It just wasn’t the MSU softball team’s day.
In the Spartans’ (10-22 overall, 0-5 Big Ten) first conference series of the seaon against Ohio State (20-11, 4-1) at Secchia Stadium at Old College Field, they lost the first two games in Saturday’s double-header. Despite attempting to make a comeback, MSU fell 9-4 in the first game before being mercied, 14-1, in the second game as the Buckeyes made contact at nearly every at-bat.
“In game one, I actually thought we came out and played pretty well,” head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “We had good energy; we were there. I think they just flat out hit everything we threw. It was like a hitting clinic.”
In the 9-4 loss, sophomore pitcher Cassee Layne started on the mound for MSU, and Ohio State took a quick 1-0 lead in the first. Buckeye first baseman Evelyn Carrillo singled to right field, sending home outfielder Vanessa Spears.
Keeping MSU off the board, the Buckeyes followed up with a powerful second inning and came out with a commanding 6-0 lead. After allowing Ohio State to gain three more runs, Joseph pulled Layne from the mound in favor of senior Rebecca Rogers.
Despite the pitching changes — which continued throughout the afternoon — Layne said the Buckeyes were hitting everything, including her best pitches.
The Spartans gave up two walks and four hits in the inning — one of which again came from Carrillo with another single to right field to send home the inning’s final two runs.
Both teams remained scoreless until the sixth inning, when Ohio State extended its lead to 9-0, but the Buckeyes hadn’t secured the shutout just yet.
The Spartans fired back with four runs of their own in the bottom of the sixth, which started when freshman pinch hitter Kelsey Cleary and senior outfielder Lori Padilla each singled in the infield. After junior outfielder Kylene Hopkins added a single of her own to load the bases, the runners advanced on a Buckeye throwing error, allowing Cleary to score.
“At that point in time, there was no pressure,” Padilla said. “There was really nothing else we could have done, so (we needed to) just really take our hacks and just be competitive to the bitter end.”
With sophomore Sarah Bowling pinch-hitting for senior outfielder Ali Grant, Bowling hit a double to right field, sending Hopkins and Padilla home. It looked like MSU could carry its momentum to add a couple more runs on the scoreboard when senior catcher Brett Williams hit an RBI single, but that was the final run of the game for the Spartans.
Layne — who returned to the mound in the top of the seventh — finished the game with six hits and six runs while her record fell to 4-8 on the season.
In the second game of the day — with freshman Carly Neilsen on the mound for MSU — the Buckeyes had another successful second inning, but it didn’t do quite as much damage as the first time around. Ohio State snatched a 2-0 lead, but the Spartans responded with one run of their own.
With Bowling pinch-hitting for freshman first baseman McKinzie Freimuth, Bowling hit an RBI single up the middle to send Cleary home.
“Honestly, their pitching is pretty good, but deep down, I think we can still hit them,” Padilla said. “I think we were just a little too picky with out pitches, and we need to be more aggressive and hit the up pitches that we can really crush.”
Despite the Spartans trailing 2-1 going into the third, the Buckeyes’ bats turned hot, and the inning proved to be devastating for MSU.
“We missed a lot of (pitching) spots, and I think they capitalized on every missed spot we pitched,” Joseph said. “They just flat out crushed us.”
After Ohio State’s lead was advanced to 3-1, Joseph called for a pitching change, replacing Neilsen with junior Shelby Wise. But it didn’t seem to make too much of a difference for MSU because Wise immediately loaded the bases and gave up her first run.
With the bases still loaded, Ohio State’s Spears hit a grand slam over the right field fence to make the score 8-1 and force another pitching change for MSU — this time with Rogers taking the mound.
Rogers gave up two more runs as the Spartans struggled to end the inning, and the Buckeyes came out with a 10-1 advantage.
“Today we kind of needed a lot of relief, so (Rogers) and (Wise) had to come in and get it done,” Layne said. “But we did go through a lot of pitchers. We had trouble today; we struggled.”
With Neilsen returning to the mound, MSU gave up two more runs in the fourth and two in the fifth, and the game ended under the mercy rule — at least an eight-run lead after five innings.
The teams will close out the weekend series Sunday at 1 p.m. at Secchia Stadium, and the Spartans will look for a shot at redemption and their first conference win of the season.
“We say this all along that every game only counts one, and it truly does,” Joseph said. “And if you’re mentally tough enough, you can keep things separate. It doesn’t help that we got just crushed, so it’ll be interesting to see.”
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