CLEARWATER, Fla. â€“ With its 8-4 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday, the Michigan State baseball team is off to its best start since 1992 as the Spartans won all three of their games in the Big East/Big Ten Challenge. The Spartans defeated Notre Dame, Seton Hall and UC in becoming the only Big Ten team to go undefeated at the event.
â€œI was very pleased with how we played all around,â€ said Spartan head coach Jake Boss. â€œI think itâ€™s encouraging that each day we played better than we did the day before. We pitched very well all weekend, our bullpen was good, we had a lot of timely hits and showed a lot of character winning two one-run games. Today, we really executed well throughout the entire ballgame.â€
Michigan State pounded out 15 hits against the Bearcats (1-2), led by senior first baseman Jeff Holm, who went 3-for-4, including a three-run homer in the third that gave MSU a 4-0 lead. Shortstop Justin Scanlon also collected three hits for MSU.
Sophomore Andrew Waszak tossed five innings to earn the victory on the mound. He was relieved in the sixth by Tim Simpson as the Spartans held onto a 5-1 lead.
Cincinnati rallied in the sixth to score three runs, all credited to Simpson. Tony Wieber relieved Simpson with the bases loaded, and Wieber allowed a walk and a two-run single to center as the Bearcats cut the lead to 5-4.
MSU responded in the bottom half of the inning as Brandon Eckerle â€“ who went 8-for-12 in the series â€“ hit an RBI single to left field, scoring freshman catcher Joel Fisher.
The Spartans tacked on two insurance runs in the seventh on RBI base hits by Scanlon and Jordan Keur to take an 8-4 lead.
Wieber earned the save after pitching 2.1 scoreless innings in relief.
The game was shortened to eight innings because Cincinnati had to catch a flight out of Tampa later in the day.
â€œThe neat thing about the whole weekend was that our seniors really did a nice job of carrying us,â€ said Boss. â€œKurt Wunderlich got the win on Friday, Brandon Eckerle went 4-for-4 yesterday, and Jeff Holm hit a three-run homer today. Our seniors were the leaders this weekend and they were a big reason we had a lot of success.â€
Michigan State returns to action next weekend for the First Pitch Invitational in Greenville, S.C. The Spartans open up the tournament against Charleston Southern on Friday, Feb. 25, before taking on Furman Saturday and Clemson Sunday.