MSU looks to right ship during difficult season
It doesn’t matter how you start; it’s how you finish.
That’s the mindset the MSU softball team has as it looks to go out stronger than it came in.
With only 10 games remaining this season, the Spartans (22-22 overall, 3-9 Big Ten) have a chance to take control of their season, and they want to prove they’re tough enough to do so, starting with two road games against Minnesota (27-20, 5-7) at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
“We pretty much take it one day at a time, one game at a time, one pitch at a time,” junior third baseman Ali Grant said. “We try and focus on the present and not really look toward the future just so we can stay focused.”
MSU had a short break from its Big Ten play this week, losing, 8-3, to Central Michigan and splitting a doubleheader with Oakland.
With the three games not going the way MSU would have hoped, junior outfielder Lori Padilla said the Minnesota series is crucial for the team to finish the season strong.
“We have to really stick together and know that your team is really going to be your backbone when you need it, especially when your body’s hurting,” Padilla said.
“A couple of (this week’s) games didn’t go the way that we wanted, so we really need to be unified and be one and just know no one’s going to be left behind. We’re going to get through this weekend together.”
The two teams haven’t played each other since last season, and MSU swept the series with two home wins.
The Spartans said Minnesota’s pitcher Sara Moulton — who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Monday — is the Golden Gophers’ strongest weapon against them. While Moulton has posted 13 shutoutsthis season, Grant said she’s known for having a lot of dropped balls.
Head coach Jacquie Joseph agreed MSU will have its hands full with Moulton on the mound, but she also said she’s more concerned about the team’s performance with freshman pitcher Cassee Layne pitching this weekend.
As the Spartans have struggled with pitching and infield defense all season, Joseph said the Minnesota series will be a true test of how far they’ve come and where they stand to finish the season.
“Ultimately, I think the key will be can we pitch and keep them from scoring less than four runs, and can we play good defense?” she said. “I don’t think they’re pitching necessarily is what our issue is going to be. I think our pitching is going to be more of an indicator.”
Because the Big Ten is so competitive, wins have been hard to steal for MSU. While the Spartans would like to come away with at least one win in the series, the weekend will be a test of their character in the middle of a challenging season.
“We just have to trust our preparation,” Padilla said. “For a couple of the balls that we may have dropped or didn’t get to because we don’t think we can get there, we just really have to trust in our preparation and trust in our coaching and ourselves.”