EAST LANSING, Mich. The Nebraska baseball team (29-17, 10-7 Big Ten) jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Sunday at McLane Stadium, but the #24 Michigan State Spartans (31-12, 11-6) scored the game’s final four runs on their way to a 4-2 victory that evened this weekend’s series at a game apiece. The teams will now meet in the rubber match tomorrow at 12:02 p.m. (CT).
The Huskers got the tying run to the plate with one out in the ninth after Taylor Fished roped a one-out single, but MSU closer Dakota Mekkes recorded a strikeout and a fly out for a six-out save.
MSU junior starter Joe Mockbee turned in one of the top performances of his career on Sunday to help the Spartans even the series. The lefty went a career-high 7.0 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits and a walk. Mockbee, who was MSU’s closer earlier in the season, entered the starting rotation two weeks ago and went 4.2 innings in both of those outings. Mockbee retired the final eight batters he faced and sat down NU in order four times.
Freshman Matt Waldron tossed 6.0 innings for the Huskers, but was tagged for four runs (three earned) on a season-high 10 hits and one walk. The Huskers had won each of Waldron’s last five starts entering Sunday and Waldron hadn’t taken a loss since March 5 at Long Beach State.
Ryan Boldt and Fish each had two hits, Boldt’s third straight multi-hit game. MSU was led at the plate by Marty Bechina, who went 4-for-4 on the day with a run scored and a RBI.
For the second straight day the Huskers jumped out to an early lead with a pair of runs in the first inning. Jake Placzek picked up the game’s first hit with an one-out single, Jake Meyers followed with a single and Ben Miller walked to load the bases. Fish came through with a deep fly ball to center that was easily going to score a run, but Brandon Hughes dropped the ball, MSU’s fifth error of the series, and two runs came into score. Following a wild pitch that put two Huskers in scoring position, Mockbee stranded both with a strikeout and an inning-ending fly ball to the warning track off the bat of Mike Waldron.
Nebraska tallied just five hits the rest of the game and only had a runner in scoring position once more when Fish led off the fourth with a single and ended the frame stranded at second base.
It didn’t take long for the Spartans to even the game, putting together a two-out rally in the bottom of the first. With a runner on first and two down the Spartans tied the game with three straight singles. Waldron kept the Spartans from taking their first lead of the series by stranding a pair of runners with his second strikeout of the frame.
MSU took its first lead of the weekend with a run in the fourth. Bechina reached on a one-out single and was quickly at third following a throwing error by Waldron on a failed pick off. Spartan Head Coach Jake Boss Jr. dialed up a squeeze play and Justin Hovis executed it, scoring Bechina to give the Spartans a 3-2 lead. The Spartans pushed their lead to a pair of runs in the fifth, 4-2, when Jordan Zimmerman lifted the first pitch he saw from Waldron over the 302-foot sign down the right-field line.