Big Ten Tournament hopes slipping away
U looks to rebound against conference leading Hawkeyes
After three straight nonconference games, the MSU softball team returns to Big Ten action this weekend.
The Spartans (21-26 overall, 3-7 Big Ten) travel to Iowa City, for a two game series with the Big Ten-leading Hawkeyes (28-14, 8-2).
The two teams begin the series at 6 p.m. today at Pearl Field, then wrap up at noon Saturday.
Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins said her team knows it cant overlook the ninth-place Spartans.
I know how important it is, Blevins said. And our team know how important it is to play everytime we step on the field.
In their first meeting Feb. 16, the Hawkeyes destroyed MSU 13-0 in the Louisville Slugger Classic.
It was so long ago, Blevins said. That feels like it was last year. You have to look at where our team is now. Its a new game and new opportunity, and we have to approach it as such.
For MSU, opportunity is slipping away. Only the top six teams make the Big Ten Tournament May 9-11, and MSU enters the weekend in ninth-place.
After Iowa, the Spartans will end the weekend road trip in Evanston, Ill., with a noon game against Northwestern (18-13-1, 6-4) at Drysdale Field.
The Iowa-Northwestern series is as big as any of them, Spartan head coach Jacquie Joseph said. Right now, theyre both in the upper tier and we have to really do well.
I definitely think its now or never.
Despite the fact the Hawkeyes have won 15 of their last 17 games, Joseph said MSU can win.
I think we match up very well, if we play well, Joseph said. If we come out and play well, both offensively and defensively, I think we have a very, very good chance.
Joseph said the Spartans starting pitcher will be a game-time decision. But Blevins said she intends to utilize Iowas entire bullpen to tame the MSU batters.
Hawkeye pitcher Kristi Hanks, the two-time Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, combines with Lisa Birocci and Sarah Thomson for a 1.70 ERA.
Senior pitcher Becky Gray (10-12, 2.06 ERA) leads the Spartan pitching staff. She said she believes the team can bounce back from last weekends disappointment.
MSU dropped two games to Wisconsin and two games to Minnesota last weekend at Old College Field.
After last weekend, it was very disappointing we didnt get a win, Gray said. We need some wins this weekend and I think were going to do that.
Im mostly concerned about getting to the Big Ten Tournament. Thats my goal.