GREENVILLE, SC – In its final game of the First Pitch Invitational, the University of Tennessee at Martin baseball team dropped a 6-1 decision to Big Ten opponent Michigan State. The Skyhawks pulled within one run in the fourth inning, but ultimately could not mount enough offense to complete the comeback against the Spartans.
Michigan State (9-1) was able to get on the board first with a run in both the second and third innings. Spartan infielder Royce Ando drove in a run with his double to left-center in the second, while an RBI-fielder’s choice groundout by outfielder Brandon Hughes made the score 2-0 after three innings.
The Skyhawks (5-4) responded with a run of their own in the fourth to pull within one. Centerfielder Creighton Eldridge doubled to left-center to spark the UT Martin offense. Keylen Steen then laced a single to left to knock in Eldridge and trim the margin to 2-1. It was Steen’s second hit of the weekend tournament and second RBI of the season.
Alex Evans came on in relief of starter Jake Patzner to start the fourth and stymied the Spartan offense through the fifth inning. However Michigan State infielder Dan Durkin was able to break through in the sixth with a two-run homer to extend the lead to 4-1.
Connor Aube and Josh Hauser both singled in the seventh to give the Skyhawks runners at first and second, but UT Martin was not able to capitalize as both runners were left on to end the inning. The Spartans padded their lead in the ninth with a pair of runs on hits from Marty Bechina, Zack McGuire and Chad Roskelly to give Michigan State the 6-1 victory.
Patzner (1-1) took his first loss of the year for UT Martin. The 6-8 righty finished the day with three innings pitched, two earned runs and five strikeouts. Evans tossed the final six innings allowing four runs and striking out four. Andrew Gonzalez picked up the victory for the Spartans.
Ryan Helgren (two singles, one walk) was the lone Skyhawk with multiple hits on the day as the senior from Columbia, Tenn. notched his second multi-hit game of the season.
UT Martin will return home to host Bethel this Tuesday, Mar. 7. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.