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.
Its a relief, Joseph said. We have been on the road so long and its getting old.
Its nice to be able to sleep in our own beds. Were 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 havent 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.
Easterns 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 wasnt as nerve-rattling as she thought.
I guess I wasnt as nervous as I thought Id be, Pedersen said. Its nice to have those preseason games.
She said although the team struggled last weekend, she hopes Sundays 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, theyre 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 theyre in, Gray said. Theyve 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.
Ive 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.