EAST LANSING - Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the eighth, the Michigan State baseball team scored six runs and went on to beat 16th-ranked Michigan, 7-6, on Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of 2,575 at McLane Stadium.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. “They just kept fighting and scratching a clawing. They could’ve folded when we were down 5-0, but they stayed with the process and just kept playing hard. That’s what we pride ourselves on - playing the game hard and playing the game the right way and they did that today.”
Pinch-hitter Dan Chmielewski got the game-turning bottom of the eight started with single into left field. Royce Ando attempted to move Chmiewlewski with a sac bunt, but U-M pitcher Oliver Jaskie bobbled the pick-up attempt, allowing Ando to reach.
Brandon Hughes doubled in Chmiewlewski to make it 5-2 and then a walk to Jordan Zimmerman loaded the bases.
The Spartans (29-11, 9-5) pulled within a run with a two-RBI single by Marty Bechina into center field and the next batter, Matt Byars, tied it with an RBI single into left field.
With Bechina on third base and Byars on second via a wild pitch, Zack McGuire put the Spartans ahead for good, sending a 1-2 pitch chopping past a drawn in Michigan infield, bringing in both runners.
“We just keep competing,” said Boss. “As the game wore on, we settled into things a little bit. Ethan (Landon) didn’t let them run away with it. There was some frustration in there for sure, but guys just kept plugging away and we were looking for some type of spark to get us going. Maybe the home run (in the seventh), but I think definitely Chmielewski’s single to lead off the eighth.”
Starting pitcher Ethan Landon nearly tossed a complete game in earning his sixth win of the season. He retired the first two hitters in the top of the ninth, but then allowed a single followed by an RBI double to make the score 7-6.
Boss brought in Jake Lowery and the reliever needed just one pitch, getting Matt Ramsay to pop out and end the game.
“I give Ethan Landon a lot of credit,” said Boss. “He was close to coming out of the game early. We needed him to go deep into the game because of the bullpen last night and he did that and kept us close enough where fortunately, we got a big one in the eighth.”
Michigan (29-11, 9-4) jumped on the Spartans in the top of the first, taking a 3-0 lead keyed by a two-out, two-run homer by Cody Bruder.
Wolverine catcher Harrison Wenson helped Michigan add to its lead with RBIs in the top of the third and fifth innings. He had a sacrifice fly in the third and then a two-out double to left field to make it 5-0 in the fifth.
Byars got the Spartans on the board in the bottom of the seventh with a solo home run to left field. The home run was his fourth of the season and extended his hitting streak to 16 games.
McGuire finished with a game-high three hits.
Michigan’s Bryan Pall, who was the third reliever of the eighth inning, took the loss (2-1).
The two teams will close the series on Sunday in Ann Arbor at 1 p.m. Left-hander Joe Mockbee is scheduled to take the mound for MSU.