Spartans Take Opener With Oregon on Walk-Off Homer
EAST LANSING – Jordan Zimmerman’s 10th-inning walk-off home run lifted the Michigan State baseball team past Oregon, 3-2, on Friday in the series opener between the teams at McLane Stadium. Taylor Grace drove in the Spartans’ other two runs and Dakota Mekkes got the win in relief, recording the final two outs of the 10th inning, as Michigan State improved to 19-4.
Facing Oregon reliever Brac Warren with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning, Zimmerman turned on a pitch and sent it toward right center field. The ball carried and just cleared the wall for his fourth home run of the season, giving the Spartans the 3-2 win.
“I didn’t think it was gone,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. “Off the bat it looked like a fly ball, to me. I thought maybe we had chance for a double or triple and then the ball disappeared.”
“Off the bat, I felt like I hit it well. The guy was throwing pretty hard, so you’ve just have to make contact,” said Zimmerman.
The Spartans opened the scoring in the bottom of the first with a two-out RBI single by Grace. With Dan Durkin on third, Grace singled a 1-2 pitch through the right side for a 1-0 Spartan lead.
Spartan starting pitcher Cam Vieaux retired the first 15 Oregon hitters, including 10 via strikeout. The 1-0 MSU lead held until the Ducks finally got to Vieaux in the top of the sixth. A.J. Balta broke up the no-hit bid with a single into center field and two batters later with two outs, Austin Grebeck singled him home with a base hit to left field, tying the game, 1-1.
Oregon (11-11) starting pitcher Cole Irvin kept the Spartan bats silent following the opening inning, allowing just one baserunner until the bottom of the sixth when Brandon Hughes smacked a two-out double to left field. Grace then came through for second time on the afternoon, sending a 1-1 pitch from Cole to the right side. The ball skipped off the glove of a diving second baseman Daniel Patzlaff and into right field, allowing Hughes to round third base and come home to score for a 2-1 MSU lead.
Vieaux stranded a runner in the eighth and came back out to start the ninth, but was lifted for Joe Mockbee after issuing a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Nick Catalano. The leadoff walk proved costly as Jake Bennett singled in Catalano with a single into center field to tie the game.
Mekkes took over for Mockbee in the 10th and struck out Catalano with runners on second and third to set the Spartans up to win the game in the bottom half of the frame.
Vieaux struck out a season high 11 batters, scattering three hits and two walks over eight innings.
“Cam was really dominant for a good part of the game,” said Boss.
“For the first time this year, everything was working,” said Vieaux. “I was able to have both fastballs, my changeup and my slider all really clicking today.”
Hughes led MSU at the plate, going 3-for-4. Zimmerman, who went 2-for-5, extended his hitting streak to 16 games.
The Spartans and Ducks will meet again on Saturday at McLane Stadium with first pitch slated for 1 p.m.