IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Michigan State senior pitcher Brian Murphy blanked the Hawkeyes, 4-0, in game one of a twin bill, as MSU split two games with Iowa on Saturday afternoon.
Murphy limited the Iowa (8-6, 2-1) offense to just five hits in his seven innings on the hill, going the distance to even his record at 2-2. But the Hawkeyes got their revenge, as they defeated the Spartans (10-10, 1-2), 16-5.
Game one featured a pitchers' duel between Murphy and Iowa's Troy Wulf (1-2), who didn't allow a Spartan base hit until the fifth inning. But MSU struck first in the opening frame with help from the Iowa defense. After Tom Grigg reached on a one-out walk, Mike Wagner grounded a ball down to Iowa's Eric Martinez at third base. But Martinez's throw short-hopped Hawkeye first sacker Jeff Wick, allowing Grigg to reach third to put runners at the corners. Clean-up man Mark Mulder followed with a grounder to Wick, who fired to second for the force out. But the return throw of Iowa shortstop Nate Frese was in the dirt, allowing Mulder to beat the throw and letting Grigg come in to score the game's first run.
The Spartan defense came through in the bottom half of the first. Martinez led off for the Hawkeyes, slapping a slow roller up the middle. Grigg, the MSU shortstop, charged in and made a beautiful bare-handed catch-and-throw to nip the leadoff man. After the next batter reached, Frese laced a groundball to the right side of the mound. MSU's Ted Demetral, who was in the process of covering second on an Iowa hit-and-run attempt, stopped to pick up the ball and made a strong pivot to second, where Grigg finished off the inning-ending 463 double play.
After the first-inning bedlam, Wulf and Murphy settled down to control both offenses. Murphy's sinker kept the ball on the ground, as the Spartan outfield only had to make two putouts in the game. Grigg provided sound defense at short, gobbling up eleven chances (nine assists) in the seven-inning affair.
After Wulf surrendered his first hit in the fifth inning, the Spartans broke the game open in the sixth. With one down, Wagner reached on a base hit and stole second. Iowa decided to intentionally walk Mulder, and Wulf proceeded to walk the next Spartan, Joe Albaugh, to load the bases. Catcher Joe Kalczynski delivered with a soft line drive over the right side of the infield, scoring two to put MSU up 3-0.
The Spartans added an insurance run in the seventh. Carlos Fernandez laced a one-out base hit up the middle, moving to second on his first stolen base of the year. After a Grigg fly out, Wagner plating the runner with a line drive to center, where Iowa's Zach Grabinski made an unsuccessful dive for the ball. It rolled into deep center, as Wagner took third on his second triple of the season.
The Spartans were not so fortunate in game two of the twin bill, as Iowa's offense banged out 16 runs on 16 hits. After MSU got up 1-0 in the second on an RBI single by Mike Pisani, Iowa scored 12 runs in the next three at bats to put the game out of reach. Michigan State starter Gary Zsigo (3-2) could not keep the ball down, as the Hawkeyes racked up 11 hits in three innings off the left-hander. The MSU bullpen could not stop the bleeding, as MSU's defense faltered in the latter innings.
The Spartans did pick up four runs in the final two frames, including three in seventh. The Spartans were aided by four walks by Hawkeye reliever Matt Sawvell, as all three RBI in the inning came on walks.
Michigan State and Iowa will lock horns in the series finale on Sunday, as sophomore southpaw Kimya Massey (1-1, 5.93 ERA) will take the hill for MSU.