LAKELAND, Fla. â€“ Brandon Eckerle and Jeff Holm each had three hits, and freshman right-hander David Garner struck out seven in 6.2 innings, as the Michigan State baseball team concluded its spring trip with a 7-4 win over Pittsburgh Sunday at Henley Field in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational. The Spartans finished their spring trip with a 6-2 record and improved to 11-3 for the season.
â€œIt was a good trip overall,â€ said Spartan head coach Jake Boss. â€œI was very pleased with how our guys answered the bell after a couple of close losses last weekend. We had some opportunities in those losses, but we bounced back and had a great week.â€
The Spartans broke the game open with five runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a commanding 6-1 lead. After a Jared Hook single started the inning, Jordan Keur advanced Hook to second on a sacrifice bunt. From there, the Spartans rattled off five consecutive hits, including an RBI double by Eckerle, a single by Ryan Jones, an RBI single by Torsten Boss, a two-run double by Holm and a RBI single by Andrew Carpenter.
â€œHitting is contagious,â€ said Boss. â€œWe strung some hits together and the momentum was really in our favor.â€
Garner (2-1) allowed three runs, one earned, on five hits to go along with his seven strikeouts. He has only given up two earned runs in 16.1 innings this season, good for a 1.10 ERA.
â€œWe knew David Garner was an extremely talented kid going into the season,â€ Boss said, â€œwe just werenâ€™t sure what role he was going to fill. He still has a lot of work to do, but heâ€™s been pretty good his last couple of starts.â€
Pittsburgh (8-3) scored two unearned runs in the top of the seventh to cut MSUâ€™s advantage to 6-3, but the Spartans responded right back in the bottom of the inning on Holmâ€™s RBI single. Holm finished the day 3-for-3 with three RBIs and has gone 6-for-6 with six RBIs in the past two games.
The Panthers added one run in the ninth, but stranded two runners as a groundout to shortstop Justin Scanlon ended the game. For the second straight day, Trey Popp and Bryce Jenney closed out the game for MSU by not allowing any runs in relief of Garner.
â€œToday was a very good win for us against a quality program and a quality team,â€ said Boss of beating the Panthers, who entered the game 8-2 and went 38-18 last season. â€œWe knew we were going to have to play well, and we got some timely hits and had a big inning there in the fifth.â€
Michigan State returns to action for a three-game series at Evansville (March 18-20) next weekend.