Spartans' goals consist of earning NCAA tourney bid
Being stuck inside for the winter is the worst part of the offseason for most softball players.
So it should come as no surprise that the MSU softball team was excited to finally kick off its season last weekend at the Lead-Off Classic in DeLand, Fla.
“It was so nice to play in the dirt and decent weather again,” senior pitcher Kelly Confer said. “It was a lot better than here. We don’t like the snow.”
The Spartans went 2-2 during the opening weekend — beating Missouri State and Stetson but getting swept by Marshall.
The highlight of the weekend came in the win over Stetson, when sophomore pitcher Lauren Kramer threw the 21st no-hitter in MSU history.
“Whenever you throw a no-hitter, it’s pretty exciting,” head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “You could go years and not get one of those.”
Kramer, who was one hit batter away from perfection, became the 14th different Spartan to accomplish the feat, and first since 2007.
“I felt pretty good,” Kramer said. “All my pitches were working really well, and I was hitting my spots pretty accurately. My defense played great behind me, and we got the job done.”
Offensively, freshman utility player Jenny Ramsaier led the Spartans with five hits on the weekend, and sophomore catcher Brett Williams had a team-high four RBIs.
Although MSU swung the bats well, failing to score runs in key situations limited the Spartans.
“I really did feel like we should have won them all,” Joseph said. “Statistically, we outplayed everyone, but we didn’t have timely hits.”
With opening-weekend jitters out of the way, the Spartans can focus on the rest of the season. Their goal is to improve upon last year’s 21-28 overall record and 5-14 mark in the Big Ten.
“We’re looking to do really well in the Big Ten this year, and we definitely want to get that sweep against Michigan,” Kramer said. “We want to make to the NCAA Tournament this year.”
Joseph said the key to MSU achieving those goals is finding the clutch hitting the Spartans lacked in the first weekend.
“We’re still searching for our Kalin Lucas,” Joseph said, referencing the MSU men’s basketball team go-to scorer and leader. “We’re searching for that kid who wants to be at the plate with runners in scoring position
Along with Kramer and Williams, Joseph expects a pair of juniors — outfielder Jessica Bracamonte and shortstop Lindsey Hansen — to step into the role of go-to hitter.
“I think any of those four kids have the physical tools and the swing mechanics,” Joseph said. “The question is, can they handle the responsibility?”
Being able to utilize the experience of MSU’s returning players and the talent of the team’s newcomers also will be important. The Spartans find themselves in a unique situation, only losing three seniors from last year’s team, but also having only one senior this year in Confer.
“We played so many players last year so we have a lot of experience,” Joseph said. “(But) our freshmen definitely have to play, and they are playing.”
The team’s youth can be seen in the circle, as Kramer and freshman Shelby Wise are two of the team’s top three pitchers.
Despite that inexperience, Joseph believes pitching can be her team’s strongest asset and, along with a little luck, could lead the team to big things
“There is no question in my mind that we can contend for the Big Ten title if we pitch the way I think we can pitch,” Joseph said.
“I think that’s realistic, I really do. But we’re going to need some breaks.”