EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State baseball was dealt a heartbreaking, 2-1 10-inning loss to No. 15 Michigan Saturday afternoon on the Spartans' Senior Day at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field.
"It's a great group of kids. They have done everything that we have asked them to do. The leadership has been tremendous. It's tough to say goodbye to the seniors. It's tough when the season comes to an end because you don't get to compete anymore and your time with this group is over. They are all going to be productive members in society in whatever they do and I'm proud of them and excited for the future. I'm really proud of the effort they gave Michigan State," MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr., said.
The Spartans end the 2017 season with a 29-23 record and 10-14 in Big Ten Conference action finishing ninth in the standings and just missing the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan improved to 42-13 overall and 16-8 in B1G play, solidifying the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.
"That was a tough one. Just like all year, I thought our guys really competed and we gave ourselves the opportunity to win the game, we just didn't get it done," Boss said.
The Spartans scored their run in the bottom of the fourth and held the 1-0 lead into the ninth, before the Wolverines plated a run in the top of the ninth. MSU had a chance for its second walk-off victory of the season in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases with no outs, but just couldn't plate the winning run.
"It was a tough one. We had bases loaded and nobody out and we hit a ball right at them. They get fortunate on miscommunication on a pop up that could have gone in our favor. Those have been the breaks lately; they have not gone in our favor," Boss said.
Saturday's showdown started as a pitcher's duel between MSU senior Walter Borkovich and UM's Michael Hendrickson, both having streaks of three-up, three-down innings, and both retiring 10 in a row. Borkovich went a career-long 9.0 innings, firing six strikeouts while allowing one earned run, and will finish the season second in the B1G with a 2.01 ERA. Hendrickson went 7.0 IP, with seven strikeouts.
"We knew it was going to be a big day coming in. With it being Senior Day and the last go around for some of the guys, plus it's the Michigan series so what gets better than that? We knew what was at stake coming in and that our season was going to come to an end no matter what. Everyone out here really wanted to win today and stuck with it all of the way. We had a couple of bad breaks here and there and we end up losing the game. We were so close," Borkovich said.
Borkovich was in the zone so much on his career day, that he didn't realize that it was a packed house at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, most of whom gave him a standing ovation after both the top of the eighth and ninth innings.
"It was extremely special. I didn't even notice the packed house until I came out at the end. Everyone came out and it meant a lot that people around here understood how big today was for us," a grateful Borkovich said about the Spartan fans.
Freshman left fielder Bryce Kelley led MSU at the plate with a 2-for-5 outing Saturday. He ends the season on his second 13-game hitting streak of the year, which started the day after his first one was halted, getting a hit in 26 of his last 27 games and 29 of his last 31 games.
Senior catcher Matt Byars was 1-for-5 and scored the Spartans' lone run of the ballgame, being driven in on a single by sophomore shortstop Royce Ando in the fourth. Ando finished the game 1-for-3 and a walk. Sophomore third baseman Marty Bechina was 1-for-3, while junior designated hitter Chad Roskelly was 1-for-4, a day after his 13-game hit streak was halted on Friday night, but Saturday's hit extended his team-best reaching base streak to 17 in a row.
While Saturday ended with a loss, it was a special day to the Spartan seniors' memorable career.
"What I'll remember most is the teammates on and off the field. That is something you can't put into words. During the season, outside of the season, on the field, off the field, that stuff never goes away so that will always be special," Borkovich said.
Durkin and Bechina end the season as the only two Spartans to not only play but start all 52 games of the 2017 season as well. The senior second baseman was the team captain as selected and suggested to Boss by his teammates, and Durkin will forever cherish his time as a Spartan.
"It's meant everything to me, I love these guys, they've been like brothers to me. Wearing the Green and White is not something that very many people get to do, and I'm just extremely honored to have played at Michigan State," Durkin said. "I'm forever going to remember my coaches and my teammates, those guys made it worth everything."