Friday, May 20, 2022

Spartans hope to rebound after poor home opener

April 2, 2002
Penn State junior outfielder Gina Bianchini is out at first base as MSU freshman Janette Hurtado catches the ball for the out during the first game of Sunday's doubleheader at Old College Field. The Spartans lost the game 2-1, then returned to win game two 11-4. The Spartans host Eastern Michigan today. —

After opening the Big Ten season 1-3 at home, the MSU softball team will play three nonconference games this week to regroup.

The Spartans (12-21 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) host Eastern Michigan (8-13, 3-3 Mid-American) 4 p.m. today at Old College Field. The team will play a doubleheader against Oakland (8-21, 1-3 Mid-Continent) on Wednesday.

Spartan manager Jacquie Joseph said she is happy to finally be playing at home.

“It’s a relief,” Joseph said. “We have been on the road so long and it’s getting old.

“It’s nice to be able to sleep in our own beds. We’re more relaxed.”

Joseph said the games will provide a good break from conference action.

“The nonconference schedule is so important because it gives us a chance to shape and work on the things we need to work on.”

Joseph said Eastern is a familiar opponent and should offer a competitive matchup. Last year, the Eagles beat the Spartans 6-2 in Ypsilanti.

She said Eastern is one those teams MSU plays every year, and comes out ready to beat a Big Ten team.

“They haven’t posed much offense in the past,” Joseph said. “But they beat us last year at their place, so they are coming in with a lot of confidence.”

Eastern’s Marcy Mobley is one of the best pitchers in the MAC. The senior is in her first season at Eastern, but was named to the 2001 All-MAC team at Ball State last season.

Joseph said Mobley is definitely a concern, since the teams played in the fall and the Spartans struggled with her pitching.

Joseph said her team has fought a lot of injuries and that has caused it to be inconsistent so far this season.

Junior catcher Lacy Hauxhurst went down Saturday with a strained medial collateral ligament and will not be available, while sophomore third base Brittney Green is still coming back from an early season MCL sprain.

Because of injuries a lot of younger players have to step up. On Sunday, freshman second base Janette Hurtado contributed three hits and two RBIs. Freshman left fielder Lauren Pedersen also has stepped up so far this season.

Pedersen has played in 23 of the Spartans’ 33 games and is batting .316 with 21 hits. She said being a freshman and playing in the Big Ten wasn’t as nerve-rattling as she thought.

“I guess I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I’d be,” Pedersen said. “It’s nice to have those preseason games.”

She said although the team struggled last weekend, she hopes Sunday’s second game will carry over. The Spartans defeated Penn State 11-4 in that game.

“I think in the second game against Penn State we had fun and we hit a lot better,” Pedersen said. “We got our confidence up and even though these are not Big Ten games, they’re good teams and we still need to focus.”

As a team, the Spartans are young. Pitcher Becky Gray is one of two seniors on the team.

“I think the underclassmen are doing a great job, in whatever role they’re in,” Gray said. “They’ve really stepped on and have done a great job.”

Joseph said the team needs to grow up if it wants to reach the next level.

“I’ve got to say this is a maturity issue,” Joseph said. “Mature athletes find a way to bring their A game every day. If we ever really want to compete at a high level, we have to put forth a little more every time we put the uniform on.”

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