Top-Notch Pitching Lands Michigan State Baseball Another Big Win

Top-Notch Pitching Lands Michigan State Baseball Another Big Win
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The Michigan State baseball team, led by some amazing pitching went to Florida tonight and got a monster win. MSU baseball super SID Zach Fisher has all the details for us: 

Erla Deals Up Gem In 1-0 Victory For MSU Over Troy

Spartans open Cox Diamond Invite with pitchers’ duel; junior hurler fires career-high 12 Ks.

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- Mason Erla fired a career-high 12 strikeouts and didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning to lead Michigan State to a 1-0 win over Troy Friday night in a pitchers’ duel to end the opening day of Cox Diamond Invitational action at Blue Wahoos Stadium.

Erla ended with 12 strikeouts over 7.0 IP, allowing just two hits, going 5.2 IP of no-hit baseball, before a single in the sixth and a bloop wind-aided, wind-blown double in the seventh. His gem helped MSU rebound from a loss in their previous game, Wednesday in Greenville, S.C. to South Carolina Upstate, as well as helping MSU post its first shutout since April 7, 2019 vs. Indiana State, which came two days after Erla went 9.0 IP of shutout ball vs. Indiana State, before the game went to extras, won by MSU in the 10th.

“I mean it’s really exciting, especially coming off a loss our last game, but to shut a team out is always good. So that was really good feeling and then (Caleb) Sleeman coming in after me and shutting the door was great too.”

Senior Caleb Sleeman pitched the final 2.0 IP, ringing up four strikeouts, to earn the save.

Erla’s 12 strikeouts was a new career-high, marking the third time this season that he has set or tied a new career-best in four appearances. The redshirt-junior hurler tallied 11 Ks in the season-opener vs. Morehead State on Feb. 14 and matched that with 11 punchouts on Feb. 21 vs. Merrimack.

“It feels really good, but I don’t really think about that, it just kind of happens, but it’s a good feeling,” Erla said.

Erla fired 5.2 IP without a hit Friday night before yielding a two-out wind-aided bloop single, but then came right back and got a strikeout to end it. He rang up a three-up, three-down inning in the first, second, fourth and fifth frames, and didn’t face more than four Troy batters in any inning. The Trojans came into Friday’s game hitting .320 as a team and Erla stymied their bats.

“I thought Mason Erla was just unbelievable tonight,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “To do what he did against that lineup, it’s a dynamic offense that they have, they’re hitting around .320 as a team going into tonight and for him to strike out 12 and only allow two hits in seven innings was just incredible. It’s as good a starting pitching performance that we’ve had here in a long, long time. I’m really proud of him.”

The Spartan hurler’s 12 Ks are the most since former teammate Riley McCauley tallied 12 punchouts on Feb. 16, 2018 at Fresno State, allowing two hits and a run in 6.0 IP. Erla now has 42 strikeouts on the season and 163 for his career, needing just 17 more to crack into the MSU top 10 list for career strikeouts.

Erla’s 12 Ks were nearly matched by Troy starting pitcher Levi Thomas, who fired 11 strikeouts in 6.0 IP. Thomas had only allowed two walks and didn’t allow a run in his previous three appearances before MSU drew four walks off of him and tagged him for his first run on just two hits Friday night.

“I’m just really proud of our guys,” Boss said. “That’s a really, really good ballclub over there that’s going to win a lot of games this year. Their starting pitcher is a true Friday night guy, he’s got as good a fastball as we’ve seen in a long, long time and I’m really proud of our guys for hanging in there. We were able to scratch one across in the third inning, and executed I thought pretty well, offensively when we had chances to, it’s hard to say when you only get four hits and strikeout 13 times, but when we had opportunities to execute, we did execute a couple hit-and-runs, and a sacrifice bunt, and so we put ourselves in a position a couple times. We got a big hit-and-run with Peterson, then a sac fly by Ahn to drive in the run.”

Erla got some nice defensive play, as sophomore outfielder Casey Mayes made a nifty running catch in left field just before the wall to end the third, while junior infielder Zach Iverson chased down a foul out in the fourth.

“It always makes it easier when the defense is making place,” Erla said. “So hats off to those guys for helping me out.”

Senior pitcher Caleb Sleeman came on in the eighth and after a bit of a rocky start, with a runner initially reaching on an error, but sophomore first baseman Peter Ahn chased down the errant throw and fired a throw to Iverson at third to peg out the runner. Sleeman settled in and was dealing, firing four strikeouts in 2.0 IP to earn his first save of the season.

“For Caleb to come in and get the save, and strike the last guy out to end it was just really happy for him and he’s worked so hard and just cap off a great win,” Boss said.

Michigan State ended with four hits on the night, with senior outfielder Bryce Kelley and senior infielder Bailey Peterson, along with sophomore outfielder Zaid Walker, were all 1-for-3. Kelley and Peterson also each drew a walk, while Peterson swiped one bag. Sophomore infielder Brendan Regan was 1-for-4. Sophomore infielder Peter Ahn collected the Spartans’ lone RBI with a sacrifice fly in the sixth.

Peterson and Ahn drew back-to-back one-out walks in the first, but MSU was unable to move them along. Michigan State got the leadoff man aboard in the second on Walker’s single, but nothing else going.

The Spartans got on the board first with a run in the top of the third. Kelley led off with a walk and moved up to third on a hit-and-run single by Peterson and was brought home on a sacrifice fly by Ahn. It was not just the first earned run allowed but the first run of any kind allowed by Troy pitcher Levi Thomas, who entered Friday’s game with only two walks on the season, but the Spartans were patient, drawing four free passes for the night. Along with Kelley and Peterson, Ahn and Mayes also drew a base-on-balls.

Walker reached on a two-out error in the sixth, but didn’t move past first. Regan and Kelley had consecutive singles in the seventh, but the rally fizzled with Kelley getting thrown out at second trying to swipe the base, for the final out of the frame.

The Spartans tried to add an insurance run in the top of the ninth, as Walker led off getting hit by a pitch and moved up to second on a sac bunt by Iverson, but Troy snuffed out the rally.

Sleeman got the leadoff hitter to fly out for the first out in the bottom of the ninth, then rang up a strikeout, before yielding a walk, but put the kibosh on any Troy rally with a strikeout to end it.

Michigan State continues Cox Diamond Invitational action on Saturday, March 7 taking on Louisiana, scheduled for a 4 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. CT start time, following the Troy vs. Samford contest. MSU will then face Samford on Sunday, March 8 in a 12 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. CT.

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