Spartans Defeat Maryland, 4-3, to Advance in B1G Tournament
Jordan Zimmerman goes 2-for-5 with a home run to lead MSU.
OMAHA, Nebraska -- The Michigan State baseball team defeated Maryland, 4-3, on Friday morning in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament to advance to Saturday’s semifinal. Jordan Zimmerman went 2-for-5 with two RBIs, highlighted by a game-tying home run in the sixth that shifted the momentum in the Spartans’ favor. MSU gets two chances to pick up one more win in the tournament tomorrow and advance to Sunday’s championship game.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” said head coach Jake Boss Jr. “We executed and made plays when we needed to today. It was a grind it out type of effort from our guys and they got the job done.”
Ethan Landon pitched seven innings, allowing two runs on four hits to earn the win and improve to 8-3 on the year.
“Ethan was locked in,” said Boss. “He’s always moving, he’s always talking and he’s a high-energy guy. I don’t think it was too difficult for him to come back today after being ready yesterday and having the game postponed. He’s a competitor, so there was no doubt that he would be ready to throw.”
The Spartans (36-18) fell behind twice in the early going, but were able to respond both times. After Maryland broke a 1-1 tie with a solo homer from Anthony Papio in the fifth, the Spartans answered immediately in the top of the sixth. Zimmerman led off the inning and took a 1-2 changeup that he blasted over the bullpen in left for his ninth home run of the season.
“I didn’t really have a good approach early and was swinging at (Maryland starter Taylor Bloom’s) pitches,” said Zimmerman. “Brandon Hughes took me aside and said, ‘Hey, just do you up there and drive the ball up.’ That’s what I did. I finally got a pitch that I could hit and I didn’t miss it.”
With the game tied 2-2, Kory Young led off the eighth inning with an infield single into the hole at shortstop. Hughes laid down a perfect sacrifice to advance Young into scoring position. It was Zimmerman again who came up with the big hit, sending a single into right-center field to plate Young and give the Spartans their first lead of the game.
MSU picked up an insurance run later in the inning that proved to be vital, as Maryland’s Nick Cieri homered in the bottom half of the inning to cut the lead to one. Durkin sent a sharp grounder to short that kicked into the outfield and allowed Zimmerman to advance to third. That chased Bloom with Matt Byars due up next. Byars then beat out a double-play ball that would’ve ended the inning, but instead allowed Zimmerman to score and make it 4-2.
Joe Mockbee came on in relief for Landon in the eighth and retired the first two batters of the inning before giving up the home run to Cieri. Closer Dakota Mekkes then came on and struck out the final batter of the inning.
In the ninth, Maryland’s Dan Maynard hit a pinch hit bloop single into right before advancing into scoring position on a wild pitch. With the tying run on second and one out, Mekkes got Andrew Bechtold to line out to Durkin, who stepped on the bag at second to end the game.
Bloom took the loss for the Terrapins to fall to 6-5. The righty went 7.1 innings, allowing four runs (two earned) on seven hits.
The Terrapins (29-26) put the game’s first run on the board with a two-out single in the second to take a 1-0 lead. MSU tied it up at 1-1 in the fourth inning on a Dan Chmielewski RBI single up the middle with two outs. Zimmerman reached on an error to get things stared in the inning and was replaced by Dan Durkin at first after the junior beat out a play at first that would’ve resulted in a double play. Byars then singled to advance Durkin into scoring position and set up Chmielewski for his fourth RBI of the season.
Chmielewski made a spectacular play in right field in the seventh inning on an all-out dive into foul ground.
“Our guys in the locker room understand what needs to be done if we want to keep playing,” said Boss.
With the win, MSU now has 36 victories on the season which is tied for the fourth most in school history with the 2011, 1992 and 1971 teams.
Michigan State will play Iowa, Ohio State or Michigan tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET Iowa and Ohio State play on Friday afternoon, with the loser taking on Michigan on Friday evening at 9 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to play the Spartans on Saturday. With the double elimination format, whoever plays the Spartans will already have one loss and would need to defeat MSU twice.