Opening the Big Ten season at 1-3, the MSU softball team said it is working to find unity on and off the field to get on the winning track for conference games.
Splitting the past weekend series against Wisconsin — winning, 8-0, on Saturday and falling, 10-4, on Sunday — the Spartans (19-14 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) said the team played as an individual rather than as a whole.
“We need to learn to finish as a team; we need to come together,” sophomore third baseman Jayme O’Bryant said. “Our coaches talked about being selfless and being more of a team, (and) we need to be able to back our players up.”
MSU has an opportunity to grab two quick wins in its double-header against Penn State (17-13, 3-1) 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. today at Secchia Stadium.
In two “critical” games, which could spark an immediate turnaround in Big Ten play, head coach Jacquie Joseph said more than anything, her team needs to play well and be consistent in the field and at bat.
She said the inconsistent defense is holding the team back in its conference games, and it needs to change if the Spartans want to take both games from the Nittany Lions.
“I’ve pointed out the lack of consistency, and I think you’re seeing it now,” Joseph said. “We’re not playing consistent ball. It can’t be all or nothing. So I’d like to see us put two games back to back that are consistent — win or lose them.”
Having the day off Monday, MSU was able to regroup before the double-header. In addition to the break, Joseph said the team is ready to capitalize on an extra day of practice versus Penn State’s travel day.
The Spartans needs to jump on every advantage they get, knowing the Nittany Lions have several strengths to use against them.
“We are expecting a very tough Penn State team, like every other Big Ten team that we face,” senior shortstop Lindsey Hansen said. “We know their pitchers are doing really well this year, and all we can do is just prepare to face their kind of pitching.”
Because Penn State is strong on the attacking side as well, MSU is focusing on infield defense, keeping its multiple errors from the loss to Wisconsin in mind.
Struggling to take care of the ball in the field could hold the Spartans back all season, and Joseph wants that to end immediately before they’re too deep into their conference schedule.
“We need to play better defense in the infield because any one kid picks up the ball in that game, and we win it,” Joseph said. “We made (three) errors in one inning (against Wisconsin), and of the 10 runs they scored, eight of them were unearned, so that just means we win 3-2 if we just play clean.”
Against the Big Ten, the Spartans are fighting to be in the upper half of the pack, and two wins or losses will make the difference. Like Joseph, the players are tired of split series and inconsistent play and want to take down the Nittany Lions to prove they can play well together steadily.
“It’s just Big Ten — it’s always going to be hard,” Hansen said. “Last year, we split with (Penn State), and we want to take both games this year because having two games is a lot better than splitting, and we don’t like losing.”
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