PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – The Michigan State baseball team won a wild game on Saturday afternoon en route to improving to 12-1 on the season and securing the best start in school history. With the game tied entering the bottom of the ninth, the Spartans won on a wild pitch that came during an intentional walk that allowed Kory Young to score and give MSU the 8-7 victory over Saint Joseph’s (5-6).
“We really haven’t had one like today yet where it was back and forth the whole way,” said head coach Jake Boss Jr. “It was a high-scoring game. We had a lead and gave it up and so it was good for our guys to get into that type of game. Fortunately, we were able to come out on the winning end of it. They showed a lot of character again today. I think they could’ve very easily folded when it wasn’t going well for us. They just kept competing.”
The win moved this 2016 team passed the 1946 and 1972 clubs that started 11-2 for the best record through 13 games in school history.
“I think it’s something that’s pretty special,” said Boss. “They’ve been playing baseball for 132 years, so to have the best start in school history is something these guys can take home and be proud about. It’s something they should be proud of and we get a chance to compete tomorrow.”
After the Spartans saw a four-run lead disappear in the eighth inning, the game was tied 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth. Designated hitter Chad Roskelly led off the inning and belted a double to left to swing momentum in Michigan State’s favor. Royce Ando followed with a perfect bunt in which he reached safely to put runners at the corners with no outs.
“Chad’s been around for three years now and that’s what we need our experienced guys to do. It was the right guy up in the right spot for us. We felt good about him leading off that inning and Royce executed the bunt to follow that up and put some pressure on.”
Dan Durkin, who had already crushed a homer earlier in the game and had the go-ahead RBI against Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday, stepped up to the plate. The Hawks decided to intentionally walk the junior, but one of the pitches got away and to the backstop, allowing pinch runner Kory Young to score from third.
Josh Buchalski earned the first win of his career after getting the Spartans out of a big jam in the top half of the ninth. The redshirt junior came on in relief with the go-ahead runner in scoring position and one out, but struck out two batters to keep the game tied and set up his team for the rally in the ninth.
“I’m really proud of Josh Buchalski,” said Boss. “He’s a guy that’s worked really, really hard over the last couple of years. For him to get his first W today is a credit to all of that work. He’s a great kid and I’m really happy for him.”
MSU appeared to brake open the game in the sixth. With the game tied 2-2, the Spartans sent nine hitters to the plate and scored four runs to take a 6-2 lead. Justin Hovis double to right field to get the scoring in the inning started before Marty Bechina just missed his second homer of the year that ended as a two-RBI double. Brandon Hughes then doubled home Bechina to cap off the inning.
MSU’s momentum shift in the sixth came as a result of a big defensive performance in the top half of the inning that kept the game tied. SJU was threatening with runners on the corners with nobody out. Catcher Matt Byars then gunned down the runner at third after a pitch for the first out of the inning to take some pressure off. Starter Ethan Landon then got a ground ball in which Ando ranged up the middle to make the play before flipping it to Jordan Zimmerman at second, who made the perfect turn to get out of the jam and halt the Hawks.
Byars hit his second home run in as many days in the fourth inning to put MSU up 2-1.
Landon threw six innings and allowed two runs while striking out five.
The Spartans close out their spring break trip consisting of eight games in 10 days tomorrow against North Dakota State. The game originally scheduled for noon has been pushed up to 11 am due to travel.