EAST LANSING, Mich. — Michigan State baseball celebrated the first-ever night baseball game at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field in grand fashion with a suicide squeeze bunt 1-0 walk-off win over Indiana State in 10 innings.
Senior catcher Nic Lacayo perfectly executed a suicide squeeze bunt to drive in fellow senior, infielder Royce Ando with the winning run, sparking off a jubilant celebration as the Spartans stormed the field and dogpiled on the infield, and the newly installed lights flickered in celebration.
Friday night was the inaugural home night game at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field. The Spartans’ lights project was completed in early March and Friday was the Spartans’ first game played under the lights in 135 years of Michigan State baseball, and MSU made it a memorable one with the thrilling victory.
“You only have the opportunity to win the first night game one time and I give our guys a lot of credit; That’s a really, really good ball club over there and they’re going to be really good tomorrow and Sunday,” MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. said about Indiana State. “We got a couple breaks tonight, made a play when we needed to. Just really proud of our guys for hanging in there. Again, this is something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives so it’s a pretty cool night.”
Spartan legend Nolan Moody got the night started by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch Friday night. Moody was the starting pitcher for the first-ever game at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field on April 4, 2009, when he threw a complete game no-hitter in a 2-0 Victory for MSU over Northwestern.
After Moody started the solid pitching on the mound, current Spartan hurler Mason Erla continued the dealing, going 9.0 innings and stymieing the Sycamore bats to just two hits, as ISU entered Friday hitting .282 as a team and had four players hitting over .300. Erla limited the Sycamores to just two hits while striking out six and walking just three, in firing a career-long outing as well as his second-fewest hits in his career. Erla is also the Spartans’ second 9.0 inning outing of the season, joining junior Mike Mokma’s complete game vs. Ohio State in Greenville, S.C. on March 9. Erla’s previous career-long outing was 7.0 IP done twice in his career, most recently April 1, 2018 vs. Rutgers.
“Mason was unbelievable. I don’t know if he allowed a runner past second base. He was in control the whole way; was able to throw three pitches for strikes, got ahead; it was a blueprint on how to pitch really,” Boss said. “He was going pitch-for-pitch with their guy because the lefty for Indiana State was outstanding tonight as well. If you’re a baseball purest it was a fun game to watch.”
The fans in attendance were treated to an outstanding game on a beautiful night for baseball, a memorable spotlight for the first-ever night game at McLane Stadium at Kobs Field.
“We’ve been working on it for a long time. I think, again, it shows the commitment from our Athletic Department and our Athletic Director Bill Beekman, Greg Ianni and our facilities people that we’re moving forward; we’re continuing to improve and making a commitment to moving our program forward. I’ve got a lot more ideas but the lights is something that I think again shows that we’re moving in the right direction here. It’s just a different atmosphere and environment here tonight. We saw it with soccer in the fall, the air is a little more electric for football games at night and I think the same is here - when we get a chance to play at night in a beautiful setting, a beautiful facility, it’s just a different feeling,” Boss said.
The feeling was a memorable one for Coach Boss and the rest of the coaching staff and players. Boss has now been involved in all three Division I schools in the state of Michigan first night games, as he was an assistant at Eastern Michigan for their first night game in 2000 and an assistant at Michigan for their first night game in 2005, and now Friday night as head coach of Michigan State. With Friday’s victory for MSU, Boss is now 3-0 in those first night games at a Michigan school.
“It was a big one. I think you remember the first one,” Boss said about the impact of Friday’s first night game at MSU as one of his most memorable wins. “We had Nolan Moody here to throw out the first pitch and he was pitcher for our first win at home when we first got here - I remember some wins against Michigan, we swept Indiana here at home when they were in the top 10; Those are big ones, the win against Oregon here at home, but this one was a big one. Again, you only get the chance to play the first night game in school history one time. We’ve been playing baseball here for 135 years and it’s something that has never been done and never will be done again. Again, it’s about creating memories for our guys, creating opportunities for our guys and putting them in positions to be successful and they were tonight so I’m proud of them.”
Friday night was the opening game of a three-game non-conference series between MSU and ISU, who were facing each other on the baseball diamond for the first time since 1999. Ironically enough, this is the 40th anniversary weekend of MSU basketball’s national championship, beating Indiana State in the title game, and the Spartans are in the Final Four this weekend.
Triston Polley was equally dealing on the mound for ISU, going 8.1 IP with five hits and two walks, while striking out three.
Lacayo ended the night with a career-high three hits, going 3-for-4 with the RBI, while Ando was 2-for-4 with the run scored. Senior shortstop Marty Bechina and junior infielder Justin Antoncic had the Spartans other hits, with Bechina belting a double for the only extra base hit by either team.
Bechina now leads the team with 10 doubles this season, which is twice as many as the second-place Spartan, freshman outfielder Zaid Walker with five doubles. This is also Bechina’s second season with double digit doubles, as he had 11 as a freshman in 2016.
The Spartans threatened in the fifth with Ando leading off with a single, but was later erased on a double play following a nice play by Polley, fielding his position and starting the two outs in one play. Lacayo was next and he laced a single to right and later moved up to second on a wild pitch with Antoncic at bat. Antoncic later smacked a single to right, but Lacayo was thrown out at the plate to end the inning and the threat.
In the seventh, Erla was in a battle with ISU designated hitter Romero Harris, a battle that pushed the count full and then after Harris fouled off six-straight pitches, Erla struck him out on a swinging strike.
MSU brought in junior Indigo Diaz to pitch the 10th, and after a leadoff walk, Diaz settled in, getting a sac bunt before a strikeout looking and a groundout to end the frame, bringing up the Spartan bats.
Ando led off with a single to right. Redshirt-freshman catcher Scott Combs pinch hit and bunted to move Ando over to second, but an ISU error on the play allowed Ando to scamper to third, bringing up Lacayo for the game-winning heroics with the suicide squeeze bunt.
“First of all I was hoping he was going to throw him a strike because we had the squeeze on. It’s no secret we don’t hit .350 as a team, so we’ve got to be able to execute the game and do the little things correctly,” Boss said. “We got a break there off the bunt with Combs, they crashed both in-fielders, he did the one thing that he needed to do; he just needed to get the ball down and fortunately we got a break and they threw the ball in center field for us. That kind of set up the squeeze, at that point we were in a pretty good spot because with the squeeze, even if the squeeze didn’t work, we get (Casey) Mayes to second base and we’ve got two more chances with a runner in scoring position. At that point we were in a pretty good spot. Nic happens to be one of our best bunters it kind of set up for us a little bit there. Credit him because he was able to execute.”
The Spartans and Sycamores play game two of the three-game weekend non-conference series on Saturday at 4 p.m., before the series finale on Sunday at 1:05 p.m.
Fans can also follow this weekend’s Spartan baseball action through “Live Stats,” “Listen Live” and “Watch Live” links found at MSUSpartans.com. The games will be video streamed on BTN2Go, and will also be carried on the Spartan Sports Network live audio stream. The broadcast will be available exclusively at SpartanSportsNetwork.com and on the network’s 24/7 app for mobile devices (available on iTunes and Google Play). Broadcast veteran Scott Moore calls the action alongside former MSU manager/bullpen catcher David Greenberg in select games.
Any schedule updates will be announced on www.MSUSpartans.com and on twitter @statebaseball.
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