After opening the Big Ten season with two losses to Illinois last weekend, the MSU softball team is looking to “get back on track” this weekend when it hosts Wisconsin at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Secchia Stadium.
Marking the inaugural games at the new stadium, the Spartans (18-13 overall, 0-2 Big Ten) said they’re excited to play on their new field and hope it and the home crowd will help them restart their conference play.
“I love it; it’s gorgeous,” senior shortstop Lindsey Hansen said. “It’s just so big, and I get the chills even at practice just walking out onto the field and just (thinking) it’s going to be packed.”
Head coach Jacquie Joseph said she’s hoping all the hype surrounding the stadium will inspire the players, rather than make them tense and nervous.
Working in MSU’s favor, the Badgers (15-11, 0-2) also opened their conference play with two losses to Penn State last weekend, so they’re in the same boat as the Spartans.
“They want to win two, and we want to win two,” Joseph said.
“And I think they’re probably looking to do the same thing we’re looking to do — let’s get back on track.”
Last season, MSU closed its regular season splitting two games against the Badgers, winning the second game, 11-3.
The two teams have always had challenging series, and Hansen said she expects this weekend to be no different.
Treating every conference opponent like a top competitor, the Spartans know Wisconsin is just as hungry as they are for two wins this weekend, and they’re careful not to disregard the value of the games.
“They’re not going to take us lightly, and we’re not going to take them lightly either,” Hansen said. “They’re just going to be really good games, and we just have to play our game and our attack approach.”
MSU needs to come out firing from the beginning against the Badgers because the team is 13-2 when it scores the first run in a game, but 5-11 when the other team scores first.
“(We’re trying to) attack first and attack often,” Hansen said.
“We always say we need to score first, and when we score first, it automatically puts the other team down.”
This season, the Spartans have been fairly inconsistent in their play.
Joseph said this team is one of her better teams offensively, but it’s not enough to carry the sometimes struggling defense and pitching.
“If the kids come out and score a lot of runs, then that’s less pressure on the pitching and the defense,” Joseph said. “If you play great defense, then that’s less pressure on the pitching and hitting.
“Ultimately, those three categories — they’re it.”
There have been games when offense, defense and pitching have been on fire, but the overall inconsistency really has been hurting the team, Joseph said.
MSU needs to come out strong all over the field if it wants to take down the Badgers.
“For Wisconsin, we’re looking to put everything together, and this weekend, start our Big Ten season again,” senior first baseman Heidi Purtzer said. “It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it last weekend, and I think when we play Wisconsin, we’re not overlooking them.”
Based on both teams’ performances so far this season, Joseph said the teams are evenly matched, making the games anyone’s to take.
Although MSU looks better on paper, anything can happen in a game, and statistics become irrelevant.
To win both games, the Spartans need to play like they do in practice, let their instincts take over and lead them to victory.
“When we are relaxed and stick to the process of the game, we’re successful,” Purtzer said.
“It really doesn’t matter what opponent we have … if we stick to our game plan, we can be successful, and that’s what we need to do.”