Spartans Nipped By Terps, 5-3

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Michigan State Baseball (PHOTO:  MSU SID)

Michigan State Baseball (PHOTO: MSU SID)

Spartans Nipped By Terps, 5-3, Sunday

MSU rally comes up short

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State Baseball was nipped by Maryland, 5-3, Sunday afternoon at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, as the Terrapins took the key three-game Big Ten Conference series, two games to one.

Sunday was MSU Baseball Alumni Day at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, and the Spartans had MSU alums Dan Brown and Ray Collard from the 1954 World Series Spartans throw out the ceremonial first pitches. After the first inning, the alumni in attendance were recognized on the field.

The Spartans scored first, but the Terps countered with a four-run fifth inning on a grand slam home run for a 4-1 lead. Maryland added a run in the eighth for a 5-1 lead. MSU rallied with two runs in the bottom of the eighth and had a runner on third with the tying run at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, but a foul out ended the game.

“We played well I thought today, just couldn’t push a couple runs across when we had the opportunity,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “The grand slam, that’s on me, I think the bullpen was fully stocked and ready to go and I should have had Jake Lowery ready for that stop and I didn’t. Their guys had a couple of good swings off of Mike (Mokma) his first two at-bats, we decided to stay with Mike, and their guy ended up hurting us. One swing, that’s the way the game goes, I know hind-sight and all that, but that situation, I’ll take that one.”

Michigan State now has a 16-23 overall and an even 7-7 B1G ledger, while Maryland is now 19-24 overall and 5-9 in Big Ten play.

“We are .500 in the conference now, with three obviously big weekends to go,” Boss said. “We will worry about Penn State after we get through final exams here the next couple days, then it’s all baseball.”

Sunday’s 2-run deficit was not only the second of the series determined by two runs, but was Michigan State’s 24th game this season decided by 1-2 runs.

Sophomore left fielder Bryce Kelley was 2-for-4 and had a stolen base, his B1G leading 25th of the season. Junior right fielder/shortstop Marty Bechina was 1-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored, while sophomore center fielder Danny Gleaves and sophomore second baseman Justin Antoncic were both 1-for-5 with a run scored apiece. Freshman catcher Adam Proctor was 1-for-1 with an RBI, coming on as a pinch hitter in the eighth and staying in to catch in the top of the ninth.

On the mound, sophomore Mike Mokma started and went 5.0 IP, chalking up a career-high five strikeouts for the second-straight outing, yielding four hits and four runs. Senior Jake Lowery came on in relief and went 2.0 IP with three Ks and one hit, sophomore Mitchell Tyranski threw 1.0 IP with a strikeout and a run scored, while junior Riley McCauley pitched a hitless, scoreless top of the ninth.

After Maryland had scored first in the previous two games of the series, it was Michigan State getting on the board first in Sunday’s finale, as Gleaves led off with a triple to right center. Two batters later, senior designated hitter Chad Roskelly drove in Gleaves with a sacrifice fly to center for a 1-0 MSU lead.

The 1-0 advantage held until the top of the fifth inning, when the Terps loaded the bases with two outs before Marty Costes belted a grand slam home run over the scoreboard in left field for a 4-1 visitors’ advantage.

The Spartans threatened to close the gap in the home half of the fifth frame, opening the inning with a pair of walks. After two outs, Kelley reaching on an infield single to load the bases, brining Roskelly to the plate. He laced a line drive to left center that Terps’ left fielder Costes dove and snared, robbing Roskelly and ending the Spartan rally.

“Maryland played well, they made plays when they needed to, the left fielder made a diving play when he needed to, and a couple other guys made plays and they overcame maybe a couple possible errors, if you do that, you overcome them by making plays when we had opportunities, so give them credit,” Boss said.

Maryland added a run in the eighth, taking advantage of a one-out walk, followed by an RBI double by Taylor Wright for a 5-1 advantage.

Antoncic sparked the Spartan rally in the eighth, leading off with a double to left. Two batters later, freshman third baseman Zach Iverson laced a line drive to right that Terp right fielder Randy Bednar dove and snared, denying Iverson of extra bases. Next up was Bechina, who drove Antoncic in with a single to left, then moved up to second on a wild pitch. Proctor followed with his pinch-hit RBI single to center to plate Bechina and pull MSU within 5-3, but the rally ended on a fielder’s choice.

After McCauley set the Terps down in order in the ninth, the Spartans had their last chance to tie it up or win on a walk off, and Gleaves led off reaching on an error. He moved to second on a groundout. Roskelly followed and belted a deep fly to right that was caught on the warning track by Bednar, halting Roskelly’s reached-base streak at 20 games. With two outs, Antoncic was MSU’s last chance and he battled Maryland reliever John Murphy, fouling off pitch after pitch, before on the 13th pitch of the at-bat, popping up into fair territory in front of the Terps’ dugout that Maryland first baseman Kevin Biondic caught to end the game.

“We had better at-bats later, guys competed, and they continued to compete,” Boss said. “The last at-bat of the ball game was just a great at-bat by Justin (Antoncic) and you know what are you going to do? Their guy made pitches when he needed to and they got us.”

With no midweek action for MSU finals week, the Spartans make their longest road trip of their Big Ten ledger, heading to University Park, Pa. to play Penn State for a three-game B1G series Friday-Sunday, May 4-6 at PSU’s Medlar Field. Friday’s opener is slated for 6:30 p.m., followed by a 2 p.m. start time on Saturday. The series finale on Sunday is slated for a 1 p.m. first pitch.

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