Vieaux, Spartans Topple Two-Seed Nebraska
Five-run sixth inning propels MSU to victory in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
OMAHA, Nebraska — The Michigan State baseball team won its opening game of the Big Ten Tournament vs. Nebraska, 5-1, on Wednesday afternoon in Omaha. Cam Vieaux held the Huskers to just three hits in 8.2 innings of work and the Spartans used a five-run sixth inning to pull off the upset over second-seeded Nebraska. MSU improves to 35-18 on the year with the win.
“The story, in my opinion, is that Cam Vieaux was lights out today,” said head coach Jake Boss Jr. “He was in command the whole way. It was a grind it out type of day for us offensively, but when you’ve got a Friday night guy and he’s rolling, it makes everything easier. I’m really proud of our guys. Important win for us today and we’re excited to play tomorrow.”
It was a pitcher’s duel in the early going between two of the Big Ten’s best pitchers and the game was scoreless entering the sixth inning. The Spartans then exploded for five runs on five hits and were the beneficiary of two errors in the inning to open up the lead that allowed Vieaux to roll the rest of the way.
Justin Hovis got the big inning going with just the second hit of the game for the Spartans on a double down the left field line. Kory Young followed with a perfect bunt. Nebraska starter Derek Burkamper fielded the ball and rushed the throw in attempt to get the speedy Young at first, but the throw sailed high and into the outfield, allowing Hovis to score the game’s first run.
“We’ve been struggling offensively, so we talked about coming into this game with good approaches and being aggressive to try and put pressure on them,” said Young. “We were able to do that and it led to some runs on the board.”
Burkamper then walked Brandon Hughes on four straight pitches. Jordan Zimmerman stepped to the plate and worked a 3-2 count after being down 0-2. Zimmerman shot the payoff pitch for a double to right field that scored Young and put MSU up 2-0. That would be it for Burkamper’s day and he would eventually take the loss to fall to 6-3 on the year.
“Momentum is huge,” said Boss. “We like to be aggressive and to run and put pressure on the other team to make plays. You could feel the momentum for us in the sixth once it got rolling. That was the idea – let’s have good at bats and not try to do too much.”
With a new pitcher and the infield playing in, Dan Durkin sent a rocket that handcuffed the second baseman and trickled into the outfield, allowing Hughes to score from third. Matt Byars picked up his 24th RBI on a sac fly to score Zimmerman before Kris Simonton singled up the middle to plate Durkin and cap off the scoring.
Nebraska responded in the home half with a run, but from there it was all Vieaux, who allowed just one base runner the rest of the game.
“I knew if I didn’t do my job today, it could be the last time throwing in the Green and White, so I went out there and gave it everything I had,” said Vieaux.
Vieaux improved to 7-4 with the win and finished with a final line of 8.2 innings, allowing just the one run on three hits. After a blister formed on the lefty’s hand in the ninth, Boss brought in Dakota Mekkes who got a strikeout to end the game.
“Cam’s a competitor,” said Boss. “He’s a perfectionist and when he’s fired up in the dugout, I think we’ve got a pretty good chance behind him. He was ready for the moment today without question. That’s what your number one guy has to do for you. There’s not any moment that’s too big for him and he showed that today.”
Kory Young led the Spartans at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance to go along with a run scored.
“I love playing in the field behind Cam,” said Young. “He competes his tail off and it makes the entire team play harder because we know he’s going to go out there and give his all and we don’t want to let him down, so we wanted to get some runs on the board.”
Michigan State will take on six-seed Maryland tomorrow night at 6 p.m. ET. The Terrapins defeated the No. 3 seed Indiana in the first game of the day, 5-3.