Spartans hold off late rally to win 7-6
The MSU softball team needed all the runs it could get Sunday.
After going up 7-1, the Spartans held off a furious rally to beat Minnesota 7-6 at Old College Field.
“We were up early and could have just stopped, but we didn’t and that’s been a focus for us,” MSU head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “We can’t ever stop scoring because you never know how many you’ll need.”
After losing two games to Iowa last weekend, MSU (16-17 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) rebounded to sweep the Golden Gophers, also beating them 2-1 Saturday. It was the Spartans’ third win in a row, which also matches their longest winning streak of the season.
“It’s a great feeling for us to be even in the Big Ten again,” junior shortstop Lindsey Hansen said. “Now, we’ll come back next weekend and try to get better.”
MSU trailed to start the game, as Minnesota scored when infielder Alex Davis hit an RBI double to left field off sophomore pitcher Lauren Kramer before the Spartans had a chance to bat.
Kramer, who leads the Spartans with 126 innings pitched this season, settled down immediately and retired 14 consecutive batters.
“They definitely took advantage of my misses in the first inning,” Kramer said. “After that, I said I wasn’t going to miss my pitches anymore and executed for awhile.”
Meanwhile, after sophomore catcher Brett Willams tied the game by scoring on a rundown in the second inning, the MSU bats came alive, scoring three runs in both the third and fifth innings to stretch the lead to 7-1.
However, Minnesota refused to go away quietly.
Once Minnesota infielder Sammie Howard recorded the first hit off of Kramer in 4 2/3 innings, the Gophers were able to score three runs in the sixth inning.
In the seventh inning, Minnesota scored two more runs off of senior pitcher and utility player Kelly Confer, pulling the Gophers to within one run.
Then Kramer came back to finish the game, striking out one batter and forcing another into a fielder’s choice for the last out.
In spite of Kramer struggling in the sixth inning and giving up five earned runs on the day, Joseph said she had faith Kramer would come away with the win, especially after a meeting with her ace pitcher March 29 before the Spartans’ game against Eastern Michigan.
“We weren’t going to start her for the nonconference game, but she came into my office and said, ‘Coach, I want the ball,’ like, ‘you can count on me, I get it now,’” Joseph said. “So I gave her the ball and she’s been running with it ever since.”
Since approaching Joseph and demanding the ball, Kramer has won three games, giving up just six earned runs with 21 strikeouts, including five Sunday.
“We’re going to go as far as our pitching takes us, and Lauren is just now getting in touch with how great she can be,” Joseph said.
In addition to Kramer’s performance on the mound, MSU’s offense also was critical in the win, Joseph said. The Spartans were able to take advantage when they had runners on base, scoring their seven runs on 12 hits.
Hansen, who has a team-best .406 batting average and Big Ten-best 13 doubles, led the way for the Spartans with three singles in four at-bats.
Playing third base for MSU against Minnesota, sophomore Ali Grant batted in three runs while going 2-for-2 from the plate.