Spartans look to improve upon 4-6 start
MSU softball coach Jacquie Joseph doesn’t beat around the bush — she’s disappointed in her team’s performance at this point in the young season.
“We haven’t achieved even to where I thought we would be at this time,” Joseph said. “Our hitting is close, our defense is close, I think our pitching needs to take a big jump. We’ve underachieved a little bit in the sense that this is what I’ve seen us do in practice and this is what I’ve seen us do in the game. And that leads me to believe we have a mental issue, not a physical one. And while that’s easy to diagnose, it’s not necessarily easy to fix.”
The Spartans are off to a 4-6 start in two weekends of play at the Blue and Gold Felsberg Memorial Tournament and the FGCU Spring Break Invitational, where the team went 3-2 and 1-4, respectively. They have wins against St. John’s, Georgetown, Temple and Bethune-Cookman.
Joseph said it’s odd, even at the early stages of the season, to not have any pitchers emerge from the rotation.
“That’s unusual,” she said. “Typically the first five to 10 games, you’re getting a feel for your ball club and you would hope someone would take the ball and run with it. Nobody’s differentiated themselves yet.”
In 10 games, four different Spartans have earned decisions and junior righthander Kelly Confer is the only pitcher with a winning record (2-1).
Leading the way for the Spartans offensively is senior second baseman Gina Mondo, who is a returning member of the Academic All-Big Ten Team and All-Great Lakes Regional Second Team. Playing in just eight of the team’s 10 games, Mondo already has two doubles, a triple, a home run and four stolen bases. Not large in stature, Mondo poses an unusual threat to steal a base at any time as she sits tied for sixth in the MSU record books with 14 career home runs.
“I’m just kind of a scrappy player,” she said. “Obviously I don’t look like a big offensive threat up to bat, but if you’ve seen me swing, I use my whole entire body and I’m pretty small. I guess I’m quick. But I just work on my hitting tons. It’s just my form more than anything because I don’t naturally have a lot of power.”
Last season, the team jumped out to a 4-0 start before dropping its next nine games. After that, it won six in a row. Mondo said to reach a level of positive progress and steady consistency, they will have to focus on the smaller aspects of their game.”
“Right now, we just need to work more on the fundamentals,” she said. “We’re a young team, we have young pitching and I think it’s going to come along. Right now, it’s just getting a lot of the kinks out and getting used to playing with each other. It’s better what we’re doing now starting off and learning and I think we’re going to turn it around this weekend.”
The Spartans have games against Samford and Pittsburgh on Saturday before playing Northern Illinois and UAB on Sunday.