It’s safe to say Jacquie Joseph and the MSU softball team are hungry to get back to action in today’s doubleheader against Ohio State.
The Spartans (21-18 overall, 7-4 Big Ten) have not played a game in more than a week after a handful of weather-related cancellations. Since last Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to Notre Dame, a home tilt with Toledo the next day was rained out and when the team flew to Minnesota last weekend, the whole three-game series was cancelled because of a snow storm.
Making matters worse, Joseph said MSU hasn’t been able to practice effectively throughout that period because of constant
rain and flooding at Secchia Stadium at Old College Field.
“It’s clearly been less than ideal,” the head coach said, in her 20th season at MSU. “We’ve been unable to practice in any kind of setting. We’ve been able to do some hitting the last few days. … We have not had a meaningful practice in a long time. I mean many, many, many, many days.”
With rain once again in the forecast today in Columbus, Ohio, the Spartans are just hoping the conditions are appropriate to get the games underway. The first contest is set for a 4 p.m. start, with the second beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Joseph believes MSU matches up well with the Buckeyes (27-17, 6-9) in what she called a critical series.
The Spartans are in sixth place in the Big Ten heading into the doubleheader, but with four conference losses there is room to climb the pecking order, although every team is chasing first-place Michigan with a perfect 16-0 resume in league play.
It should be a fairly evenly matched pair of games as Ohio State is superior to MSU in team batting, pitching and fielding — but not by significant margins. The Buckeyes’ biggest advantage will
come at the plate with a lineup that includes four players hitting better than .300 and a collective batting average of .294.
“I don’t think they overwhelm you in any one category. They don’t do anything poorly in any one category,” Joseph said.
“I think it’s a great matchup. The fact that we play at their place is a little bit of an advantage to them, but it doesn’t bother us to play on the road.”
After today’s games, the Spartans just have two Big Ten series remaining with a midweek game against Eastern Michigan sandwiched in-between, but Joseph is looking for more consistency in the latter portion of the regular season.
One player rounding into form late in the year is freshman pitcher Dani Goranson. The stats for MSU’s No. 2 pitcher aren’t eye-popping — she has a 3-7 overall record and 3.42 ERA — but her development throughout this season is crucial for the Spartans going forward, Joseph said.
Goranson has improved in nearly every way since her baptism by fire as a true freshman at the beginning of the season,
Joseph said, most notably in poise, command and management of the game. Most importantly, she gives MSU a legitimate second option the Spartans feel they can win with her in the circle behind junior ace Kelly Smith.
“She’s got nothing but upside,” Joseph said. “I don’t even think she’s near her potential yet. We’re super excited about her as her career unfolds. I think she’s got all the potential in the world.”