Coming off the biggest comeback of the season, a 7-6 extra-innings win over Central Michigan, the MSU softball team is looking to use the confidence from the victory to push it to the first Big Ten win this season.
The conference schedule overall has brought huge problems for a young MSU team, which recently has started five freshmen. Senior catcher Kara Weigle said although having the win under its belt is nice, it won’t affect this weekend’s games.
“The game yesterday doesn’t have anything to do with what we’re going to be facing this weekend,” Weigle said.
“It just boosts our confidence and keeps us believing, (In the Big Ten) you can’t take one play off. You have to be in it the whole time.”
Standing at 0-9 in conference play, the Spartans won’t have an easy task as they head to the road to play No. 23 Iowa.
“Iowa presents a lot offensively in that they send up five little, quick slappers that put a lot of pressure on you defensively,” head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “So we’re going to have to pick the ball up well, there’s no question.”
The last team that brought speed to the table, Purdue, gave MSU troubles defensively, committing nine errors in the double header and losing both games in convincing fashion.
The Big Ten schedule has calmed down the Spartans bats considerably. Averaging more than five runs in the nonconference schedule, MSU is only averaging 1.8 runs in Big Ten play, something that has been a concern for Joseph.
“The Big Ten is just very, very good,” Joseph said. “There’s no gimmes, everybody is well coached and people put a lot of emphasis on it and they’re taking advantage of our hardships…if we don’t find a way to play a lot better then things will continue.”
The Spartans are 30-64 all-time against Iowa and dropped all three games against the Hawkeyes in the previous season, the last one losing 13-4 in the Big Ten Tournament in a game that ended the 2008 season.
Adding to the difficulty, the Spartans will have to contend with two of the best pitchers in the league this weekend in Hawkeyes pitchers Brittany Weil and Amanda Zust.
Weil, the reigning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week, has tossed four no-hitters this season, and has the third-lowest ERA in the league, with a mark of 1.16 this season. Zust isn’t far behind, with a 1.54 ERA this season.
“We got to figure out a way to beat Weil and Zust at their game,” Joseph said. “They’re both experienced, solid pitchers who hit their spots well and have a lot of positive experience. So it’s no small task, but if we play well we have a shot.”
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