Spartans in danger of missing Big Ten Tournament
The MSU softball team enters the backstretch of its 12-game road trip fighting for its postseason life, while preparing for finals.
Its a critical weekend for us in terms of our season, head coach Jacquie Joseph said. We put ourselves in this position to have to win these games. If we could get their academic needs met on the road and win some games, that would be great.
The ninth-place Spartans (24-29 overall, 4-10 Big Ten) will try to climb their way up the Big Ten standings, starting with 10th-place Purdue (32-22, 2-10) at 4 p.m. today at the Varsity Softball Complex in West Lafayette, Ind. The two teams will play again at noon Saturday, then MSU will travel to Champaign, Ill., to take on eighth-place Illinois (28-19, 6-8) in a doubleheader Sunday at Eichelberger Field.
These are really important games, junior shortstop Margaret Schick said. We need to win them all to try and get to the Big Ten Tournament, because they are teams we know we can beat.
MSU is four games out of the sixth-place spot - held by Minnesota (35-16, 7-5) and Wisconsin (26-16, 7-5) - which it needs to reach to claim a spot in the Big Ten Tournament on May 9-11.
The Spartans are entering the ninth game of the road trip with a 4-4 record,1-3 in conference games.
I think we started out really well, Schick said. We had a little bit of a lapse at Northwestern. We could have taken a game from them, but I hope to finish it off strong with some wins this weekend.
The Spartans are coming off a 3-2 victory over Central Michigan on Tuesday at the CMU Softball Complex. Senior pitcher Becky Gray (13-14) struck out six batters in five and two-thirds innings to pick up the win, bringing her within 22 strikeouts of breaking the MSU all-time career strikeout record.
Joseph said Gray likely will be the starter for todays contest.
I think that the team is starting to really rally around Becky and that strikeout chase, Joseph said. I noticed it more against Central than I have before. I would say theres a 95 percent chance shell start the game.
Joseph said Purdue and Illinois should provide interesting competition because they share something in common with the Spartans.
Desperation brings out strange things in competition, she said. And I think that all three of us are all in pretty much desperate situations. I would hope that our team would rise to the occasion and meet the challenge.
MSU has played well defensively, leading all Big Ten teams with a .974 fielding percentage. But Joseph is worried more about the offensive production.
We need to take advantage of our opportunities offensively, Joseph said. We have to score when the opportunity presents itself. I think if we do those things were going to have a good weekend.
The key to getting some run production could be Schick. Schick leads the team with 26 stolen bases - two shy of breaking the MSU single-season stolen-base record - and 33 runs scored, and second on the team with a .321 batting average and 44 hits.
I know if I get stolen bases, Im usually helping the team out by getting myself into scoring position, Schick said. Usually, if I can get myself on base, and I do get a steal, then it usually gives us a little bit of momentum.