Eighth Inning Rally Propels Spartans to Victory

MSU improves to 10-1 on the season with 7-6 win over FGCU.

The Michigan State baseball team scored five runs in the eighth inning to rally from a four-run deficit and defeat Florida Gulf Coast, 7-6 on Wednesday in Port Charlotte, Fla. The Spartans are now 10-1 on the season to tie the best start in school history since 1971.  Junior Dan Durkin came up with the go-ahead RBI single that scored Brandon Hughes to cap off the comeback.

MSU had to respond after Florida Gulf Coast scored six runs in a hectic seventh that featured two Spartan errors that put the Eagles up 6-2.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that have that, ‘Don’t lose attitude’ on this team,” said Durkin. “We came in after their big inning and told everyone, ‘Let’s see what we’re made of.’ Giving up those six, a lot of teams would’ve folded, but we’re not about that. We were ready to go.”

Justin Hovis got the big inning started for the Spartans with a single. Matt Byars and Kris Simonton followed with base knocks of their own, with Simonton’s single bringing home Hovis. Jordan Zimmerman then made it a one-run game with a two-RBI single into left.

“It’s a good group of kids who work hard,” said head coach Jake Boss Jr. “They compete and they’ve always fought until the bitter end. They could’ve very easily rolled over after the Florida Gulf Coast big inning, but they didn’t. They stayed the course and strung a couple of hits together and some big at bats and the next thing you know we end up winning.”

Freshman Royce Ando tied the game with a base hit through the left side to set up Durkin for the game-winner. The junior wasted no time and sent the first pitch he saw into right field to score Hughes from second.

“When you’ve got one of your high-character guys and your leader up in that spot, you feel pretty confident that he’s going to come through for you,” said Boss. “Even if he didn’t, that’s a pretty good guy to have up with the game on the line.”

Joe Mockbee came on for the ninth and earned his third save of the season. FGCU put a runner in scoring position with a double, but Mockbee stranded the tying run there.

“There’s a lot of character on this team,” said Boss. “I’ll take that over talent any day. Guys that are going to grind and compete we’ll take any day. It’s fun to compete with these guys”

The Spartans took a 2-0 lead on RBIs from Marty Bechina that scored Byars and Simonton and it looked as though Michigan State was going to cruise to another victory, as starter Keegan Baar went four innings and allowed no hits. Mekkes then came out of the bullpen and held the Eagles hitless until the seventh, when they got all six of their runs.

After a walk and hit batter to start the inning, a bang-bang play at first in which the runner was initially called out was overturned to load the bases with no outs. Alex Troop came on to pitch and eventually got out of an inning that saw Florida Gulf Coast string together six runs on just four hits, with three of the runs being unearned.

Troop went on to earn the win to improve to 3-0 on the season.

Before the FGCU big inning, MSU pitchers had gone 33 consecutive innings without allowing a run.

“We didn’t help ourselves in that inning,” said Boss. “I think it’s a good lesson for our guys. When we play good baseball, the way our pitching staff is throwing right now, we’re going to give ourselves a pretty good chance to win.”

Kris Simonton led the way for the Spartan’s offense, going 3-for-3 at the plate with two runs, while Byars, Zimmerman and Bechina each added two hits.

MSU has the day off tomorrow before closing out a stretch of eight games in 10 days this weekend. The Spartans will take on Butler on Friday, Saint Joseph’s on Saturday and North Dakota State on Sunday.