Michigan baseball deals Michigan State critical loss
Ann Arbor — Michigan State needed to be perfect in the final series of the regular season, a difficult enough feat to pull off while battling for the final spot in next week’s Big Ten tournament.
Needing to do it against Michigan — not only the Spartans’ biggest rival but the No. 15 team in the nation — made the task nearly impossible.
That much was clear on Friday night at Fisher Stadium as Michigan jumped out early and cruised to an 11-6 victory, keeping alive its hopes for a Big Ten regular-season championship while bouncing back from Thursday’s loss at East Lansing.
“The way we came out and swung the bats tonight is a testament to a team that’s tough and gritty,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “They were upset with the way they played yesterday. We were a little sloppy and that didn’t sit well with our group.”
It also kept the Wolverines (41-13, 15-8 Big Ten) in the thick of a crowded group near the top of the Big Ten standings with the regular-season finale set for Saturday at McLane Stadium in East Lansing.
However, Bakich made it clear the conference title won’t be at the top of the list when the final game starts at noon.
“It’s us vs. them; Michigan vs. Michigan State,” Bakich said. “That’s what we’re focused on. They beat us three out of four times last year and we remember that. We still know what that tastes like.
“If we’re lucky enough to win (the conference championship) I don’t care where we are and I don’t think anyone else does.”
For Michigan State (29-22, 10-13) it was essentially the end of a once-promising season. Unable to build off Thursday’s victory at home over Michigan, the Spartans now have no chance to reach the conference tournament and Saturday’s game will be the final time they take the field.
It will be the first time Michigan State hasn’t played in the Big Ten tournament since 2013 and the third time in coach Jake Boss’ eight seasons.
It didn’t seem like that’s where the season would end after a 9-1 start and a three-game sweep of Illinois to open Big Ten play. However, that’s when things started to go in the wrong direction for the Spartans. By the time they took the field on Friday night, they had lost nine one-run games, including six in the Big Ten.
The result was a frustrating end to what many expected would be a season they’d have a shot at contending for the conference title, even being picked to finish fifth in a preseason poll of Big Ten coaches.
“It was a tough night, a tough start for us,” Boss said. “You dig yourself a 7-0 hole, that can be tough. But they kept fighting and got back in the ballgame there in the middle and got the tying run on deck in the ninth. I was proud of them for that.
“(Not making the tournament) is tough for everybody and it will sink in on the ride home.”
Instead, it’s the Wolverines who are in the mix and it didn’t take long Friday for the Wolverines to flex their muscle. They scored four times in the first inning and knocked Michigan State starter Jake Lowery out of the game before he even recorded an out.
Jake Bivens opened the game with a double followed by a Johnny Slater walk and a single from Michael Brdar. Drew Lugbauer walked to force in a run followed by a single from Miles Lewis that drive in two. A sacrifice fly from Nick Poirier capped the first-inning scoring.
However, things hardly slowed from there as Michigan added three in the second inning when Brdar drove in a run with a bases-loaded single followed by a two-run double from Lugbauer.
Michigan State got on the board with a home run from Zach McGuire in the top of the third before Michigan tacked on two runs in the bottom of the inning thanks to a two-run home run from Harrison Wenson.
Michigan State scored four in the fifth to cut into the Michigan lead. The rally started when the Wolverines misplayed a pop fly to shallow right that scored a run and the Spartans added one on a fielder’s choice. The third run scored a wild pitch before Durkin homered to right center.
Any thoughts of a comeback never materialized, however, as Michigan added two runs in the bottom of the eighth. Michigan State added one run in the ninth but left the bases loaded.
Oliver Jaskie (8-2) went five innings to earn the victory for Michigan, which got four hits from Brdar and three RBI from Lugbauer. Brdar’s four hits matched a career-high.
Royce Ando had three hits for Michigan State while Durkin had two.
Big Ten tournament
When: May 24-28
Where: Bart Kaufman Field, Bloomington, Ind.
Format: Double-elimination; top eight teams in final regular-season standings qualify.
TV: All games on Big Ten Network
Game 1: 3 seed vs. 6 seed, 10 a.m.
Game 2: 2 seed vs. 7 seed, 1:30 p.m.
Game 3: 1 seed vs. 8 seed, 5 p.m.
Game 4: 4 seed vs. 5 seed, 8:30 p.m.
Game 5: Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2, 10 a.m.
Game 6: Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4, 1:30 p.m.
Game 7: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 5 p.m.
Game 8: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 8:30 p.m.
Game 9: Loser Game 7 vs. Winner Game 5, 1 p.m.
Game 10: Loser Game 8 vs. Winner Game 6, 5 p.m.
Game 11: Winner Game 10 vs. Winner Game 7, 10 a.m.
Game 12: Winner Game 9 vs. Winner Game 8, 1:30 p.m.
Game 13 (if necessary): Winner Game 11 vs. Loser Game 11, 5 p.m.
Game 14 (if necessary): Winner Game 12 vs. Loser Game 12, 8:30 p.m.
Championship: Winner Game 11/13 vs. Winner Game 12/14, 2 p.m.