May 20, 2010
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Rocky Miller Park)
Score: Northwestern 2, Michigan State 1
Records: NU (23-29, 12-10 Big Ten), Michigan State (33-18, 10-12 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Friday, May 21 -- vs. Michigan State (Rocky Miler Park), 3 p.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. -
It may not have been the most dominant performance of Eric Jokisch's career, but it certainly was impressive nonetheless. The Northwestern junior left-hander let his defense get the job done behind him as the Wildcats turned five double plays in taking down Michigan State 2-1 Thursday afternoon at Rocky Miller Park in the opener of a three-game series.
A total of eight twin-killings between the two teams helped the game get done in a neat and tidy one hour and 39 minutes.
"I really didn't have my best stuff," said Jokisch. "But I was able to fight through it and get five double plays behind me.
"They were huge each time. It was really an impressive performance by our defense. I'm really proud of them."
Northwestern, which entered the weekend in fourth place in the tightly contested Big Ten race, inched closer to earning a berth in next week's Big Ten tournament.
Jokisch, who is draft-eligible after this season, made what may have been his final start at Rocky Miller Park. Early on, it looked like the high-powered MSU offense was going to have its way with him, though.
Two straight singles to start the game gave the Spartans runners at the corners with no one out. However, Jokisch struck out Jonathan Roof before getting two outs on one pitch to Jeff Holm.
Things looked shaky again in the top of the second as two singles and a walk gave the guests the bases loaded with one out. But once again, Jokisch was able to get Bo Felt to hit the ball on the ground to Trevor Stevens at short who started a 6-4-3 double play to end the threat.
Jokisch hurled a perfect third inning before his offense gave him the lead in the bottom half of the frame. With one away, back-to-back singles by Geoff Rowan and Arby Fields gave NU runners at the corners for Chad Noble. The senior catcher singled to right to plate Rowan and give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
It didn't take Michigan State long to tie the game, though, as Chris Roberts connected for a one-out homer in the top of the fourth. Eli Boike followed with a walk, but Brandon Eckerle flew out to right and Boike was doubled off first base for yet another inning-ending double play.
Northwestern was able to answer right back as it scored the decisive run in the home half of the fourth. After Chris Lashmet was hit by a pitch to start the inning, Zach Morton singled and Stevens bunted both men into scoring position. Freshman Colby Everett followed with a flyball to deep left field that barely missed leaving the yard, taking Felt all the way to the fence. NU settled for a sacrifice fly on the play to take the 2-1 advantage.
From there, it was all Jokisch. The Virginia, Ill., native got double plays in the fifth and sixth innings to bring Michigan State's total to five. The Wildcats put their leadoff man on base in five of the first six innings, but settled for just the two runs.
But it proved to be enough as Jokisch hurled a perfect seventh inning before working around a one-out error in the eighth. Things got a little interesting in the ninth as Jokisch retired the first two batters he faced, but a walk and a single put the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at first.
Head coach Paul Stevens opted to bring on closer Paul Snieder to try and finish the Spartans off, and that's what he did, getting Eckerle to fly out to Rowan in left. The save was the 12th of the year for Snieder, matching Chris Nichting's single-season school-record total from the 1986 campaign.
Morton, who extended his hitting streak to 12 straight games, and Arby Fields collected two hits apiece for the Wildcats. Jokisch (5-6) scattered eight hits and three walks while striking out three and allowing just the one run.
The teams resume their series at 3 p.m. Friday at Rocky Miller Park.
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