EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ The Michigan State baseball team captured its ninth straight Big Ten victory at home and completed the three-game sweep of Purdue with a thrilling 6-5 win over the Boilermakers in front of 1,682 fans at McLane Baseball Stadium Sunday afternoon. With two outs in the top of ninth, Purdue catcher Kevin Plawecki tried to score from second base on a single to center field, but the Spartans threw out Plawecki at the plate on a close play for the final out of the game.
Michigan State and Purdue entered the weekend tied for first in the Big Ten at 10-5. Following the sweep, the Spartans (30-14, 13-5 Big Ten) are now alone at the top of the standings, two games ahead of second-place Minnesota (11-7). The Boilermakers fall into a three-way tie for third at 10-8 along with Ohio State and Illinois.
On the gameâ€™s decisive play, Boilermaker designated hitter Payton Bieker hit a single in front of MSU center fielder Brandon Eckerle, who proceeded to fire the ball to the cutoff man Jeff Holm on the infield. Holm then threw it to Joel Fisher at the plate, and Fisher blocked the plate and got the tag on Plaweckiâ€™s shoulder just in time as Plawecki slid head first for home.
â€œWhat a tremendous finish,â€ said MSU head coach Jake Boss. â€œWe actually work on that play a lot. Brandon Eckerle got a great jump on the ball, got rid of it quickly and delivered a good throw. Jeff then did a good job of throwing a strike to the plate, and Joel blocked the plate. We work every day on blocking the plate with our catchers, and it paid off today.â€
â€œI knew we had enough time to make a cut and make a good throw,â€ said Fisher. â€œI saw out of the corner of my eye he (Plawecki) was still quite a ways up the line. Holm made the cut, he took a little bit longer than I expected to throw the ball, but he put a good throw on it and I put a good tag on him.â€
Holm continued his hot ways at the plate, connecting on a two-run homer off the foul pole in right field that gave MSU a 5-3 lead in the fifth. The senior first baseman went 7-for-13 (.538) in the series with three homers and nine RBIs, and leads the Big Ten with nine home runs this season.
Michigan State jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first, started by Ryan Jonesâ€™ double to left that extended his school-record hitting streak to 33 games. The 33-game streak is the longest active streak in the nation and ties for the longest this season (C.J. Cron, Utah). After Holm was hit by a pitch, Torsten Boss crushed a three-run blast to right field for his fifth homer of the season and second in the series.
Purdue took advantage of two Spartan errors in the fourth and tied it at 3, but Holmâ€™s homer the next inning put Michigan State right back on top the remainder of the game.
â€œThose guys (Jeff and Torsten) really got the barrel of the bat on the ball this weekend, and when they do, itâ€™s going to go a long way,â€ said Boss.
MSU extended its lead to 6-3 in the sixth as Eckerle delivered an RBI single to center field, scoring Scanlon. Scanlon went 2-for-4 in the game and was 6-for-11 (.545) in the series.
Spartan starter Andrew Waszak ran into trouble in the seventh, giving up three consecutive hits and a walk, giving way to David Garner. Waszak (4-2) scattered eight hits and allowed five runs, three earned, in his 6 1/3 innings to earn the win.
Garner came into the game with the bases loaded and one out, and after another fielding error â€“ MSUâ€™s third of the game â€“ cut the lead to 6-5, he induced a double-play ball to get out of the jam.
â€œDavidâ€™s a kid that can bounce back and throw three days in a row,â€ Boss said of Garner, as the freshman appeared in all three games over the weekend and tossed 3 2/3 scoreless innings. â€œI thought he threw better today than he did yesterday. His arm felt good, heâ€™s really athletic, and heâ€™s able to bounce back quickly. He did a heck of a job for us in that relief role this weekend.â€
Tony Wieber came into the game for the second straight day in the ninth, and opened the inning by striking out Cameron Perkins, the third hitter in Purdueâ€™s lineup. Plawecki then hit a one-out double to left, but Wieber again got a strikeout for the second out of the inning, setting the stage for the dramatic final play at the plate. For Wieber, it was his team-leading sixth save of the season.
MSU out-hit the Boilermakers, 13-11, led by Jones, Boss, Fisher and Scanlon, who collected two hits apiece for the Spartans. Purdue entered the weekend ranked 10th in the nation in scoring, but was out-scored by Michigan State in the series, 22-12.
Purdue starter Joe Haase (5-3) suffered the loss as he surrendered six runs, all earned, on 11 hits.
A crowd of 1,682 turned out on a beautiful sunny afternoon in East Lansing, as temperatures were in the mid-60s.
â€œTo see the atmosphere and to see the stands full, it was really something we dreamed about when we got here,â€ said Boss. â€œItâ€™s a thrill to be a part of it.â€
The Spartans will take a break from conference action for midweek contests at Western Michigan (Tuesday, May 10) and Central Michigan (Wednesday, May 11) before traveling to Indiana next weekend.
With 34 wins last season and 30 this season, Michigan State has posted its first back-to-back 30-win seasons since 1992-93 (36 wins in 1992; 31 in 1993) . . . it marks just the third time in school history MSU has posted back-to-back 30-win campaigns (34 wins in 1987; school-record 41 wins in 1988) . . . the Spartans improved to 9-0 at home during Big Ten play with sweeps over Minnesota (April 8-10), Penn State (April 29-30, May 1) and now Purdue (May 6-8) . . . it marks MSUâ€™s fourth sweep of the season (at Michigan, March 25 and 27, in non-conference series) . . . Brandon Eckerle is now tied for second all-time in MSU history with 238 career hits, along with Steve Money; Eckerle is just seven hits away from tying Bob Malekâ€™s school record of 245 hits.