MICHIGAN STATE SPARTAN BASEBALL TAKEN DOWN BY #23 ILLINOIS

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTAN BASEBALL TAKEN DOWN BY #23 ILLINOIS

The Michigan State Spartans fell to Illinois at home. The Illini are rated #23. Here is the complete recap and picture from the MSU SID!

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State was defeated by No. 23 Illinois Thursday night under the lights at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field in the opener of the three-game weekend series on the final weekend of regular-season action.

The Spartans had a 2-0 lead after a run in the first and third innings, before the Illini scored three in the top of the third for a 3-2 lead. MSU leveled it up at 3-all with a run in the fifth, but Illinois countered by plating a run in the top of the sixth, then two in both the eighth and ninth for an 8-3 advantage. However, the Spartans rallied in the ninth, loading the bases and getting the tying run in the on-deck circle, but were unable to get any closer.

"Our guys competed, it was unfortunate we gave up two in the eighth and two in the ninth, but Illinois is a good ball club. They swing the bat well, they keep grinding through at bats and I think we can learn some things from those guys. At the same time, I was proud of the way our guys competed, we had the tying run in the on-deck circle in the ninth," MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. "We'll come back and compete again tomorrow."

MSU was led by senior infielder Marty Bechina kicked off Spartan Senior Weekend going 3-for-4 and tallied two RBI, with two of his hits being doubles. Bechina now has 17 doubles for the season and 45 for his career, moving up to tie for No. 5 on MSU's career doubles list with Bob Malek (2000-02).

Fellow senior, outfielder Dan Chmielewski was 3-for-5 including three hits in first three at bats, and scored two runs, both on Bechina's RBI. Junior outfielder Bryce Kelley was 1-for-5 with an RBI, while sophomore infielder Zach Iverson was 1-for-3 with an run scored. 

Illinois rapped out 15 hits, including two home runs.

"It's a good ball club over there, they swing the bat well, they compete well in at bats, they popped off 15 hits off us tonight they just keep coming at ya. We had it 4-3 there in the seventh and unfortunately gave up two in the eighth and two in the ninth as they kind of pulled away," Boss said. "I'm proud  of the way our guys competed, but they'll get a good effort out of us again tomorrow and we'll get a good effort out of them tomorrow as well. Again it's a good club over there they're very well coached and they got some talented kids." 

Game two of the three-game weekend series is Friday night at 6:35 p.m.

Illinois pitcher Andy Fisher got the win, going 6.2 IP, yielding three runs on seven hits to MSU, before the Spartans faced three Illini relievers, including closer Garrett Acton, who posted his B1G and NCAA leading 18th save of the season.

MSU got on the board early with a run in the home half of the first, as Chmielewski led off with a Texas Leaguer double to left, threading the ball into a tiny opening between converging Illinois left fielder Cam McDonald and shortstop Branden Comia. After Kelley grounded out to second moved Chmielewski over, Bechina lined a single to center to plate Chmielewski and give MSU a 1-0 lead.

Bechina struck again in the third to drive in Chmielewski again. This time, Chmielewski singled to center, then Bechina belted a double off the wall at the top of the berm in right and Chmielewski scampered home to put MSU ahead, 2-0.

The Illini broke through with a three-run fourth inning, with Zac Taylor and Kellen Sarver hitting back-to-back home runs to lead off the frame. Two batters later Jack Yalowitz tripled to right and Grant Van Scoy drove him in with a groundout. Michael Michalak had a two-out double and Jacob Campbell followed with a walk before Erla ended frame by striking out Comia, stranding two Illini on the bases and keeping the score at 3-2 in the visitor's advantage.

MSU got the run back in the fifth, as Iverson led off with a double down the left field line and into the corner. Two batters later Chmielewski singled through the left side, moving Iverson to third. Kelley followed with a suicide squeeze bunt and Iverson slid safely into home, leveling the score at 3-all. 

Illinois went ahead, 4-3, with a run in the top of the sixth, with consecutive singles to lead off the frame, then a sacrifice bunt to move the runners up, and MSU made a pitching change, bringing in junior Caleb Sleeman to relieve sophomore starter Mason Erla. Pinch-hitter Jeff Korte grounded out to short but was enough for an RBI to give Illinois the lead. 

The visitors plated a pair in the eighth and ninth innings to open an 8-3 lead. Comia and Massey had back-to-back RBI doubles in the eighth, and then Comia struck again in the ninth with a two-out bases loaded two-run single.

Michigan State threatened in the bottom of the ninth, loading the bases before Illinois made a pitching change, bringing in their closer Acton. Sophomore pinch-hitter Adam Proctor had a sacrifice fly to center to get MSU within 8-4, but another fly ball and a strikeout ended it for the Spartans.

Erla went 5.1 IP, scattering eight hits while striking out two. Sleeman went 1.0 IP without a hit, retiring all three batters he faced. Senior reliever Evan Flohr went 1.1 IP with only one hit, while junior reliever Indigo Diaz was 0.1 IP with a strikeout and freshman Colten Panaranto threw 1.0 IP with one K.

The Spartans and Illini return to the diamond for the second game of the series is on Friday with a 6:35 p.m. first pitch under the lights at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field, followed by Saturday's series and regular-season finale with a 1 p.m. start time. Friday is Military Appreciation Night, while Saturday is MSU Senior Day, with a pre-game ceremony honoring their seniors.

The Spartans will honor their five senior players: Royce Ando, Marty Bechina, Dan Chmielewski, Evan Flohr and Nic Lacayo, as well as three senior managers Atticus Bohr, Eric Behan and Joseph "Rocco" Spizziri, in a pre-game ceremony.

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