The MSU softball team nearly captured its first Big Ten victory Sunday but lost control in the last few innings, losing to Indiana 5-2 in extra innings, its seventh-straight loss. The Spartans were bolstered early by strong pitching by senior Megan Hair. Hair was nearly flawless through the first four innings, not giving up a hit and allowing only three Hoosiers to reach base.
MSU got on the board in the bottom of the fourth inning. Freshman catcher Brett Williams roped a line drive to left field with the bases loaded, scoring two runs and giving the Spartans their first lead of the Big Ten season 2-0.
The Spartans got two easy outs in the top of the fifth inning, but then started to implode as the Hoosiers began to rally.
Indiana’s Kelsey Stander reached base on an error and immediately stole second. Then, Brittany Devitt followed by reaching on an error, putting Indiana players at the corners. The next batter, Kelli Ritchison, got Indiana’s first hit of the day, looping a bloop single over the infield to score a run. Emily Bergeson followed with a hit of her own, scoring Devitt and tying the game 2-2 before the Spartans got out of the inning on a pop fly.
“I think we started just thinking, ‘Oh my God, we’re ahead. We can’t have this. I think I’ll kick three balls.’ And we did,” Spartans head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “We found a way to lose because we just cannot keep our focus.”
The Spartans tried to reclaim the lead in the sixth, getting two players on base with no outs, but came up empty as the next three batters went hitless. Neither team could muster anything in the seventh inning, sending the game went into extra innings.
In the eighth inning the Hoosiers took control, loading the bases with only one out. Kristen King then lined a hard double to left centerfield, scoring two and putting Indiana in the lead 4-2. Bridget Langan, pinch hitting for Julie DiNallo, grounded out to second on the next play but still managed to score another Hoosier, giving Indiana a 5-2 lead.
The Spartans tried to answer in the bottom of the eighth but were unable to get a runner on base, losing the game 5-2. Hoosiers pitcher Ashley Hobbs finished the game with 15 strikeouts and only one walk in eight innings. Hair ended up allowing five hits with six strikeouts and three walks in the loss.
“I was very disappointed in the way we played,” Joseph said.
“We shot ourselves in the foot, and I didn’t understand that. We were playing great and we were pitching great, then all of a sudden we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. I don’t understand it. We’re mentally weak, and it was just a very disappointing effort.”
Hair said that the Spartans would move on from this game and try to make it a learning experience.
“Every (piece of) information that we get back is a learning process,” Hair said.
MSU is now 13-22 overall and 0-9 in the Big Ten.
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