw the final two innings, took the loss.
The two teams will wrap up the series and the regular season on Saturday at 1:05 p.m.