EAST LANSING – Four Michigan State runs had already scored in the fifth, and the bases were still loaded with no outs. Junior right-hander Willie Weiss entered the game, hoping to stop the bleeding.
Instead, Weiss’ first two pitches both hit Spartan batters, driving in two runs, reloading the bases and extending the rally.
A disastrous fifth inning and a weak offensive performance handed the Michigan baseball team (23-12) a 10-2 loss to Michigan State (13-22).
Spartans starter Sam Benschoter went seven innings and allowed only two runs. Benschoter threw almost exclusively on the outer half and kept hitters off-balance by throwing sliders for strikes in any count.
Michigan threatened to score in the second inning, when sophomore first baseman Jimmy Obertop’s single, a hit batter and a walk loaded the bases. But fifth-year catcher Christian Molfetta stranded everyone by flying out. The Wolverines wouldn’t get multiple baserunners in an inning again until the seventh.
Sophomore left-hander Jacob Denner ran into trouble in the bottom of the first, when two Michigan State players reached base on a single and error — the first of several ground balls misplayed by Michigan’s usually reliable infield. Both Spartans would score on a sacrifice groundout and a single.
“(Denner) didn’t land his secondary (pitches),” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “The left-handers especially in their lineup did a good job of hitting his fastball, and he got hit hard on mistake pitches; they did a good job of capitalizing on all of those.”
Denner allowed another run in the third inning, and Michigan State threatened to do more damage until senior right-hander Blake Beers replaced him and got out of the jam by inducing a double play.
After Beers threw a scoreless fourth, he began the fifth by loading the bases on two hits and a walk before being replaced. Control struggles by redshirt junior left-hander Ben Dragani and Weiss and an error by Obertop allowed the station-to-station rally to continue.
“It’s hard when you’re trying to manage a bullpen and trying to get guys hot and ready to go in limited time,” Bakich said. “We were trying to stall as much as we could, but I didn’t give Willie enough time to get ready, and that’s my fault. He never does that; he just wasn’t ready.”
The Michigan defense finally ended the inning by turning a double play and picking a runner off third base a batter later, but the damage was already done. Seven runs had scored, bringing the score to 10-0.
Graduate right-hander Joe Pace threw a perfect sixth inning, striking out two, and freshman left-hander Logan Wood followed with two shutout innings.
“Joe Pace came in and did what Joe Pace always does,” Mazur said. “And then Logan Wood came in and showed who he probably will be for Michigan baseball for the next couple years. He’s a really good arm and really good player, and it’s really nice to see those guys go out there, take the scoreboard out of it and just compete.”
The Wolverines cut into the lead in the seventh, scoring two runs on four straight hits by the bottom of the order.
“They got good pitches to hit, and executed, and put the barrel on it,” Mazur said. “Something that not everyone was able to do for us today, myself included.”
The Spartans’ bullpen protected the lead, allowing only two baserunners in the eighth and ninth and sealing a lopsided victory.
Michigan secured the series win yesterday, but by losing today, it missed out on a chance to sweep its in-state rival and to inch closer to first place in the Big Ten.