Spartans hoping to 'finish' against Iowa
Thirty games into the season, the MSU softball team has demonstrated several strengths and stuck close with the majority of its opponents but still hasn’t found its killer instinct.
The Spartans have a 2-8 record in one-run games and have held a lead in the majority of those losses, but have struggled to hit late in games.
As MSU prepares for a Tuesday matchup against Eastern Michigan, the mission is to take advantage of the opportunity to seal the game.
“Whether we finish the year strong or not will depend on our ability to finish,” MSU head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “We get a team down but we stab them in the front of their chest where they can pull the knife out. We have to learn to finish if we’re going to be successful.”
In MSU’s loss Sunday against Iowa, the Spartans had a 6-4 lead through two innings but couldn’t keep the lead as Iowa came back and scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning.
The Spartans fell, 3-1, against Iowa on Saturday and will look to rebound against the Eagles in playing their third game in four days.
The Spartans’ bats received a confidence boost Sunday, pounding out eight hits and scoring six early runs despite scoring five runs or fewer in their previous six games.
Junior shortstop Lindsey Hansen and junior outfielder Jessica Bracamonte each recorded hits Sunday to keep their averages above .370 and .360, respectively, and Bracamonte added three RBIs.
MSU scored just 12 runs in its previous six games before Sunday, going 3-3 during that stretch.
“I think overall we hit a lot better than we have in past games, but we’re capable of so much more,” Bracamonte said.
The Spartans hope to keep the hitting going Tuesday as Eastern Michigan has given up nine runs in each of its last three games.
“We just need to execute when we have players on base and when we have opportunities to put a dagger in there,” sophomore catcher Brett Williams said.
“Once we get ahead in games, we need to just put it on them even more, and put it so they can’t get back in there.”
The Spartans defeated the Eagles, 3-0, earlier this season behind sophomore pitcher Lauren Kramer’s complete game, four-hit performance. The game also featured multi-hit performances by four Spartans’ batters, including a three-RBI game for Hansen.
Kramer pitched in Sunday’s loss but only dealt the final three-plus innings as the Spartans used four pitchers.
Kramer has a 9-8 record and is one of the team leaders in earned run average with a 2.06 mark.
All four hurlers who pitched in Sunday’s game sport ERA’s of 3.00 or lower.
Joseph said the team should be all right for Tuesday’s game as long as it doesn’t look ahead to this weekend’s home series against Minnesota.
“My biggest fear about all midweek games is that they don’t approach it the way they need to,” Joseph said. “If we finish, we’ll be successful; if we don’t, we won’t.”
The Spartans were called for several illegal pitch violations Sunday that resulted in free bases for Iowa.
Joseph said the calls have been made across the country, and it is difficult for her team to adjust.
“It’s a very difficult problem for coaches and pitchers to understand,” Joseph said. “It didn’t go our way. You’re going to see a lot more of it.”
The Spartans (13-17, 0-2 Big Ten) will try to take advantage in playing their fourth of six straight home games in Tuesday’s contest, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Old College Field.
“We just got to finish these games,” Bracamonte said.
“As long as we keep up our attack and keep hitting like we can and keep going hard, we should be able to pull through.”