OMAHA – The Michigan State baseball team’s season came to an end on Saturday afternoon at the hands of top-seeded Indiana in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. With the game tied 4-4 in the top of the ninth, Indiana scored three runs to go on to a 7-4 win over the Spartans at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.
The No. 6 seed Spartans went 2-2 in the Big Ten Tournament and finished the 2014 campaign with a 31-26 record.
The Spartans scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the first and Indiana answered with two in the top of the second, setting the tone for the afternoon. The two teams traded solo runs in the sixth and then IU took a 4-3 lead in the top of the seventh. MSU again fought back in the bottom of the eighth, tying the game at four.
“I’m really proud of my guys – they’re hurting right now. It was a tough way for it to end,” said MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. “We asked a lot out of those guys today and they responded. I give them a lot of credit for that. I’m proud of them.”
Anthony Misiewicz, who entered Saturday having appeared in two of the Spartans’ previous three games in the tournament, started on the mound and recorded eight strikeouts in five innings of work. Misiewicz struck out the side to start the game and after allowing two runs in the second, he quickly got back into a groove, retiring nine of the next 10 hitters.
“Anthony Misiewicz was lights-out, especially pitching in a situation where he hasn’t had much rest,” Boss said. “He wanted the ball and I appreciate the effort.”
With the game tied, 4-4, in the top of the ninth, reliever Walter Borkovich hit the leadoff batter, Tim O’Conner with a pitch. Mick VanVossen then came in to replace Borkovich, but he also hit the first batter he faced. A single by Kyle Schwarber loaded the bases and then a force out at home on a fielder’s choice gave MSU its first out.
With the bases still loaded, Scott Donley ripped a double over the head of Jimmy Pickens in right field, scoring two runs to give IU the lead, 6-4. A wild pitch later in the inning from Chase Rihtarchik made it 7-4.
Closer Jake Kelzer earned the win for IU, pitching the final 1 2/3 innings.
Blaise Salter got things going for MSU in the bottom of the first, ripping a two-out double to left field. The double was Salter’s 22nd of the season, tying him with Chris McCuiston for first place on MSU’s single-season doubles list.
A walk to Pickens set up Joel Fisher and the senior continued his hot streak, belting a double to deep left field, scoring both runners for a 2-0 lead.
Indiana bounced right back in the bottom of the first, scoring its first run on Brad Hartong’s slow rolling RBI groundout toward third. A seeing-eye single through the middle by Will Nolden made it 2-2.
Misiewicz’s strong outing lost some steam in the top of the sixth as Schwarber singled and Sam Travis followed with a double off the wall in left field. The consecutive hits broke Misiewicz’s streak of retiring eight straight Hoosiers and also ended his day on the mound.
Joe Mockbee took over for Misiewicz and got a ground ball off the bat of the first hitter he faced, Donley. But the groundball out was enough to score Schwarber from third, giving IU a 3-2 lead.
Mockbee didn’t let the Hoosiers’ other base runner, Travis, move any further in the inning as he got a strikeout and then a great play from Johnny Nate at second on a ground ball to end the inning.
MSU quickly answered in the bottom of the sixth to knot the game. With leadoff hitter Cam Gibson on second, Pickens belted a single into right field. Gibson took off from second on contact and slid home safely, beating Nolden’s throw to the plate and tying the game, 3-3.
An RBI double by O’Conner in the top of the seventh reclaimed the lead for IU, 4-3.
Gibson helped the Spartans tie the game in the bottom of the sixth and he did it again in the bottom of the eighth. After reaching on a one-out single, Gibson stole second and then moved over to third on a wild pitch by Kelzer.
With two outs and Gibson on third, Salter sent a ball toward third baseman DeMuth who bobbled it, allowing Gibson to score and knot the game up again, 4-4.
In his final collegiate game, Fisher led MSU at the plate by going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. He finished the tournament with a .471 batting average and six RBIs.
“Joel’s a tremendous leader,” Boss said. “He has had a very good career here and has done a tremendous job.”