EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – After falling 5-1 to its rival Michigan, in game one, of its three-game weekend series on Friday night Michigan State went back to work at McLane Stadium on Saturday afternoon with one question needing to be answered — Who would get the ball in game two?
That honor would go to right-handed pitcher Jackson Bennett. It was the sophomore’s first start of his Spartan career and it didn’t last very long. Bennett gave up a lead-off solo home run to Benjamin Sems in the second inning, followed by an RBI single from Ted Burton to give the Wolverines a 2-0 lead.
It led to a pitching change for MSU. Wyatt Rush would come in and pitch in relief to begin the third inning which is exactly what MSU baseball coach Jake Boss drew up all along.
“The plan was to kind of use Jackson as an opener to get a feel for the game going and Wyatt’s been pretty good out of the ‘pen (bullpen) for us,” said Boss. “We were going to go to him fairly quickly even if Jackson had two quick innings because the plan was to get to Wyatt.”
Rush rattled off a pair of inning-ending strikeouts in the fourth and fifth innings to keep it a 2-1 ballgame, but early in the sixth he’d be replaced by Burrell Jones. Rush tossed 5 K’s over 3.1 innings in relief.
“Wyatt was up around 65-66 pitches and as a bullpen guy we wanted him to come out on a high note,” said Boss. “You could kind of see his stuff start to flatten out a little bit. You know not a whole lot, but we wanted to get to Burrell before anything happened there with Wyatt. We figured Wyatt had really done what we asked him to do, at that point, and again, just get back into the ‘pen before stuff flattened out even further and he got hurt.”
In the seventh inning, with Jones on the mound, the Wolverines would put the game to bed. Tito Flores hit a solo home run to left to give Michigan a 3-1 lead and they’d hold on for the win.
The Spartans had one run on one hit.
“I think we had the right approach a lot of times, but you know we just missed our pitch.” said Boss. “You know we got into a 2-0 count multiple times and just kind of hit a routine ground ball in a positive count and it’s tough to do damage when that happens. We were easy outs, at times today, and that’s frustrating for everybody.”
The Spartans and Wolverines wrap up their first full three-game weekend series in East Lansing since 1994 with Sunday’s series finale, with a 1:05 p.m. first pitch.