Michigan State may be disappointed about going two-and-out in the program’s first regional appearance in 33 years, but at least they get to take the memory of having turned a triple play with them. And boy was it a good one.
The dazzling defensive feat at Stanford’s Sunken Diamond came in the eighth inning. Fresno State would go on to win 8-2, and had already extended its lead in the eighth. Rallying with two on, the Bulldogs tried to go large by putting base runners Aaron Judge and Trent Garrison in motion from first and second on a 3-2 pitch to Kenneth Wise.
Wise shot a deep drive to right-center which appeared to be bound for the gap, so the base runners kept trucking. But, Michigan State center fielder Anthony Cheky came flying into the play with an impressive backhanded diving grab, then aggressively hopped to his feet and fired to the infield to start an 8-3-6-3 triple play.
“That’s just a heck of a play,” Wise said of getting robbed of extra bases. “Our base runners were going, and I thought it was an easy two runs. And he just all-out laid out. Hats off to him.”
The trifecta may not have happened if not for an alert play by Spartans first baseman Ryan Krill. With Cheky’s throw going to first in an attempt to get the back runner, Krill was alert in recognizing that the forward runner was closer on his return to second. Krill quickly tossed to second base to get two, then took a nonchalant lob back from shortstop Justin Scanlon to complete the triple play.
“Me and our second baseman Ryan Jones were screaming: ‘Two! Two! Two!” Scanlon said. “But it was just kind of a free play…. Luckily Ryan had the wherewithal to go to second, and then to first. So it was a heads-up play by Ryan.”
Fresno State still enjoyed a 15-hit day en route to advancing to Sunday play in the double-elimination regional tournament. The Bulldogs fell to the losers bracket with a 9-1 loss to Stanford in Friday’s opener. With Saturday’s win, Fresno State is set to play Sunday at 1 p.m. against the loser of the Stanford-Pepperdine matchup Saturday evening.
Michigan State fell to the losers bracket Friday with a 6-2 loss to Pepperdine. With their second loss of the tourney, the Spartans close their season with a 37-24 overall record, but expect many more center-field web gems from Cheky, who is still a freshman.
“He’s laid out for a few,” Michigan State manager Jake Boss said. “He has some big shoes to fill. We graduated the conference batting champion (Brandon Eckerle) last year, who was our starting center fielder and started every game there…. Defensively especially [Cheky] has just been outstanding. He’s made several plays like that. And not only did he make the play, but he had the wherewithal to get up and throw the ball at least fairly close to where it was supposed to go, and our guys ended up turning that.”
Despite his misfortune as a hitter, Wise couldn’t help but marvel at being involved in a triple play.
“It was kind of cool,” he said. “But I was on the wrong end, of course.”