EAST LANSING, Mich. â€“ It was a memorable Senior Day for the Michigan State baseball team on Saturday afternoon at McLane Baseball Stadium.
The Spartans capped off the regular season with a 9-2 victory over Penn State, giving the class of 2012 its 128th win over the past four years, tying for the most in school history along with the class of 1989 and 1990.
â€œItâ€™s an emotional time for those guys â€“ itâ€™s their last time playing out here,â€ said MSU head coach Jake Boss, who began his tenure in East Lansing with this senior class. â€œThose seniors have done an outstanding job throughout their four years; theyâ€™ve helped changed the culture of things around here. They had a chance to win the Big Ten Championship a year ago and theyâ€™ve done a tremendous job for our program. Itâ€™s neat to send them off on a high note.â€
â€œIt couldnâ€™t have ended more perfect,â€ said senior co-captain and shortstop Justin Scanlon, who had an assist on the gameâ€™s last play. â€œItâ€™s a great day to cap everything off. My family traveled a distance to be here. My buddy from Miracle Field came. Itâ€™s awesome â€“ I couldnâ€™t have dreamed of a better outcome.â€
The Spartans finished Big Ten play with a 13-11 record and will be the No. 5 seed in next weekâ€™s Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio. MSU will face fourth-seeded Nebraska on Wednesday, May 23 at 12:05 p.m.
Sophomore David Garner (5-3) was once again brilliant on the mound for the Spartans, as he allowed just two runs on three hits in 6 1/3 innings. Garner tied his career high with nine strikeouts and improved to 4-1 in Big Ten play as a starter.
Although Garner gave up a first inning homer to Joey DeBernardis that gave Penn State (29-25, 15-9) an early 2-0 advantage, they were the only runs the Nittany Lions would score all day.
MSU bounced back with three runs in the second to give Garner a 3-2 lead. Anthony Chekyâ€™s two-run double keyed the rally, and Jared Hook later scored on a wild pitch.
The game remained 3-2 all the way until the seventh as Garner and John Walter, the Penn State starter, traded strikeouts throughout the middle innings.
Garner was lifted with one out in the seventh after his pitch count reached 105, and Jeff Kinley closed it out with 2 2/3 shutout innings to earn his second save of the season.
Entering the bottom of the seventh, Walter had retired his last eight batters, but he ran into trouble as Cheky led off with a single, stole second, and scored on a Ryan Jones RBI triple to left-center. Jordan Keur then plated Jones with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-2. Walter was finally pulled with two outs in the seventh after throwing 135 pitches.
The Spartans broke the game open with four runs in the eighth as Martinez, Jones and Keur all had RBI hits in the inning.
Walter (2-8) also tied his career high in strikeouts with nine, but suffered the loss after surrendering five runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings.
Michigan State collected 10 hits, while Penn State was limited to just three. Jones went 2-for-4 with two runs and three RBIs, Cheky went 2-for-2 with two runs and two RBIs, and Martinez went 2-for-4 with two runs.
The 2012 Big Ten Tournament will be held at Huntington Park in downtown Columbus. All of the tournament games will be televised live on BTN.
â€œIt was a big day, thereâ€™s no question about it,â€ said Boss. â€œWe wanted to feel a little bit better about ourselves after a tough Thursday and Friday. I thought we played well today â€“ we didnâ€™t make an error, we pitched it pretty well, and got some big hits when we needed them. It was a good day all around.â€
The 35 wins marks the most victories by the Spartans in the regular season since 2002 (36) and the fourth-highest total in the regular season in program history (1988: 41, 2002: 36, 1971: 36).
The 35 wins is the sixth-highest total overall in school history.
As a starter in the Big Ten rotation, David Garner is 4-1 with a 3.22 ERA and has 43 strikeouts in 44 2/3 innings.
Ryan Jones hit his 46th career double in the eighth inning and is now just one shy of tying the school record (Scott Ayotte, 47).
Michigan Stateâ€™s seven seniors â€“ Tony Bucciferro, Andrew Carpenter, Andy Johnson, Chad Nielsen, Justin Scanlon and Tim Simpson â€“ were recognized in a pregame ceremony.