DeLand, Fla. - No. 6 Missouri jumped out to an early lead, but the Spartans rallied with two big innings late as the Michigan State baseball team lost, 14-9, Saturday afternoon at the Stetson Invitational. The Spartans pounded out 14 hits, led by senior first baseman Evan Friedland's 3-for-4 day. Freshman outfielder Brandon Eckerle had four RBI for MSU, who drops to 1-1 on the young season. Missouri, ranked sixth in the Baseball America poll, moves to 2-0.
"It was a tough loss considering that we didn't pitch as well as we will in the future," head coach David Grewe said. "Not many baseball teams can come back from giving up so many free passes. However, I was pleased with how well we hit against Missouri's great pitching staff."
The Tigers scored four runs in the top of the first on five walks and a hit batsman. The two teams traded runs in the third to give Missouri a 5-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, MSU crept closer with a pair of runs on a two-run single to right by Eckerle.
Missouri took a large lead with a six-run fifth inning that featured three hits and a Spartan error. Missouri's Steve Gray doubled and scored on a single by Greg Folgia. Later in the inning, with the bases loaded Tiger second baseman Austin Holt was hit by a pitch to give Missouri a 7-3 lead. Missouri would add four more runs in the inning, with two of them coming on an RBI single by designated hitter Jacob Priday.
MSU scored three times in the bottom of the fifth, sparked by a two-run double by Eckerle drove in seniors infielder Steve Gerstenberger and Dennis Jones with a double to right center. Friedland then drove in Eckerle with a single to right to make it 11-6.
After Missouri scored a pair of runs in the seventh inning, MSU rallied with three runs in the bottom of the eighth. Freshman Jonathan Roof singled and scored and Eckerle, who reached on a fielder's choice, scored on a throwing error by Holt. The final Spartan run would come on an RBI double down the right-field line by Eric Roof.
Missouri's Ryan Gargano pitched 1.1 innings and got the win because starter Rick Zagone only went four innings. Junior Mark Sorensen, MSU's starter, took the loss. Scott Heitshusen made his Spartan debut, working 4.1 innings of relief. Michigan State used seven different pitchers.
"Our guys battled back and put themselves to put in a position to be competitive at the end," Grewe said. "I'm proud of the character of this team. That makes Sunday's game that much more important. We want to win the weekend."
The Spartans will finish the weekend with a noon game against Connecticut on Sunday, Feb. 24.