LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State baseball's late-inning rally came up short in the 12th annual Crosstown Showdown Presented by Auto-Owners Insurance, falling to the Lansing Lugnuts, 6-4, on Tuesday night at a hot and humid Cooley Law School Stadium. A spirited crowd of 6,388 was on hand to watch the annual exhibition game and home run derby.
This is the third-straight season that the two teams have met in the fall after playing the previous games in the spring.
"This was a great experience as always and a lot of thanks to Nick Grueser and Tom Dixon, and the entire Lugnuts organization. It's always one of the best nights of the year for us," MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said.
Freshman outfielder Zaid Walker had a smashing debut in a Spartan uniform, participating in the home run derby before the game, then going 2-for-4 with four RBI during the game. Sophomore infielder Zach Iverson, redshirt-freshman infielder Peter Ahn and freshman catcher Gabe Sotres had the Spartans other hits. Junior pitcher Mike Mokma started on the mound for the Spartans, who utilized seven different pitchers, part of MSU's 25 different players.
"I think we got a lot of young guys in there who were able to get their feet wet," Boss said. "Zaid Walker is a talented kid, and Peter Ahn had a hit tonight as a freshman. Mitchell Tyranski threw really well, Mike Mokma threw well, a lot of guys really threw well. I think there are a lot of positives we can take away. It's practice number two for us, so I'd expect us to be a little bit rusty."
Walker is a highly decorated recruit and was selected in the MLB Draft, but chose to bypass professional baseball for the time being and join the Spartans.
"I love it here. I love wearing the Green and White. Coach Boss is great, the rest of the coaching staff is great and I'm glad to be part of the family," Walker said. "I came here because of the coaching staff and I knew it was a great school. They have the number one program in the country for supply chain management, which was something I wanted to pursue. Also I know the baseball is great. I knew as soon as I stepped on campus it was the right fit."
Walker drove in a pair of runs in the fifth inning and two more in the seventh.
"It's about making adjustments. I hope this is the start of a great Spartan career. It's a confidence booster and lets me know I can play with these guys. Also to stay humble and know it's just a start," Walker said.
Despite the heat and humidity, an energetic crowd was treated to an evening full of entertaining baseball, geting a preview of the 2018 Spartans squad and a look at future Lugnuts, as they called up several young prospects before Wednesday night's playoff game.
"It's something we use to recruit to and something guys talk about for a long, long time to come. Our first year here was 11 years ago now and those guys on our first team still talk about playing in the Crosstown Showdown. It's a highlight of the year for them and I just can't thank the Lugnuts and the Blue Jays for allowing it to happen," Boss said.
Prior to the game, the two teams held a home run derby with three players from each team taking part. Sophomore catcher and defending champion Adam Proctor was joined in representing MSU by junior utility player Andrew Morrow and freshman outfielder Zaid Walker, both of whom were making their Spartan debuts. After a two swing offs were needed to determine the Spartans' representative in the finals, Proctor advanced to face the Lugnuts' Freddy Rodriguez of the Lugnuts. Proctor prevailed in the finals with seven home runs, topping Rodriguez's six on a "walk-off" blast and win the Crosstown Showdown Home Run Derby for the second-straight season.
"Great for Adam, he's a local guy so he had a lot of friends and family here. It was a lot of fun for him to come out and defend that title. It was a dog fight for sure, I think he's going to sleep pretty well tonight," Boss said.
The Lugnuts got on the board with a run in the second inning on an RBI triple by Jose Ferrer. Lansing tacked on three runs in the third, including a pair on a two-run double by Vinny Capra. Another run in the fourth gave the Lugnuts a 5-0 lead.
Michigan State broke through with two runs in the top of the fifth, with Walker lacing a two-run single to center, as the Spartans closed to 5-2.
Lansing tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth for a 6-2 lead. However, the Spartans rallied in the top of the seventh, again with Walker driving in a pair of runs on a two-run single to left with the bases loaded, before MSU's rally ended with the bases loaded to end the game.
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