STARKVILLE, Miss. – The Michigan State baseball team got its offense going in a big way on Sunday afternoon as it defeated Eastern Illinois, 18-13, in the final game of The Diamond Classic in Starkville, Miss. The Spartans (5-5) pounded out 20 hits in the win, led by Jimmy Pickens who went 4-for-4 with six RBIs. Pickens was one of seven Spartans that produced multiple hits in the win.
Trailing 13-11 entering the top of the seventh inning of the see-saw affair, the Spartans exploded for seven runs to take the lead for good.
“I think we proved again today that we’re a resilient group,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. “We didn’t quit and we stayed in the game. It has been a frustrating last two days, but give our guys credit for staying the course and they were able to put up a big number today.”
Blaise Salter drove in the first two runs of the seventh for the Spartans with a two-RBI single. Three batters later with the bases loaded and one out, Joel Fisher added another run with a groundout RBI. Pickens followed with a three-RBI homer to push the Spartans ahead, 17-13.
“Joel did a nice job of just putting the ball in play and really competed through that at-bat,” said Boss. “That gave us a little bit of a cushion and set the stage for Jimmy.”
A base hit by Justin Hovis brought in MSU’s final run of the inning.
In what was a tough afternoon for both pitching staffs, it was Walter Borkovich that took over for the Spartans in the fourth inning and was able to settle things down. Borkovich allowed four hits in 4.2 innings of work, but more importantly didn’t allow the Panthers to score the rest of the way as he earned his first collegiate win.
Borkovich’s classmate, Jake Lowery, finished the job in the ninth, getting the final two outs for the first save of his career.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the second, the Spartans claimed their first lead of the day by pushing across four runs. Pickens drove in a pair runs on a bases-loaded double up the middle and two batters later, Johnny Nate got his first collegiate hit with a single to right field to plate two more runs.
Eastern Illinois cut its deficit to 4-3 in the bottom of the second before retaking the lead with six runs in the bottom of the third. The Panthers sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning that was keyed by Frankie Perrone’s three-run homer and a two-RBI double by Demetre Taylor.
Trailing 9-4 entering the fourth, Michigan State got right back into the game with four runs. Cam Gibson hit a three-RBI, bases-clearing triple to right center field and Ryan Richardson followed with sacrifice fly to plate Gibson, to make the score 9-8.
The Panthers quickly upped their lead again though in the bottom of the frame. Perrone drove in three more with a triple and then and RBI single made it 13-8 EIU.
MSU was able to manufacture a pair of runs in the fifth and an RBI single by Pickens in the sixth pulled the Spartans to within two, 13-11.
“Jimmy had a big day after he struggled a bit in previous games,” said Boss. “He answered the bell today and had a lot of productive at-bats.”
In all, 10 Spartans picked up hits in the game. Dan Durkin joined Nate in getting his first collegiate hit as the freshman went 2-for-5 on the afternoon.
EIU pitcher Garrison Stenger was charged with six runs and took the loss for the Panthers.
The Spartans will continue their spring trip on Wednesday when they take on Louisiana-Monroe at 7 p.m. ET.