Sunday, June 16, 2024

Spartans beat Oakland in doubleheader

April 26, 2001
Sophomore infielder Natalie Furrow tries to steal second during a women’s softball game against Oakland at Old College Field last year. MSU swept Oakland in a doubleheader Wednesday.

ROCHESTER - Strong pitching and timely hitting preserved a two-game sweep at Oakland for the MSU softball team.

With junior pitchers Becky Gray and Keri DeJong posting complete games, the Spartans (20-34, 4-10 Big Ten) completed the sweep with 5-3 and 1-0 wins, respectively. The wins increase MSU’s winning streak to three games.

MSU head coach Jacquie Joseph said the team’s pitching kept the Spartans in both games. Solid pitching is critical when playing on the road, she said.

“We played well enough to win,” she said. “That’s all that’s important right now.”

The Spartans started the day off great with a lead-off double from senior Shealee Dunavan, who plays first base, in game one. Two errors by the Oakland defense helped transform the first inning into a two-run lead for MSU.

Oakland answered with a two-run first inning of its own, but MSU rallied to regain the lead with a two-run third inning.

“That was very important that we didn’t go in the tank after they answered with two runs,” Joseph said.

MSU added a run in the sixth, giving the Spartans a 5-2 lead heading into the final inning.

Gray struck out the first two Oakland batters to start the seventh, then gave up back-to-back doubles that closed the lead to 5-3 before Oakland grounded out to end the rally.

“I must have lost my focus when they got those two hits, but I came right back,” Gray said. “The team really did a good job today as far as hitting. It was nice to play with a lead.”

Gray allowed eight hits and one walk, while striking out nine in game one. The game was her 14th complete game and pushed her record to 8-16.

Not to be outdone, DeJong posted her third complete game of the season, and first shutout, in the nightcap. DeJong gave up just two hits, three walks and struck out six.

“It was good,” DeJong said of her performance. “I was a little disappointed in myself actually. I threw way too many pitches.”

DeJong didn’t get the run support Gray did in game one, but the result was the same.

“Any time you’re pitching a one-run game it’s huge,” Joseph said. “There’s a lot of pressure and Keri came through.”

DeJong said the pressure was there, but added it was lifted after Dunavan’s RBI single down the first-base line in the top of the sixth.

“When there’s a clutch situation I want to be the one to hit the runner in,” Dunavan said. “I’m just going up to bat swinging.”

After Dunavan’s single, the game was far from over. In the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, Oakland had the tying run on first after a hit batter.

Dunavan said the slightest mistake in a situation like that can result in a loss, but added she had complete confidence in DeJong.

“I knew she was going to get the last batter,” she said. “I think everyone was more on their toes.”

DeJong said having the tying run on base wasn’t an issue. She said with just one out remaining she only had to focus on the batter at the plate.

“Me, as a pitcher I don’t really think about having anybody on base,” she said. “I just go after the batter.”

The Spartans have a Big Ten home stand next. They have a Friday doubleheader against Iowa and a weekend series against Northwestern.

DeJong said the three-game winning streak will help the Spartans return to Big Ten action.

“It’s good to go into a weekend like this,” she said. “It gives us a lot of confidence.”

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