LANSING, Mich. â€“ The Michigan State baseball team defeated the Lansing Lugnuts, 2-1, in the 2011 Crosstown Showdown presented by Auto Owners Insurance before a crowd of 7,212 Tuesday night at Cooley Law School Stadium. It marks MSUâ€™s second victory in the five-year event as the Spartans also won 12-2 in 2009.
A total of 41 players saw action in the game, including 13 pitchers. The Spartans used eight different pitchers, while the Lugnuts sent five to the mound. Each team collected five hits and committed two errors.
Seven of MSUâ€™s eight pitchers in the exhibition contest have not seen game action in 2011. Senior Stephen Doty got the start and pitched two scoreless innings to earn the victory.
â€œI thought we played well and it was a fun game,â€ said MSU head coach Jake Boss. â€œWe were relaxed and stayed aggressive. We made a couple of errors, but our pitching staff was outstanding. (There were) a lot of guys that havenâ€™t had a lot of opportunities so far this year, and they made the most of it. Iâ€™m proud of them.
â€œIt was an outstanding crowd and they stuck through some pretty chilly weather all night long. Itâ€™s a thrill for us to be a part of this event. The Lugnuts do a great job of hosting it and itâ€™s a lot of fun for everybody. (Our team) will remember this for a long time.â€
Michigan State manufactured an unearned run in the top of the first to take an early 1-0 lead. Leadoff hitter Brandon Eckerle reached on a fielding error by Lugnut shortstop Garis Pena, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on a wild pitch.
The Green and White extended the lead to 2-0 in the top of the fourth, as Joel Fisher connected on a two-out RBI single that got past Lugnut third baseman Bryson Namba and into left field, scoring Jordan Keur from second.
Two key defensive plays by the Spartans helped keep the Lugnuts off the board until the bottom of the ninth.
In the third, Lansing threatened to score with runners on first and second and one out, but Eckerle made a diving catch in center field and then doubled up Markus Brisker at second base.
The Spartans got out of another jam in the bottom of the fourth as the Lugnuts left runners on first and third. The Lugnuts stranded a total of 11 runners on base.
In the sixth, Spartan second baseman Ryan Jones made another stellar defensive play for MSU, scooping up a ground ball hit up the middle and firing it across his body from shallow center field to get out Lugnut first baseman Balbino Fuenmayor.
Lansing again put runners on first and second in the eighth, but Spartan reliever Chad Nielson struck out pinch hitter Matt Nuzzo looking to end the inning.
The Lugnuts scored their lone run in the bottom of the ninth inning, but it wasnâ€™t enough to overtake the Spartans. After a strikeout started the inning, Brisker walked for the fourth time in the game and advanced to third on an errant pickoff throw by freshman pitcher Jeff Kinley. Brisker would score one batter later on a RBI groundout by Jack Murphy. Kinley made up for his error by getting Joe Bowen to ground out for the final out of the game and recorded a save in the process.
Lugnut starter Drew Hutchison was charged with the loss after scattering three hits and two runs, one earned, in 4.0 innings. He walked four and struck out four.
â€œI think it proves to our team that they can compete against guys at a high level,â€ said Boss. â€œThe Lugnuts are a professional organization and thereâ€™s a lot of talented guys in that dugout. It gives us some confidence and something we can build off of as we go into tomorrowâ€™s game and into the weekend.â€
Michigan State (17-7) returns to action Wednesday at 3:05 p.m. to face Eastern Michigan at McLane Baseball Stadium. The Lugnuts, a Class A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, officially open their 2011 season Thursday at 7:05 p.m. against the West Michigan Whitecaps at Cooley Law School Stadium.
Crosstown Showdown History
April 3, 2007 - Lansing Lugnuts 4, Michigan State 3 (Attendance: 6,223)
April 24, 2008 - Lansing Lugnuts 4, Michigan State 2 (Attendance: 12,862)
April 16, 2009 - Michigan State 12, Lansing Lugnuts 2 (Attendance: 12,992)
April 26, 2010 - Lansing Lugnuts 5, Michigan State 4 (Attendance: 6,778)
April 5, 2011 â€“ Michigan State 2, Lansing Lugnuts 1 (Attendance: 7,212)