EAST LANSING — The Michigan State baseball team built an early lead but was overtaken by a late Maryland rally and the Spartans were nipped, 6-4 by the Terrapins Saturday afternoon at McLane Stadium, spoiling MSU’s Senior Day.
With the loss, the Spartans end regular-season action 34-18 overall and a 13-11 Big Ten Conference record. The Terrapins improved to 28-25 overall and 13-11 in B1G play after taking two of the three-game series with the Spartans. Michigan State’s next action will be in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament, Wednesday-Sunday, May 25-29, in Omaha, Nebraska, played at TD Ameritrade Park.
“That was a tough way to finish up a series. The regular season is over and now we move on to the next phase, and I’m excited to go compete with our guys in Omaha,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said about next week’s Big Ten Tournament.
Prior to the game, MSU honored its three seniors, PJ Nowak, Justin Hovis and Kris Simonton, who were playing their final home contest in the green and white.
“Obviously I think there’s things today that we can learn from, but at the same time, we thanked our seniors for a great time here. It’s a tough way for them to end it at home, but I think there’s a lot of baseball left and I don’t think we’re done by any stretch of the imagination,” Boss said. “I’m excited to go out and compete with these guys, I’ve said it before, this is a tremendous group of kids, character-wise and we’ll go compete with anybody.”
Dan Durkin led the Spartan attack at the plate with a 3-4 outing with three RBI, with two of them coming on a two-run home run. Simonton was 2-4 on a double and a triple with a run scored, while Brandon Hughes was also 2-4 and two runs scored.
Michigan State got the scoring started early by hanging a run on the board in the bottom of the first. Leadoff hitter Brandon Hughes started the rally with a hot shot back up the middle that hit Maryland starting pitcher Brian Shaffer in the lower right leg. After a walk to Jordan Zimmerman, Durkin followed with a single up the middle to plate Hughes and give MSU the early 1-0 advantage.
The Spartan lead swelled to 3-0 in the home half of the third inning on a two-run home run by Durkin into the trees behind right field just inside the foul pole, again plating Hughes, who reached on a single.
The visiting Terrapins cut the gap to 3-2 in the top of the fourth, capitalizing on a pair of hits with an MSU error. Nick Dunn led off with a double and moved to third on a single by Kevin Smith. Dunn later scored on a groundout and Smith later scored on a sacrifice fly to pull Maryland within a run.
MSU got a run back in the bottom of the fourth frame. Simonton laced a laser to right field that Maryland right fielder Anthony Papio dove for up the hill at the wall, but couldn’t come up with the catch and Simonton reached third for the triple. Hovis then plated his fellow senior with a safety squeeze sacrifice bunt for the 4-2 home team lead.
The visitors closed to a run in the top of the fifth after a single by Marty Costes for his first hit of the weekend, and he scored on a double down the left field line by Dunn to pull the Terrapins within 4-3.
MSU threatened to blow the game open in the bottom of the fifth, as Zimmerman started the rally with a triple to right center, and the Spartans loaded the bases, but couldn’t score as the threat was thwarted by a strikeout.
Maryland took a 6-4 lead with three runs in the top of the seventh, taking advantage of a leadoff walk, followed by two hits and two batters getting hit by pitch. Kevin Biondic dealt the big blow with a two-out, two-run RBI single to right with the bases loaded.
The Spartans did not go quietly into the sunny afternoon, getting their first two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, with pinch-hitter Chad Roskelly reaching on a walk, then getting lifted and replaced by Nowak to run at first. Hughes then followed with a walk to put two on, but Terrapin reliever Ryan Selmer induced a pair of flyouts and a strikeout to end the threat and the game.
MSU starting pitcher Andrew Gonzalez went five solid innings, spraying six hits while giving up three runs. Reliever Keegan Baar suffered the loss for the Spartans. Shaffer got the win for the Terrapins, rebounding from his possible early exit with the first-inning injury, by going eight complete innings to get the win, improving to 7-3. Selmer earned the save, his fourth of the season.
Michigan State will be in action in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday, May 25, with opponent and time to be announced, but the entire tournament will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network.
“I think when we play well, we’re tough to play against; I think we’ve proven that. It’s not just the bats, but I think our pitching is really deep, defensively when we play clean baseball, we win more often then not. Offensively, we got a little better this weekend. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs, but we’ll keep plugging away and get out to Omaha and be ready to go,” Boss said.
The Big Ten Tournament bracket will be released tonight.