Baseball Rallies to Defeat Rutgers on Sunday and Sweep Weekend Series

 

EAST LANSING – The Michigan State baseball team came back from a 5-0 deficit to top Rutgers, 6-5, on Sunday afternoon at McLane Stadium and complete a weekend sweep of the Scarlet Knights in the Big Ten opening series. MSU improved to 18-3 overall – its best mark through 21 games since 1972.

The Spartans chipped away at the deficit and completed the comeback when Jordan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer to left field in the bottom of the seventh to give MSU the lead for the first time, 6-5.

RU’s Jawuan Harris drew a leadoff walk and then stole second base to start a tense ninth inning, but MSU reliever Dakota Mekkes got the next hitter, Nick Matera, to look at strike three for the first out. After a single into shallow left field, Mekkes fanned pinch-hitter Kyle Walker and then got R.J. Devish to groundout to end the game and earn his second save of the weekend.

“I’m really proud of our guys. This is as good of a win as we’ve had in a long time,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. “We got down 5-0 early and it was kind of flat and they had a lot of momentum but our guys just kept competing and grinding. We were fortunate to square one ball up in the seventh and then get one caught in the wind later. It worked out, but I give our guys a lot of credit – they kept competing and kept playing.”

Already leading 1-0, Rutgers (8-14, 0-3) got to Michigan State starting pitcher Walter Borkovich for four runs in the top of the second inning to take a 5-0 lead. Three RBI singles and a double steal accounted for the four Scarlet Knight runs in the inning.

The Spartans left a pair of runners on base in each of the first two innings but were able to break through in the bottom of the third on a two-out, infield RBI single by Kris Simonton.

Rutgers starting pitcher John O’Reilly retired six in a row until Zimmerman led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to right field that ignited the Spartans as they scored two runs in the frame. Zack McGuire drove in the first run with an RBI single and Matt Byars RBI groundout cut the MSU deficit to 5-3.

Marty Bechina led off the game-changing seventh inning with a solo blast that cleared the wall and bounced off the scoreboard in left field to pull the Spartans within a run, 5-4. Three batters later with Taylor Grace on first, Zimmerman lifted a pitch from RU reliever Christian Campbell to left field that carried toward the wall. Left fielder Mike Carter pursued the ball to the warning track and made a leap, but it sailed just above his reach and over the wall to give the Spartans the lead for the first time, 6-5.

Borkovich responded from the rough second inning by neutralizing the Rutgers offense the rest of the way. He retired 18 of 19 hitters, including 16 consecutive, before Mekkes replaced him to get the final out of the eighth inning.

Borkovich allowed five runs in 7.2 innings to earn the win to improve to 4-1 on the year.

“I’m proud of him. We figured it was time to see what he was made of and he showed us today what he’s capable of doing,” said Boss.

Campbell, who pitched the final two innings for Rutgers, was charged with the loss.

Michigan State continues its home stand on Tuesday when it hosts Oakland at 3 p.m. at McLane Baseball Stadium.