Â EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ Although the Michigan State baseball team fell to Northwestern in the regular-season finale, 6-5, Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium, the Spartans (34-19, 15-9) still claimed a share of the Big Ten Championship and will be a No. 2 seed in next weekâ€™s Big Ten Tournament. Illinois (25-25, 15-9) earned the No. 1 seed after completing a three-game sweep over Indiana on Saturday.
Before a season-high crowd of 2,411 fans, the Spartans fell just short in winning the outright regular-season Big Ten title. Northwestern first baseman Jack Haveyâ€™s RBI double in the top of the seventh proved to be the difference, as the Wildcats scored twice in the inning to rally for the 6-5 victory. Havey finished the game with three doubles and two RBIs.
Down 4-1 in the sixth, the Spartans rattled off four runs in the bottom of the inning to take a 5-4 lead. Brandon Eckerle led off with a single to right and later scored on a Jeff Holm RBI single up the middle, while Ryan Jones scored on a run-scoring hit by Jared Hook. Holm tied the game at 4 when he crossed the plate during a bases loaded double play, and Justin Scanlon came through with a big two-out single that brought home Torsten Boss.
The Wildcats fought back with two in the seventh, however, against reliever Tim Simpson. Simpson (1-2) suffered the loss after allowing two runs and three hits in 1 2/3 innings.
The Spartans tried to rally in the eighth and innings, but came up just short. With Hook on first and two outs in the eighth, Scanlon hit a single to right field, but he was thrown out at first on the same play after rounding too far off the bag.
In the ninth, a fielding error by Wildcat second baseman Patrick Miller put Jordan Keur on first with one out. A fielderâ€™s choice with Eckerle at the plate got Keur out at second, but Eckerle advanced to second on a wild pitch. With a 2-0 count, Jones popped up to the shortstop to end the game.
Michigan State still celebrated its fourth Big Ten title in school history following the game, as head coach Jake Boss addressed the crowd and thanked them for their support. The team also had on championship t-shirts and hats and hoisted the trophy at home plate before a standing ovation.
The Spartans have earned a bye in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio, and will play on Thursday as the No. 2 seed. A complete bracket will be posted later on msuspartans.com