NEW ORLEANS -- Michigan State baseball was topped by New Orleans, 4-1, Saturday afternoon at UNO's Maestri Field.
The Spartans level their record at 1-1 on the young season after Friday night's season-opening 8-4 victory.
MSU outhit UNO, 11-8, Saturday but just couldn't drive a run in, leaving 10 runners on base. The Spartans threatened throughout the game, including the sixth, when UNO turned a nifty double play to end not only the MSU threat, but the inning as well.
Junior Mike Mokma went 5.0 IP, tying his career-high with five strikeouts, including ending four of his innings with a punchout. He scattered six hits and yielded three runs, while walking two.
"I thought we were a little bit cleaner today, which was to be expected," MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr said. "I thought Mike Mokma threw well. But give them credit, they made some plays when they needed to, including a big double play to stop one of our rallies. Every time they needed to make a play, they did, and that's just how the game is sometimes. We'll be ready to go compete tomorrow."
Of MSU's 11 hits, junior outfielder Bryce Kelley rapped out four of them, going 4-for-5 with a run scored and a stolen base. Kelley, who broke the Spartans' single-season stolen base record last season with 33, swiped his first base of the 2019 season and it was his 47th of his career, breaking away from a three-way tie for No. 5 on MSU's career stolen base list.
Senior infielder Royce Ando was 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the eighth, adding a double in the third inning for his third extra base hit of the young season, as he has now hit for the cycle in the two games after a home run and triple Friday night. Junior infielder Justin Antoncic was 2-for-4 and senior outfielder Dan Chmielewski was 1-for-3.
"We had a couple freshmen get their first college hits today, and I thought we put together some better at bats," Boss said. "We only struck out four times today, so we were much more competitive at the plate, but any time you leave 10 guys on base, that's tough. We need to do a better job of moving guys and taking advantage of our opportunities, but again, credit them, they did a heck of a job making plays when they needed to."
New Orleans threatened in the bottom of the first, getting runners on the corners, but Mokma slammed the door on the rally with a called strikeout, the first of five punchouts on the day.
The Privateers broke through in the third, with an RBI single, and the rallied continued with two on, but again Mokma helped himself out of the jam, fielding his position with a come-backer groundout to end the frame. UNO added run on a sac fly to right field to double its lead to 2-0 before Mokma ended the inning with another strikeout.
After MSU went down in order in the visitor's fifth, New Orleans added a run in the home half of the frame, capitalizing on a hit-by-pitch, walk and an RBI single to score a run without any outs. Mokma again got out of the jam turning a double play after another come-backer, this one bouncing off his leg and he scooped up the ball and threw out the runner at first, then Antoncic doubled up the runner rounding second. Mokma again rang up a strikeout to end the inning.
Kelley sparked an MSU threat in the sixth with a one-out single up the middle and Antoncic followed with a single to left. However, New Orleans defense turned a double play on the next batter to thwart the threat and end the frame. Michigan State had two hits in the seventh, on singles by Walker and Chmielewski, but both runners were left on base without a run.
The Privateers added a run in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-0 lead, but the Spartans quickly countered with their run in the eighth. Kelley again started the rally with a one-out single. Antoncic followed with an infield single to move Kelley to second. Two batters later Ando singled to center to plate Kelley, before a fielder's choice ended the Spartan rally.
After junior reliever Mitchell Tyranski and freshman reliever Colten Panaranto retired UNO in order in the bottom of the eighth, the Spartans had one last crack to tie it in the top of the ninth. Sophomore catcher Adam Proctor led off with a walk, and redshirt-freshman Brendan Regan pinch ran for Proctor. Chmielewski reached on a fielder's choice that wiped Regan from the basepaths, but Trahey followed with a single to center. However, the rally fizzled with a pair of fly outs to the outfield to end the MSU threat and the game.
The Spartans and Privateers wrap up their three-game season-opener series with the rubber match on Sunday, Feb. 17 at 1 p.m. ET.
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