After playing 29 straight games on the road to begin the season, the MSU softball team opened its home season at Secchia Stadium with an 8-1 loss against Butler.
The Spartans (10-20 overall, 0-3 Big Ten) struggled to get things going offensively as opposing pitcher Jenny Esparza struck out the side in the bottom of the first to introduce the Spartan lineup.
“I would venture to say that we have not struck out three times to open a game in the entire year,” head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “I don’t know why, other than I think they just wanted to play well on their opener, and it backfired.”
The Spartans fell behind in the top of the second inning when sophomore pitcher Cassee Layne gave up a double to Butler center fielder Lauren McNulty. A sacrifice bunt advanced McNulty to third and a single by catcher Mallory Winters drove in the run.
MSU found itself in danger again in the top of the third as Layne loaded up the bases with one out before being pulled in favor of freshman Carly Nielsen.
Nielsen gave up a single to the next batter up, and senior catcher Brett Williams allowed a pitch to get behind her to give Butler a 3-0 lead. The Bulldogs were able to notch two more runs before the Spartans were could get out of the inning.
The Spartans finally got on the board in the bottom of the third when junior left fielder Lori Padilla hit a single to left field, bringing home freshman first baseman McKenzie Freimuth.
At the top of the fourth, Layne returned to the mound, seemingly having found her groove as she held the Bulldogs to no hits over the next three innings. Joseph noted it’s a technique she used to good effect in last week’s series against Purdue, but was less successful this time around.
Still, Joseph plans to continue to use the rule to her advantage in the future.
“That’s the beauty of softball — the re-entry rule,” she said. “You get to take a kid out and put them back in one time, so that gives you a little more flexibility.”
The Bulldogs knocked in another pair of runs in the top of the seventh to essentially put the game away. Freshman short stop Alyssa McBride got her second single of the day in the bottom of the seventh, but the Spartans failed to advance her and the game ended on a caught foul out by junior center Mary Kate DiVirgillio.
MSU will return to action this weekend for a three game series with Ohio State. The series will begin with a double-header at Secchia Stadium beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday and will finish up with the third game being played Sunday at 1 p.m.
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