Tired Spartans await Thursday’s home opener
After seven consecutive weekends of traveling around the country from Florida to California and finishing in West Lafayette, Ind., this weekend, the MSU softball team is exhausted, and it showed when the team was swept by Purdue in a three-game series.
Losing 10-6 and 8-4, respectively, in Saturday’s doubleheader and closing with a 2-0 shutout, head coach Jacquie Joseph said it wasn’t a lack of preparation that led to the losses, but fatigue, which contributed to execution struggles.
In Saturday’s doubleheader, the fourth innings proved fatal for the Spartans (10-19 overall, 0-3 Big Ten), as Purdue sent eight runs home in the first game and five runs in the second. The Boilermakers (18-9, 3-0) capitalized on MSU’s pitching struggles — with sophomore Cassee Layne starting on the mound in two games this weekend — repeatedly loading the bases and sending runners home.
“I was disappointed in our execution,” Joseph said. “We were ready for them in terms of game plan and what we thought they’d present, but we didn’t execute very well.
“On Saturday, both in the pitching area and in defense … it looked like we were tired. Then on Sunday, I thought we got a lot better on pitching and defense, but then we didn’t hit.”
Looking forward to having the home field advantage, MSU hosts Butler on Thursday for its home opener, followed by a three-game series against Ohio State this weekend. Joseph said because traveling every weekend has taken such a toll, she hopes they’ll be able to rest this week in between home games.
“We’ve been on the road seven straight weeks, and I think it showed mentally, and I think it showed physically,” she said.“We’re going to play at home a little bit (this week), and that’s going to give us an opportunity to get some more rest and recovery.”
Layne — who gained a significant amount of experience on the mound last season — started for MSU in the first and third games against Purdue and took the losses for both games.
Holding a 7.51 ERA and a 4-7 record this season, Layne gave up a total of 11 hits and 11 runs in her 6.2 innings on the mound this weekend. Despite her experience from last season, Joseph said a pitcher’s sophomore year is more difficult than her freshman year.
“In year two, what everybody has is film and the ability to prepare, so I think the sophomore year is a very difficult year for kids who played a lot as a freshman,” Joseph said.
“This year, she’s developing more pitches, which will help her, but mentally, I think it’s a much more difficult year.”
Recently, the Big Ten has been gaining a reputation for having quality teams and fierce competition, and MSU’s struggles at Purdue in the conference opener is a good indication of how challenging the conference will continue to be this season.
“Softball in the Big Ten is definitely growing and on the rise,” Joseph said.
“Adding Nebraska to the mix; they’re a very, very good team, and they were always contending in the Big 12, so I think that they made us better right away.”