Michigan State Spartans Hold Off Purdue, 5-3 Lead Big Ten by Two Games

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Jeff Holm goes 3-for-5 with an RBI; the senior co-captain is now 6-for-9 in the series with seven RBIs.  Photo courtesy of MSU SID.

Jeff Holm goes 3-for-5 with an RBI; the senior co-captain is now 6-for-9 in the series with seven RBIs. Photo courtesy of MSU SID.


EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State baseball team won its eighth straight Big Ten game at home as the Spartans defeated Purdue, 5-3, Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium. The Spartans (29-14, 12-5 Big Ten) are now two games ahead of the Boilermakers (30-15, 10-7) in the conference standings and are assured of being in first place after the weekend series.

Senior first baseman Jeff Holm led the Spartans at the plate for the second straight day, going 3-for-5 with an RBI double in the third. Holm is now 6-for-9 in the series with seven RBIs after hitting two three-runs homers in yesterday’s 11-4 win.

“Jeff’s a complete hitter,” Michigan State head coach Jake Boss said. “When he stays within himself and doesn’t feel like he has to carry the entire load, I believe he’s as good of a hitter as anyone in this conference.”

Ryan Jones had an infield single in the third to extend his school-record hitting streak to 32 games, while Torsten Boss, Joel Fisher, Tony Wieber and Justin Scanlon collected two hits apiece. Michigan State out-hit the Boilermakers, 14-8.

Michigan State again used timely hitting at the plate as all five runs scored with two outs. MSU plated seven of its 11 runs in Friday’s victory with two outs.

“Baseball is a game of momentum,” said Boss. “When you’re able to score first, it puts a little more pressure on the opponent. When guys are in scoring situations they’ve been able to come through. Our guys have handled themselves really well the last couple of days.”

Junior right-hander Tony Bucciferro produced his ninth quality start of the season (six innings or more; three earned runs or less) by scattering seven hits and allowing two runs in 6 1/3 innings. He earned his seventh win of the season and 19th for his career, which moves him seventh place in MSU history.

“I thought Tony was very good today,” Boss said. “He’s a guy that gets a lot of outs early in the count and gets a lot of weak ground balls. He’s really able to get hitters off balance, which is what pitching is all about.”

MSU struck first in the game as back-to-back RBI hits from Holm and Boss gave the Spartans a 2-0 lead in third. With two down, Jones reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error. Holm then plated Jones with a double to left-center field and would come around himself on a single to left from Boss.

Bucciferro (7-2) received more run support in the fifth as Wieber delivered a two-run single to left field to expand MSU’s lead to 4-0. 

“Coach always emphasizes to stay positive and get the pitch that you want,” said Wieber. “If you have two strikes, make them come after you and don’t swing at balls. Today we were clutch with two outs.”

Purdue finally got to Bucciferro in the sixth, plating a run on a RBI double from Eric Charles. In the next inning, the Boilermakers forced Bucciferro out of the game, loading the bases with one out. Tim Simpson came out of the pen to strike out his first batter, before allowing an infield single to Tyler Spillner, cutting the MSU lead to 4-2. Simpson escaped further trouble, getting Eric Charles to fly out to right field to leave the bases loaded.

The Spartans added a run in the bottom of the seventh to expand their lead back to three runs at 5-2. Again a two-out run crossed the plate for MSU, as Justin Scanlon kept a double just fair down the third-base line to score Wieber all the way from first.

In the top of the eighth, Purdue scored a single run for the third straight inning, but it left the bases loaded in both the seventh and eighth. David Garner came in relief of Simpson in the eighth with runners on first and second and no outs. Garner hit the first batter to load the bases, but struck out Angelo Cianfrocco for the first out. Andrew Dixon then delivered a sacrifice fly to left field to cut MSU’s lead to 5-3. After a walk, Garner got Stephen Talbott to ground out to third base to end the rally.

Wieber pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save of the season.

“I love it,” Wieber said of his dual role as a right fielder and relief pitcher. “You can’t ask for much more than that. I don’t mind coming in from the outfield to pitch because you’re already warm. I just need a couple of pitches out of the bullpen and I’m ready to go.”

“Tony has a lot of confidence and really believes in himself,” said Boss. “He’s a perfect guy to have at the end of the ballgame.”

The Spartans will look for their third straight Big Ten sweep at home in the series finale on Sunday at 1:05 p.m. MSU swept Minnesota (April 8-10) and Penn State (April 29-30, May 1) earlier this season in conference play.