One swing was all that kept the MSU softball team from sweeping Oakland in a double-header with the Golden Grizzlies at Old College Field on Thursday.
Instead, the Spartans had to settle for a split, winning the first game 5-1 and dropping the nightcap 4-3 in the extra innings.
The Spartans started off both games strong.
The opener went MSU’s way quickly. For the third-straight game, freshman pitcher Lauren Kramer was commanding the strike zone, recording six strikeouts in the first three innings.
An infield single by sophomore shortstop Lindsey Hansen gave the Spartans the lead in the bottom of the third, scoring freshman outfielder Lori Padilla from third base.
The Spartans would add another in the fourth on a deep home run to left center by freshman outfielder Brett Williams. Two more runners would score in the fifth on a single by Hansen to centerfield, putting the game out of reach.
Freshman infielder Melanie Bensema scored an insurance run in the sixth when a throwing error turned her triple into a run. Oakland scored a run in the seventh on relief pitcher Kelly Confer, closing the score to 5-1, before Confer shut down the Grizzlies with two strikeouts, winning the game by the same score.
The late contest was much different.
The Spartans got on top quickly again, this time with a Williams’ double to left centerfield in the bottom of the first inning to score two runs, giving the Spartans the early advantage.
Another MSU run was scored in the third, when senior catcher Kara Weigle hit a towering home run that landed just over the rightfield wall, putting MSU ahead 3-0.
But, the Spartans bats struggled to get runners across the plate for the rest of the game, leaving five runners on base in the next three innings, including two in scoring position.
The Grizzlies climbed back into the game in the fifth inning with a leadoff single by pinch-hitting sophomore Danielle Peters, who moved into scoring position when the next batter grounded out to the pitcher. After the next two batters loaded the bases, senior Julie Owen hit a double over the head of the Spartans right fielder, scoring two runners and bringing Oakland to within one run, 3-2. The next batter hit a single up the middle, tieing the game before the Spartans got the final out of the inning.
MSU had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk off with the win, when senior Gina Mondo, returning to the lineup for the first time in weeks, hit a deep fly ball to right centerfield with one only out on the board. The Oakland defenders, blinded by the sun, collided reaching for the ball, leaving the door open for Weigle, who was on first base, to score the winning run. But, Weigle hesitated rounding second base and was easily tagged out at home. Mondo, seeing an opportunity to move further into scoring position, tried to stretch her double into a triple, but was caught at the bag, ending the Spartans’ chances in regulation.
In extras, Owen led off the eighth with a home run, and the Spartans weren’t able to catch up, dropping all three batters in the bottom half of the inning and recording the loss, 4-3.
“The first game was great,” head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “I thought we got a great pitching performance. We played great defense and we hit the ball. The second game we did not respect our opponent and we did not respect the game and the game bit us. That’s what the game does.”
The Spartans, now 16-25 overall and 0-9 in the Big Ten, look for their first conference win of the season this weekend as they take on Minnesota (23-26, 6-8) in Minneapolis, Minn.
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