EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – With the way Sunday’s rubber match between Michigan State and Nebraska started, it appeared we were in for a slugfest.
The two teams combined to score 12 runs, six runs apiece, in the first three innings of the game. However, after MSU senior Sam Benschoter came in relief and the game stayed tied at six until the 12th inning.
Benschoter pitched 9.1 innings out of the bullpen and struck out a career-high 17 batters, which is the most by a Spartan in school history.
“Sam was unbelievable,” MSU baseball coach Jake Boss Jr. said. “He came in in a really tough spot and was dominant. There is no other way to put it. It was a school record in strikeouts with 17 and he was in complete and total control. We extended him a little longer than maybe we would have liked, but the state of our bullpen has been such that we felt like we needed to stay with him and he gave us an incredible effort. I’m proud of him.”
Nebraska jumped out to a 3-0 lead after the first inning and chased MSU starting pitcher Wyatt Rush after he recorded just two outs.
In the following inning, Nebraska put up another three runs to take a commanding 6-0 lead. At that point in the game, MSU was on its second pitcher, Jesse Heikkinen, and was in desperate need of bullpen help.
Heikkinen ended the 2nd inning with a strikeout and that seemed to be all the momentum MSU needed to spark a rally.
In the bottom half of the 2nd inning, MSU put together its own three-run inning and cut the Nebraska lead in half. The Spartans’ first run of the game came off the bat of junior catcher Adam Proctor for his first hit of the season.
Benschoter entered the game in the third inning and proceed to strike out the first four batters he faced.
The Spartans were quick to get him run support. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, MSU scored another three runs to tie the game at six.
Freshman Trent Farquhar ripped a 2-run double, down the right-field line. Sophomore Casey Mayes would then tied the game at six on a sacrifice fly to bring home Farquhar.
“Proud of our guys for battling back, after getting down 6-0 after two innings. The guys have competed their tails off all season for Michigan State, and they did that today,” Boss Jr. said.
The Cornhuskers finally broke the code on Benschoter in the top of the 12th inning. Max Anderson singled to left field to bring home the go-ahead run and put Nebraska up 7-6. The Cornhuskers added two more runs and would eventually take the rubber match from MSU, 9-6.
Michigan State will hit the road next weekend for a 3-game series at Penn State starting on Friday, April 7.