After losing three consecutive Big Ten games, the MSU softball team has a three-game break from its conference play this week.
Hosting Central Michigan 4 p.m. on Tuesday and a doubleheader against Oakland starting 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the Spartans (21-20 overall, 3-9 Big Ten) will look to get back on the winning track during their conference break.
“They’re fun games because they’re against other schools in Michigan,” junior catcher Brett Williams said. “I think we’re just looking to keep improving as we’re going. I think we’re obviously trying to finish strong with the season, and it keeps on going even with nonconference games.”
MSU already has played the Chippewas (24-17) this season, beating them 3-0 on March 19 at the Hoosier Classic in Bloomington, Ind. Based on how the game was played, the Spartans said they have an idea of what to expect.
Despite already winning this time around, MSU fell to Central Michigan, 5-1, last season.
Junior pitcher Lauren Kramer — who hit a home run in MSU’s previous win against the Chippewas — said she’s confident going into the game. While the Spartans are looking to have fun in the nonconference game, Kramer knows they can’t take Central Michigan lightly if they want to come out with a win.
“They’re not better than us at all, and if we just bring our A-game, it won’t be difficult,” she said. “Their pitching isn’t very strong, so our batters definitely will take advantage of that. We’ve just got to keep our defense up and do well with pitching.”
With a solid hitting team this year, head coach Jacquie Joseph has stressed better pitching and better defense throughout the season.
As the Spartans seem to excel in only one or two aspects of the game, Joseph said she wants to take advantage of the three nonconference games to focus on some of the minor details preventing them from winning. MSU needs to play a more balanced game if it wants to finish the season strong.
“The nice thing about the (nonconference games) is maybe you’ll have an opportunity to work on some things that you just haven’t been able to get to yet,” Joseph said.
Although familiar with Central Michigan, the Spartans haven’t played Oakland since last season. In the doubleheader, MSU swept the Golden Grizzlies (11-25), 5-4 and 4-0.
Not knowing too much about Oakland, MSU plays in this doubleheader every season, and Williams said the team is going into the doubleheader ready to run its game, playing the same way it would even if the opponent was the best in the nation.
“We treat any game the same because in the end, you want to go out there and do your best and win a ball game,” Williams said. “It really doesn’t matter if it’s against a conference or a nonconference opponent.”
With the short break from the Big Ten, the Spartans said they’re looking forward to hosting the nonconference games at Secchia Stadium before they hit the road to play Minnesota this weekend.
“A lot of people have been coming out to the games,” Joseph said. “It’s fun to play in front of people that cheer for your team, so hopefully we’ll have some good crowds and play well.”
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