Buckeyes sweep 2-game weekend series
Before this weekend’s series against No. 20 Ohio State, MSU softball had coach Jacquie Joseph told the Spartans that the nationally ranked Buckeyes were where the Spartans wanted to be.
After getting pounded 12-3 Saturday and losing 7-3 Sunday, the Spartans (18-21 overall, 4-6 Big Ten) know they have a lot to improve upon to become a conference contender.
“I think that you see what a great team looks like,” Joseph said of the Buckeyes (26-11, 5-1). “Ohio State is going to contend for the championship. In my mind, that’s what a nationally ranked team looks like; that’s where the bar is.
The MSU softball team was victimized by back-to-back four-run innings, losing 12-3 to No. 20 Ohio State on Saturday at Old College Field.
After two scoreless innings, the Buckeyes scored two runs in the top of the third to open up a 2-0 lead. After another scoreless inning for MSU, the Buckeyes extended their lead to 6-0 with four runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Ohio State posted its second straight four-run inning in the top of the fifth, when they hit a solo home run and a three-run home run to extend their lead to 10-0.
MSU scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Sophomore pitcher Lauren Kramer gave up six runs in four innings of work.
Freshman outfielder Kylene Hopkins went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and one run scored.
“We talked to our players that that’s where the bar is at and that’s where we need to be. (The Buckeyes are) older, they’re calmer, and they’re impressive.”
After not scoring a run in the first four innings Saturday, the Spartans quickly got on the board Sunday.
In the top of the first inning, freshman outfielder Kylene Hopkins scored on a triple by junior outfielder Jessica Bracamonte. A bunt from sophomore pitcher Lauren Kramer scored Bracamonte and MSU had an early 2-0 lead.
Despite scoring early, Joseph thought the Spartans could have come away with more than two runs.
“I felt that both games, in the first inning, we blew it in the sense that we had them,” Joseph said. “In both games in the first inning they both should have been bigger innings, more runs scored, and that would have changed the complexion of the game.”
The Buckeyes answered with a leadoff solo home run in the top of the second to cut the Spartans’ lead in half.
In the top of the third, the Buckeyes stormed into the lead. After an RBI single by Dee Dee Hillman, shortstop Alicia Herron hit a three-run home run to give Ohio State a 5-2 lead.
The Buckeyes hit five home runs on the weekend. The ability to capitalize on pitching mistakes is something the Buckeyes were able to take advantage of while the Spartans were not.
“Ohio State is a great offensive team and when they put the ball in play, we have to answer back,” said Kramer, who gave up two runs, one of them unearned, in four innings of relief.
The Buckeyes added another run in the top of the fourth, but the Spartans answered with one of their own on a single from Hopkins to cut the lead to 6-3. The Spartans loaded the bases with two outs on two errors from the shortstop, Herron, but Bracamonte flew out to end the inning.
Hopkins, who went 2-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored on Sunday, said the Spartans needed to relax more on the field.
“We’re pretty tense most of the time so everyone just needs to relax and know that we can do it as long as everyone does their part,” Hopkins said.
The Spartans were aggressive on the basepaths, stealing two bases Sunday and trying to extend singles into doubles.
The aggressive running was something Joseph said was vital if MSU was going to pull off the upset.
“The way I look at is that when you look at your opponent and you know they’re better than you on paper, to play straight up does not make sense,” Joseph said.
“Playing straight up, we were not going to beat them. … Our plan was to try to push the envelope, and to that extent, I liked our plan, we just didn’t execute it fully on the mound.”