Spartans struggle as Melloh records 22 strikeouts in 2 victories
Heading into the weekend series against Indiana at Secchia Stadium, junior catcher Brett Williams knew the MSU softball team had its work cut out, having to battle Hoosiers pitcher Morgan Melloh.
Melloh — who leads the Big Ten with 397 strikeouts — posted 22 strikeouts against MSU (21-20 overall, 3-9 Big Ten) in both games combined, as the Spartans fell 7-2 on Saturday and 4-2 on Sunday.
Although head coach Jacquie Joseph named Melloh as one of the top pitchers in the nation, Williams was familiar with her pitching style from playing with her in high school in Fishers, Ind. In the Spartans’ second loss, Williams went 3-for-3 at the plate, including knocking out a home run to get MSU on the board in the second inning.
“They’re old, long, historic friends and they played high school ball together,” Joseph said. “If anybody was going to know (Melloh), it was going to be (Williams). … She knew her, she knew what to expect (and) she wasn’t intimidated at all.”
Going into the series, Joseph said she knew the weekend was going to be a test to see if her hitting team could match Melloh’s pitching. Although recognizing the Spartans played well in both losses to Indiana (30-15, 10-2), she said it was “not good enough.”
“She throws hard with movement, so I can’t say that she’s a lot different than all the other pitchers,” Williams said. “But we don’t face a lot of lefties in the course of the season, so the movement from a lefty is a lot different than the movement from a right-handed pitcher.”
In game one, MSU entered the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead — after junior outfielder Lori Padilla stole home in the third — and with the Hoosiers already having committed five errors.
When Indiana took a one-run lead, outfielder Amanda Wagner hit a two-run homer before Melloh hit another. MSU responded with a leadoff home run from freshman pinch hitter Sarah Bowling.
Indiana secured its first win over MSU with two additional runs in the seventh inning. Freshman pitcher Cassee Layne took the loss, moving to 9-13 on the season.
“We didn’t capitalize on base-running and when errors were made,” junior pitcher Lauren Kramer said.
“We didn’t capitalize on those and the outs that we needed … and that really hurt us in the long run.”
In the second game, Melloh opened with six strikeouts after three innings, as the Hoosiers took a 4-1 lead. MSU’s lone run came from Williams in the second, who hit her 13th home run of the season.
Williams was set up for another RBI with her double in the fourth to send senior shortstop Lindsey Hansen home. But to move around Indiana catcher Cassie Gogreve, Hansen slid wide, missing the plate.
“I’m feeling very awful about that call,” Joseph said, after she argued obstruction after the call.
MSU scored its final run of the series when junior third baseman Ali Grant singled to left field, sending sophomore outfielder Kylene Hopkins home. Taking the second win, Indiana extended its winning streak to 10 games.
“We gave it a great effort,” Joseph said.
“Unfortunately, their pitcher was better than our hitters, but I was encouraged with our defense.”