FORT WORTH, Texas – Junior Blaise Salter hit a two-out, two-run homer in the top of the ninth to give Michigan State a 2-1 victory over No. 21 TCU Friday night at Lupton Stadium. It marks MSU’s second victory over a ranked opponent this season, as the Spartans (6-6) topped No. 1 Oregon State on Feb. 22.
Trailing 1-0 in the ninth, Cam Gibson drew a one-out walk to put the tying run on base for the Spartans. Gibson then moved into scoring position at second after an Anthony Cheky groundout, setting the stage for Salter’s heroics.
Salter drilled a 3-1 pitch over the left-field fence off starter TCU Brandon Finnegan, who was attempting to finish the complete game shutout. The homer, Salter’s second of the season, also extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
Freshman Jake Lowery entered the game in the bottom of the ninth looking to close it out for the Spartans. Lowery allowed a one-out double to right-center field off the bat of Garrett Crain, but after Crain reached third with two outs, he was left stranded as Cody Jones flew out to center to end the scoring threat and the ballgame. For Lowery, it was his second save of the season.
“That was a great team win against a very good ballclub,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss. “Finnegan was as good as anyone we’ve seen in a long time. Our guys did a good job and showed a lot of character. It just took one swing of the bat, and thankfully Salter was the guy that was up at the right time. It also was an outstanding pitching performance by all three guys tonight, I thought they all threw really well.
“Our guys really believe that they can win any game. I think it’s a team that’s shown we can beat anybody. At the same time, until we develop some consistency, we still have a lot to prove. Developing that consistency is going to be very important as we move forward. There’s no question it’s a talented group; when we play well, I think we’re a tough team to play against.”
Prior to the ninth, TCU (8-5) scored the game’s only run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Boomer White led off the frame with a double down the left-field line, and advanced to third on a groundout. Although MSU starter Justin Alleman got the next batter, Kevin Cron, to strike out swinging, he still reached first base following a throwing error by Spartan catcher Joel Fisher. White then scored the unearned run on a fielder’s choice on the next play.
Alleman allowed just four hits and struck out three in his 6 2/3 innings of work. Red-shirt freshman lefty Cam Vieaux (1-1) threw 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn his first collegiate victory.
Finnegan (2-2), a junior southpaw who was a member of the 2013 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, struck out 12 batters and gave up four hits while pitching a complete game.
In addition to Salter’s home run, Gibson, Jimmy Pickens and Joel Fisher each had hits for MSU.
Michigan State missed out on scoring chances to take the lead in the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Pickens hit a one-out double to right-center but was left stranded following two flyouts. Gibson reached third on a fielding error by TCU right fielder Dylan Fitzgerald with just one out in the sixth; however, Gibson was thrown out at the plate on a groundout on the next play.
The two teams will meet in the second game of the three-game series Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. A live broadcast will be available for purchase at GoFrogs.com.