In the great state of Michigan, the weather this weekend was phenomenal. College students in East Lansing were on the lawns tossing the ball around, soaking in the sun and wearing shorts (on February 18!). While it usually doesn’t happen until early April in Michigan, this weekend truly felt like baseball season had arrived. For Michigan State’s baseball team, a 1300 mile trip to Abilene, Texas indicated the start of their year. Michigan State will head back home on Sunday night winners of all four, their eleventh 4-0 start in program history.
FRIDAY: Michigan State 9 Abilene Christian 2
The Spartans opened their season on Friday afternoon a bit slow. In the first four innings, Michigan State just managed a pair of hits, and actually fell behind 1-0. In the fifth inning of the contest though, sophomore Marty Bechina connected on a deep-ball to left field, his first of the year, and the Spartans tied it up at one. The sixth inning was where the Wildcats began to unravel. Michigan State scored five runs on three errors and three hits, none bigger than a two-RBI single to right by Dan Durkin.
Michigan State would tack on one more in the eighth and two in the ninth to extend their lead to its final margin of 9-2. Alex Troop picked up his first win of the year (1-0) after going five innings and allowing just two hits. Durkin and Kory Young led the way offensively with two RBIs a piece.
SATURDAY GAME 1: Michigan State 9 Abilene Christian 7
In the closest game of the weekend, the Spartans found themselves playing from behind again early as the Wildcats got a pair of runs in the first inning as the result of two errors. The Spartans responded in the top of the second however, as Kory Young hit a sacrifice fly to left field to bring Michigan State within one. After allowing another run in the third, Michigan State struck for three runs in the top of the fourth inning, sparked by two RBIs by Dan Durkin to take a 4-3 lead.
Michigan State struck for two more in the fifth inning as Danny Gleaves and Zack McGuire each drove in a run for the Spartan offense. An error by Abilene put Michigan State up 8-4 headed into the bottom of the eighth inning, but another sloppy frame of defense allowed the Wildcats to score three runs and come right back into the ball game. In the ninth, Dan Chmielewski provided some insurance with a single to left scoring Alex Troop, and sophomore pitcher Riley McCauley closed the door with a five-out save. Walter Borkovich picked up his first win (1-0) in 3.1 innings of relief.
SATURDAY GAME 2: Michigan State 19 Abilene Christian 7
After falling behind early in each of the first two games, the Spartans wasted zero time finding the scoring column in the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader. Michigan State scored four in the first inning, capped off by a Chad Roskelly home run, and followed it up with five in the second inning as Dan Durkin and Marty Bechina each used the long ball to plate runners, giving Michigan State a 9-1 lead.
In the seventh inning Bechina took another one deep, his third of the season, as the Spartans offense racked up 23 hits in this victory. Durkin led the team in RBIs with five, and Roskelly added three in the win. On the mound, Joe Mockbee pitched five innings of relief, and he struck out seven en route to his first win of the year.
SUNDAY: Michigan State 14 Abilene Christian 5
In the series finale, Michigan State struck early again as they scored four runs on four hits in the first inning. After giving the Wildcats three runs, Michigan State paired three hits with three runs in the fifth inning to balloon their lead back to 7-3. In the ninth inning, Michigan State pushed across six more runs as they batted around to extend their lead to 14-5. Mike Mokma came on to make his collegiate debut in the ninth inning, and he pitched a perfect frame to secure the win and the four-game sweep.
Offensively the Spartans were led by Danny Gleaves, Dan Durkin, Zack McGuire and Matt Byars, who all drove in a pair of runs. On the hill, Jake Lowery earned the win in relief as he pitched three innings and allowed just one hit, while striking out four.
The Spartans now sit at 4-0 on the season, and they will hit the road again to play Friday. This time, they will be headed to Greensboro, North Carolina, as they will battle the “other Spartans” of UNC-Greensboro in a three-game set. UNCG is 1-2 on the year after losing a tough series on the road against #4 South Carolina. First pitch is set for 4:00 on Friday, 2:00 on Saturday, and 1:00 on Sunday. According to UNC-Greensboro’s website, Friday’s game will be broadcast on YouTube, and Sunday they will provide an audio broadcast.