LANSING, Mich. — Despite ominous weather, Michigan State baseball had a spirited 13th annual Crosstown Showdown Presented by Auto-Owners Insurance Tuesday night, falling the home-standing Lansing Lugnuts, 5-1, at Cooley Law School Stadium. A crowd of 5,933 was on hand for the annual exhibition contest.
Tuesday marked the fourth season in a row that the two teams have met in the fall after playing the previous games in the spring.
MSU head coach Jake Boss Jr. was appreciative of the Lugnuts and Blue Jays organizations, as well as the fans for coming out to the ballpark despite the weather forecast. A brief rain shower hit late in the game, but didn’t hinder the game or the evening’s event.
“Hopefully, the fans enjoyed a good night of baseball. It shows two teams that play hard in a little bit of a relaxed atmosphere,” Boss said. “It is kind of a preview of what our team is going to be like, and it is kind of a fan appreciation night so to speak for the Lugnuts season coming to an end. For the amount of fans that came out tonight with the threat of weather, it is very, very impressive. I am certainly grateful to a lot of people for making it work, and spending their night out at the ball park.”
The fans at the ball park Tuesday night were treated to a home run derby pre-game, along with entertainment from the Michigan State Spirit Squad and Zeke the Wonder Dog. The first 2,000 fans in attendance received a commemorative baseball cap featuring both the Lugnut and Michigan State logos.
“It is always a fun night for us. I think it is important to thank the entire Lugnuts organization and the Toronto Blue Jays for allowing this to happen. I think that Nick (Grueser, Lugnuts President) and Tyler (Parsons, Lugnuts General Manager) and the whole crew do a tremendous job of making us feel welcome; they make it a special night for our guys. A big ‘thank you’ to them for being our hosts,” Boss said. “Like I said it is always a special night for our guys. I thought that our guys played well for being the third practice of the year. I think there are a lot of things to build on. There are a lot of things to learn from what happened tonight. We had a lot of positives.”
Senior pitcher Mason Erla started the game and was one of six Spartan hurlers to get an inning of work in apiece, with five of them each chalking up a strikeout. Erla, along with seniors Jarret Olson and Caleb Sleeman didn’t yield any runs to the Lugnuts.
Sophomore infielder Peter Ahn scored the Spartans’ lone run after lacing a triple to deep center field and later scoring on a wild pitch. Sophomore outfielder Zaid Walker and freshman outfielder Jack Frank also had a hit apiece.
Frank had the Spartans’ defensive gem of the night, running down a deep fly ball and snaring it right before the wall. Junior catcher Adam Proctor threw out a Lugnuts base-runner from his knees in the third stanza.
The Lugnuts were boosted by a three-run home run in the fifth inning by Yhon Perez to break open the game. Lansing plated a run in the second and third innings, before MSU got on the board in the top of the fifth to close to 2-1, but Perez’s blast to left-center denied the Spartans.
Michigan State just started practice for the 2019-20 season last week when school started on the MSU campus, so Boss was pleased in his squad’s effort Tuesday night, getting nearly everyone in uniform into the game.
“This is the first time playing as a team, which is always a positive. At the same, this is the first time seeing live pitching in almost a month,” Boss said. “You put a little bit in stock in what happens tonight both on the good end and the bad. We will take a look at the tape, and have a good week of practice. We have six weeks of Fall ball so we have a long way to go, and guys are going to have an opportunity to work on a lot of aspects of their game, and get a lot better.”
Prior to the game, the two teams held a home run derby with three players from each team taking part, marking the fourth year of the derby. Michigan State was represented by senior utility player Andrew Morrow, junior infielder Bailey Peterson and sophomore outfielder Zaid Walker. Morrow and Walker belted six HRs each in the first round, while Peterson had five. After a swing off to determine MSU’s representative in the finals, Morrow prevailed to advance.
Lugnut PK Morris belted nine in the finals, and Morrow started slowly, but then got going with a late flurry, finishing just shy of Morris with nine. A Lugnut player won the first derby in 2015, before the Spartans’ Adam Proctor won in 2017 and 2018, before Morris this season, leveling the count at two HR derby crowns apiece between the Spartans and Lugnuts.
Stay tuned to www.MSUSpartans.com for upcoming Spartan baseball news.
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