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    Northwestern's Late Comeback Falls Short at Michigan State

    April 25, 2014

    Game Photo
    Michigan State Spartans Michigan State 3, Northwestern 2
    McLane Baseball Stadium • East Lansing, Mich.

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    EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Northwestern recorded 10 or more hits for the fifth straight time, but the Wildcats were unable to outscore the Michigan State Spartans Friday, falling 3-2 at McLane Baseball Stadium in East Lansing, Mich.

    On Friday the Wildcats outhit the Spartans, 10 to nine, but Michigan State scored three times in the third inning, which ultimately proved to be the difference.

    Both starting pitchers held serve in the first inning before Northwestern's offense got off to a quick start in the second. Scott Heelan sent Mick VanVossen's first pitch into right field and Matt Hopfner followed suit with his own base hit through the right side. VanVossen settled down, though, and recorded his second and third strikeouts before getting a fly ball to right field to end the top of the second.

    Michigan State broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third inning against Reed Mason and the Wildcats. Ryan Krill hit a double to lead off the frame and two batters later, Justin Hovis hit a two-bagger of his own to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead. MSU added two more runs in the frame, though it could have had a few more. Both Nick Linne, from third base, and Hopfner, from right field, threw home to catcher Jake Straub to nail a pair of Spartans at home plate in the third inning. After three, the home team led NU, 3-0.

    The Wildcats tried to cut into the deficit in the top of the fourth, but they left two on base for the second time in three innings. Zach Jones, Heelan and Joe Hoscheit all singled in the frame, but Jones was thrown out trying to get to second on a pitch in the dirt and VanVossen induced a pair of fly balls to keep his shutout in tact.

    Jones finally ignited Northwestern's first scoring inning in the top of the sixth. The Wildcats' first baseman muscled a double to the deepest part of the ballpark in right-center field ahead of Heelan. The redshirt junior then delivered a sharp RBI single off the glove of MSU shortstop Ryan Richardson that scooted away, allowing Jones to score from second base. Heelan's team-high 22nd RBI pulled the visitors to within two runs. Hovis made a pair of nice defensive plays at third base to cut down both Hopfner and Hoscheit, preventing the 'Cats from adding to their total.

    Hoscheit helped the Wildcats out with a pair of outstanding defensive plays of his own in the bottom of the sixth from his post in left field. The freshman made two of the three putouts in the frame, making diving plays both times to erase would-be base runners from Michigan State.

    Nick Friar relieved Mason to open the bottom of the seventh and the senior recorded three quick outs, including his first strikeout, to turn it back over to his offense in the hope of erasing NU's two-run deficit.

    The top of Northwestern's batting order chased VanVossen after 7.1 IP. Luke Dauch led off the top of the eighth with a base hit through the right side and Cody Stevens put down a sacrifice bunt to get the lead runner into scoring position. The Spartans turned to Anthony Misiewicz to try to retire Jones and the southpaw did just that by getting a ground out to shortstop. The next batter, Heelan, hit a rocket back at the new MSU pitcher, but it found the glove of Misiewicz and he flipped it to first to end the inning and strand Dauch on third base.

    Friar kept the deficit at only two runs with another solid inning of work in the bottom of the eighth. The senior recorded two more strikeouts and picked off Richardson at first base to avoid any trouble.

    In the top of the ninth, Hopfner drew a lead-off walk against Michigan State's closer Jeff Kinley and pinch hitter Walker Moses followed with a single into left field. With no outs, Antonio Freschet was called upon to sacrifice the runners up 90 feet. He delivered and also reached base safely when the Spartans tried to get Hopfner out at third, but the Edina, Minn., native slid in safely ahead of the throw. The third pinch hitter of the frame, Jack Mitchell, came up to the plate with the bases loaded and the sophomore delivered a sacrifice fly that plated Hopfner and cut the deficit to a single run. Reid Hunter then smashed a ball up the middle, but Richardson made a nice play to field the ball, step on the bag at second and fire on to first just ahead of the runner to end the ball game.

    Heelan led all players with three hits Friday, matching his season high for the third time. Jimmy Pickens and Krill led Michigan State with two hits apiece.

    VanVossen secured his sixth win of the season, while Mason took the loss, his third. Kinley narrowly avoided the blown save and ended up saving his eighth game for the Spartans.

    The three-game series continues Saturday at 11:05 a.m. CT. Northwestern is scheduled to send junior Brandon Magallones to the mound, while MSU will likely start sophomore Justin Alleman.

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