Alone in First Place in the Big Ten, the Michigan State Spartans Defeat Penn State in 10 Innings, 5-4

Ben Phlegar




EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State baseball team defeated Penn State, 5-4 in 10 innings, Friday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium in a matchup of teams tied atop the Big Ten standings. With pinch runner Grant Newsome on third base and two outs in the bottom of the 10th, Justin Scanlon hit a grounder to Penn State shortstop Michael Glantz, who bobbled the ball for an error as Newsome came across to the plate to score the game-winning run.


The Spartans (25-13) remain in first place at 8-5 in league play along with Purdue, while Penn State (25-14) falls to 7-6.


“Friday is always a big day,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss, as the Spartans improved to 5-0 in Big Ten action in the first game of the series. “You get off on the right foot and hopefully set yourself up to win the series.


“I thought we played well today. We gave away some chances late, but maybe got it back in the bottom of the 10th. We were fortunate. Penn State is a good ballclub – we’re going to have to play real well tomorrow.”


Brandon Eckerle led the Spartans at the plate by going 4-for-5, which marks his fourth four-hit game of the season. The senior center fielder now has 232 hits for his career, which is tied for fourth most all-time at Michigan State along with Chris Roberts. In addition, Ryan Jones extended his hitting streak to 27 games with a single in the seventh. MSU had 14 hits total in the game.


“We swung the bats well, but I think we left some chances out there,” said Boss, as the Spartans stranded 11 runners. “We left some runners on bases and squandered some opportunities. At the same time, give Penn State credit for making good pitches when they needed them. It’s going to be a competitive series the rest of the weekend.”


The frantic last two innings of the contest saw Penn State rally from a two-run deficit in the ninth to tie it at 4, while also stranding the bases loaded in back-to-back innings. MSU also left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth as both teams combined to leave nine men on bases in an inning and a half before the Spartans won it in the bottom of the 10th.


Michigan State led the entire game until the top of the ninth inning, as the Nittany Lions scored twice to send the game into extras. Although Penn State came back to tie the game at 4, Spartan reliever Tony Wieber got out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth on a strikeout.


PSU’s rally started in the ninth off freshman David Garner, who came into the game in the seventh to record a key third out with two runners on base. He followed with a 1-2-3 eighth, but ran into trouble in the ninth. After walking the leadoff batter, Mario Eramo, and then hitting the second batter, Ryan Clark, Garner gave way to Wieber.


Wieber then hit the first batter he faced, pinch hitter Michael Glantz, to load the bases with no outs. A fielder’s choice to shallow center field brought home Eramo from third to cut the lead to 4-3, but Wieber followed with a strikeout for the second out of the inning. With two outs, Joey DeBernardis delivered a clutch single to right field that tied the game at 4.


Penn State nearly took the lead as it loaded the bases on another walk; however, Wieber climbed out of a 3-0 hole and fanned Bobby Jacobs to end the rally.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Spartans put the first two batters on base as Scanlon and Eckerle collected consecutive singles. Penn State caught a break with a double play ball that moved Scanlon to third, but MSU loaded the bases following a hit batter and a walk. A groundout halted the scoring threat and moved the game to the 10th.


Wieber again escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the 10th. Penn State placed its first two batters on base, sacrificed them to second and third, then loaded the bases on a walk. With the Spartan outfielders playing shallow, Jordan Keur made an incredible diving catch in left field to prevent the game-winning run to score, then Wieber struck out Sean Deegan swinging on a full-count pitch. The Nittany Lions left 13 runners on base in the game.


MSU’s rally in the bottom of the 10th began on a walk to pinch hitter Andy Johnson. Newsome came in to pinch run for Johnson and moved to second on Wieber’s sacrifice bunt. A Keur flyout to right placed Newsome at third with two outs, setting the stage for the game-winning play as Scanlon beat out the throw to first following a fielding error by the Nittany Lion shortstop, Michael Glantz.


Although he couldn’t convert the save in the ninth, Wieber (5-0) ended up with the victory after getting credit with two scoreless innings on three strikeouts. Greg Welsh (1-2) suffered the loss for the Nittany Lions.


Spartan starter Kurt Wunderlich was in line for his eighth victory of the season before Penn State tied it in the ninth. Wunderlich ended up throwing 119 pitches in his 5.2 innings of work, allowing two runs on eight hits with three strikeouts.


Penn State starter Steven Hill pitched all the way into the ninth, scattering 14 hits against four runs. He was relieved after allowing the first two Spartans to reach in the bottom of the ninth.


Wieber and Eckerle each had RBI singles in the second inning to give MSU a 2-0 lead, and the Spartans made it 3-0 in the fourth after Jones hit into a bases-loaded double play that scored Keur.


PSU scored single runs in the fifth and sixth inning to cut the lead to 3-2, but the Spartans responded on a Holm sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh to push the lead back to 4-2.


In addition to Eckerle’s four hits, Joel Fisher, Jared Hook and Scanlon each collected two hits for MSU.


The 10-inning win marked MSU’s second extra-inning victory of the season, as the Spartans also won in 10 innings at Ohio State, 5-4, on April 15.


Game two of the series is set for Saturday at 3:05 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.

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