Eight games into the Big Ten season, Jacquie Joseph has identified the MSU softball team’s major problems holding it back from success.
Although the team has the potential to play well against any conference opponent, one of the biggest issues staring the Spartans (20-17 overall, 2-6 Big Ten) in the face is their inconsistency — whether it’s within a series or converting performances in practice to games.
The head coach recognizes she has a very strong offensive team, but MSU’s pitching and defense isn’t playing up to their potential in every game.
“We show glimpses of brilliance in each category, but we’ve been inconsistent in our play,” Joseph said. “You really have to be pretty good in every category — or at least two out of three — everyday.”
The Spartans’ inconsistency has been a trend during their conference season, despite Joseph seeing the team play phenomenally at practice.
Unsure of the problem in converting practices to games, Joseph said the team’s mentality might be holding it back.
Although hitting is the most mental aspect on game day, she said fielding and defense still is about 80 percent mental as well.
“When you look at a word like inconsistent, to me, that points to more neck up than neck down,” Joseph said. “So when you go out, you have to execute in the moment, or you just are not going to be successful.”
Despite struggling early on — especially after losing both weekend road games to Iowa — the Spartans aren’t close to giving up because they know how well they’re capable of playing.
The team just has to put everything together on game days, senior first baseman Heidi Purtzer said.
“I think our biggest strength is that we don’t give up,” she said. “Even with games we’ve lost — maybe we shouldn’t have lost them, (but) we were fighting to the end, and I think that will take us really far.”
On the mound
While MSU’s pitching has been shuffling and underachieving, the Spartans have been relying on freshman pitcher Cassee Layne, whose record stands at 8-12 on the season after taking both losses at Iowa.
Joseph said she’s still looking for sophomore pitcher Shelby Wise and junior pitcher Lauren Kramer to play up to their potential and help balance out MSU’s pitching lineup.
“(Layne) has amazing potential and has done pretty good, but pretty good won’t be good enough,” Joseph said.
Despite her inexperience, teammates said they’re comfortable when Layne takes the mound.
Senior shortstop Lindsey Hansen said Layne has stepped into her role on the team very well and leads the infield as a first-year player.
Hansen said Layne has a “get the ball, get it done” mentality on the field and it encourages everyone out with her to remain focused and ready to execute the next play.
“I love playing behind her; I enjoy it a lot,” Hansen said. “Her bringing confidence onto the field gives me confidence behind her, and I know everyone else can agree with me on that.”
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