Spartans end disappointing season without Big Ten win
A forgettable season for the MSU softball team ended Saturday with more blunder than bang as the Spartans dropped their 19th consecutive game in a weekend-series sweep by Indiana.
MSU ended its 2012 campaign losing 26 of its last 27 contests and finished the season winless in Big Ten competition. The team finished 11-42 on the season with its last victory coming on a 6-1 decision at Central Michigan on April 4.
Making matters worse, archrival Michigan captured the outright Big Ten title Saturday with an 18-5 conference record.
Assistant coach Chelsea Spencer said she has never seen a team plagued with more bad luck than the Spartans were in 2012, but credited the team’s resiliency and optimism despite underwhelming results on the field.
Head coach Jacquie Joseph was unavailable for comment following Saturday’s loss to the Hoosiers.
“I honestly think success comes from within — knowing that you’ve done your personal best,” Spencer said. “I would not take this season back for anything because I learned so much through the season. These girls are just nonstop fighters, and that’s all we could ask for.”
The Spartans began their season in February playing in the Combat Classic Tournament in Miami and Gainesville, Fla., where they lost seven of eight games. From there, MSU went 9-9 in various tournaments in California, Florida and Indiana throughout February and into mid-March when conference play began.
None of MSU’s 11 total wins were earned at home in Secchia Stadium at Old College Field.
After the final out was recorded in Saturday’s 6-5 loss to Indiana, senior right fielder Ali Grant said she’s trying not to allow the fact that she has played her last game in a Spartan uniform to sink in.
Grant, who started all but three games for MSU this season, along with left fielder Lori Padilla, who started every game, likely will leave the most glaring holes on the roster among the five departing seniors. Padilla finished second on the team in batting average and hits.
The cupboard is far from bare in 2013, however, as MSU returns shortstop Alyssa McBride and first baseman McKinzie Freimuth, who each started all 54 games in 2012 as freshmen.
The bulk of the pitching staff also will be back in the circle for MSU next year: freshman Carly Nielsen and sophomore Cassee Layne. Nielsen and Layne were the primary hurlers for the Spartans, having accounted for 45 combined starts.
Nielsen, who was 3-19 on the year, said she’ll take away many lessons from her disappointing first season at MSU.
“I think we’re going to come out next year and people are probably going to look past us, but we’re going to bring everything we have,” she said.
One player to watch for next season is junior center fielder Kylene Hopkins, who finished with the second-best batting average in the Big Ten at .392.
Hopkins started every game and led MSU in hits, doubles, RBI and walks.
“If we can prepare them in a way in the fall next year to be more mentally tough and focused, then it’ll be a totally different season next year,” Spencer said.