EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ Jeff Holm picked a good game to have a career day at the plate.
The senior first baseman slugged two three-run homers and had a career-high six RBIs to lead the Michigan State baseball team past Purdue, 11-4, Friday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium in a matchup of Big Ten co-leaders.
The Spartans (28-14) now sit in first place alone at 11-5 in the conference standings, while Purdue (30-14) is one game back at 10-6.
Down 3-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth, Michigan State scored four runs in the fifth, keyed by Holmâ€™s first three-run blast, and added four more in the sixth to make it 8-3. Holmâ€™s second three-run shot occurred in the eighth, extending the lead to 11-4.
â€œThey both felt pretty good off the bat, I knew it right away,â€ said Holm on his two homers, which marked his first career multi-homer game.
Brandon Eckerle, Joel Fisher and Justin Scanlon each collected two hits, and the Spartans had 13 total for the game. Ryan Jones delivered an RBI single in the sixth to extend his school-record hitting streak to 31 games, which is also the longest active streak in the nation.
Kurt Wunderlich walked a season-high five and hit three batters, but he also held the Big Tenâ€™s top offense to three runs in his six innings as the senior picked up his league-leading eighth win of the season.
â€œKurt really competes,â€ said MSU head coach Jake Boss, as the Spartans improved to 11-1 this season when Wunderlich starts and also a perfect 6-0 in Friday games during Big Ten play. â€œHe made big pitches when he needed to, and thatâ€™s what you need out of your Friday starter.â€
The Spartans appeared to be in trouble before the scoring outburst in the fifth and sixth innings, as Purdue starter Matt Morgan was in control with a 3-0 lead.
The rally started when Scanlon was hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth, then an infield single by Eckerle put runners on first and second with one out. With two outs, Holm crushed a 2-0 offering from Morgan deep past the right-field fence to tie the game at 3. The next batter, Torsten Boss, then hit a towering blast to the same spot in right, and the game suddenly turned in Michigan Stateâ€™s favor.
â€œMorgan was cruising through the first few innings, but in the dugout we tried to stay positive,â€ said Holm, who now leads the Big Ten with eight homers this season. â€œThe coaches told us to stick with our approach, and eventually we got to him.â€
While Michigan State used the homer in the fifth, it was back to small ball with its four runs in the sixth.
After Fisher doubled and Wieber singled to open the inning and knock Morgan out of the game, Scanlon dropped a bunt to new pitcher Lance Breedlove, who made an errant throw to first base. Fisher and Wieber both scored on the play, and Scanlon advanced all the way to third. Eckerle then followed suit with a safety squeeze to bring home Scanlon. Jones knocked in Jordan Keur with a two-out single to center for the fourth run of the inning to give MSU a five-run cushion at 8-3.
â€œI think the guys genuinely feel like they can win any game at any point in the game,â€ said Boss of battling back from the 3-0 deficit. â€œCertainly the three-run homer takes a little bit of the edge off, but at the same time, with Kurt on the mound and the way our guys have been throwing out of the bullpen, I really think they feel like weâ€™re always in it.â€
Purdue scored a run in the eighth to cut the margin to 8-4, but Holmâ€™s second three-run homer arrived in the bottom of the inning, pushing the advantage back to 11-4.Â Both of Holmâ€™s homers came with two outs and were deep shots to right that landed in the Red Cedar River; he now leads the team with 16 two-out RBIs.
Although the Boilermakers went up 3-0 early, it could have been worse for Michigan State as Purdue left several runners on base in key situations. Overall, Purdue stranded 13 runners.
Following Wunderlichâ€™s six innings, David Garner struck out two and pitched a scoreless seventh, Tim Simpson allowed one run on two hits in the eighth, and Ryan Martin fanned two in the ninth in his first career Big Ten game.
The two teams will meet for the middle game of the series Saturday at 1:05 p.m. at McLane Baseball Stadium.
Holm and Bossâ€™ back-to-back homers in the fifth marked just the second time this season that the Spartans have hit back-to-back home runs (April 24 at Illinois â€“ Jones, Holm) . . . Wunderlich won his 24th career game, which moves him into third place all alone in the MSU record books for career victories; going into the contest, Wunderlich shared third place with Larry Ike and Brian Wolcott . . . Bryan Gale and Stuart Hirschman have the most wins in MSU history with 28 . . . Brandon Eckerle went 2-for-4 and now has 237 career hits, tying him with Mike Pisani for third in school history . . . Eckerle is just eight hits away from tying Bob Malekâ€™s school record of 245 career hits.