Last weekend, UNCG’s baseball team was visited by a major conference team in the Michigan State Spartans. It was a three game series and another great challenge for UNCG, coming off losses to South Carolina and Wake Forest.
The series opened up on Friday evening under an overcast blue sky and lukewarm temperatures—the sound of a baseball sinking into a catcher’s mitt was the only hint that summer is on its way (along with all of the mid-terms we’ve been working on).
The junior, Jack Maynard, got the start on the mound to open up the series. He was getting hit hard early on, as he gave up one run each in the first and second inning.
However, in the bottom of the second, UNCG’s Ryan Sigmon started a rally with a single to left field. Jake Kusz and Brian Spitznagel also came away with hits in the inning, and both Sigmon and Kusz were able to cross home plate to tie the game up at 2-2.
That tie held for a while but in the fifth inning, MSU’s bats started heating up. Royce Ando would have scored from second off of a Danny Gleaves double but he actually fell down after rounding third base. Then a walk loaded the bases for Marty Bechina, who singled in two runs.
That was it for Jack Maynard—he was pulled out in favor of Andrew Wantz, a 6 foot 4 Junior from Holly Springs.
MSU was able to get a couple more hits off of Wantz but they left the new runners on the base paths. It was 4-2 through 5 innings.
In the seventh inning, Cesar Trejo proved himself a patient batter with a walk. Then Spitznagel came up huge with a triple to make it 4-3. To top it all off, Andrew Moritz, the sophomore, slashed a line drive to right field to knock in Spitznagel and tie the game.
Wantz threw some great innings for the blue and gold Spartans, but unfortunately he gave up a homerun to Ando to start the ninth inning. It was the only run he gave up in five innings pitched.
In the bottom of the ninth, UNCG had to face Michigan State’s closer, Riley McCauley. McCauley recorded a 1.59 ERA last year and he continued that dominance on the mound on Friday night, retiring every batter and finishing the game out.
Despite the loss, it was a game full of promising performances for UNCG. Brian Spitznagel finished 2-5 with 2 RBIs and Andrew Moritz was 2-4 with 1 RBI. Perhaps most impressive was the pitching from Andrew Wantz, who recorded eight strikeouts and only gave up two hits.
Game 2 of the series turned out to be more like a video game than an actual D1 baseball game, with both offenses putting up incredible numbers.
UNCG actually had a four run lead going into the fourth inning but Michigan State rallied for eleven hits and a shocking thirteen runs in just a single frame to make it 14-5. Then UNCG bounced back in the bottom of the inning with 3 runs of their own.
The bats were blazing all game and Michigan State ended up winning the offensive onslaught 22-16.
Two UNCG batters had performances that really stood out, even in a game where runs were being served up on a platter. Tripp Shelton was 5-6 for the day and Dillon Stewart was 3-5 with three RBIs.
Game three played out very differently. UNCG’s starting pitcher, Matt Frisbee, dealt out seven great innings and held Michigan State to just one run. He also had five strikeouts.
From there, relief pitcher Chad Sykes took over and finished out the game without giving up any more runs. Our Spartans were able to muster up several hits, including a solo shot home-run by Michael Goss.
UNCG won the game 4-1, dealing Michigan State their first loss of the season.
While UNCG went down in the series 2-1, they proved that they could compete tightly with a Big Ten team. This was exactly the kind of confidence building series they needed after some tough losses.