Softball team prepares to start season with series in Florida
The forecast over the next few days in De Land, Florida is in the high 60s and low 70s.
That’s where MSU softball will begin its season, facing off against Stetson and Rhode Island in four games over three days.
Last year’s softball team improved drastically from the prior season. The 2013 Spartans had a 15-game improvement from 2012 – with a record of 24-25 (9-10 Big Ten), they were the fifth-most improved team in Division I over that time.
Head coach Jacquie Joseph believes the team can make another jump in improvement this season with the freshmen that were brought in and the improvements of the veteran players on the team.
“I thought last year was a great first step,” she said. ”You know, we’re really starting to see the positive results of the new stadium. This (incoming) class was recruited with the stadium. So I do think that we’re moving in the right direction and last year was a great stepping off point.”
Despite losing its top two hitters to graduation, Joseph is optimistic MSU can be better this season because of some of the freshman and a balanced lineup from top to bottom.
“Yeah, the two most offensive kids we did lose and that is a concern,” she said. “I think the way we’re going to do it is play more team offense. I feel great about (the freshman). They bring great effort.”
The Spartans bring back a few key players, including centerfielder Alyssa McBride, designated player Sarah Bowling and first baseman McKinzie Freimuth. Freimuth is working on becoming more of a team leader this year as well.
“I’ve became more of a vocal leader this year than I have been in the past,” she said. “Being in the infield, being at first base — everybody can hear me.”
They also bring back senior starting pitcher Kelly Smith. It’s Smith’s second year in the program and she looks to continue to build off last year’s performance. Last year, she went 18-16 with a 2.97 ERA.
Smith said that the team is working on the mental side of pitching to improve.
“I think we’ve been working on being smarter than the batter,” she said. “I don’t think I have to change much, but we have definitely added some new elements to what I have to offer.”
Freshman starting pitcher Valerie Kaff also will be given an opportunity to start her first games this weekend. Coach Joseph acknowledges that there might be some growing pains to go with starting many freshmen, but she’s optimistic regardless.