Spartans swept by Iowa, still winless in conference
The elusive first Big Ten win of the season escaped the MSU softball team once again Sunday as Iowa completed the weekend series sweep of the Spartans with a 4-1 victory at Secchia Stadium at Old College Field.
In game one on Saturday, MSU (11-33 overall, 0-15 Big Ten) was shut out 6-0 and managed only four hits against a seven-strikeout performance by Iowa (20-22, 10-5) pitcher Kayla Massey. Only three Spartans got hits in the second game, a 7-1 decision, continuing a poor hitting streak for MSU.
Head coach Jacquie Joseph said despite the loss, her team adjusted well in game three and showed more discipline at the plate after swinging at some questionable pitches Saturday. She said she was disappointed with MSU’s batting, with two outs against them as the Spartans drove in no runs and left seven base runners stranded and facing two outs.
“I think good teams get two-out hits,” Joseph said. “I think you can see that we’re close, but winning is a different story.”
MSU struck first blood in the bottom of the first inning after junior third baseman Jayme O’Bryant grounded out, allowing junior center fielder Kylene Hopkins to score.
The Hawkeyes knotted the score at one apiece shortly after, by way of a solo home run by catcher Liz Watkins — her second bomb of the weekend.
The Spartans seemed poised to threaten in the bottom of the third, after Massey walked senior right fielder Ali Grant to load the bases with one out. The next batter, redshirt freshman utility player Stephanie Sanders, hit into a double play to end the inning. MSU recorded six hits on the day — the most in any game of the series.
Iowa added one more run in the fourth inning and two in the seventh to increase the final margin to 4-1.
As a senior leader on the team, senior left fielder Lori Padilla — who went 2-3 from the plate Sunday — said her role is to keep morale up among the players and to stay composed on the field. Padilla gathered the team during batting practice before Sunday’s game to preach getting back to basics and fundamentals.
“You want to be perfect at times, when really, the game is (about) errors and which team makes fewer errors,” Padilla said. “So not having a win in the Big Ten makes people have pressure and do things that they normally wouldn’t do.”
Freshman pitcher Carly Nielsen said she felt good about pitching her first complete game this season, despite allowing eight hits and walking two batters. Although the opportunities are dwindling for the club to earn its first victory in conference play, Nielsen said the Spartans can win any game left on the schedule if they play to their potential.
“I don’t want to see any of our players give up,” Nielsen said. “I want everybody to fight every single game and try to get as many wins as we can because every game is important. The last few games are just as important as the first few games.”
Joseph was slightly less optimistic about whether the conference win the Spartans are longing for still remains on the schedule.
“I’m real concerned; that’s all I can tell you,” she said.