One year removed from being blanked in Big Ten competition, the MSU softball team is off to its best start to the conference schedule since 2006 after taking both games of its doubleheader with Penn State yesterday at Secchia Stadium at Old College Field.
The Spartans (19-13 overall, 5-0 Big Ten) rode junior pitcher Kelly Smith to a 4-1 victory in the first game before waking up the bats midway through game two to cruise to a 7-1 win.
“We’re playing well and it all starts in the circle,” head coach Jacqiue Joseph said. “We’re getting good, quality starts from our pitchers.We’re playing well defensively, and both those things buy us time to get rolling offensively.”
Kelly, a transfer from McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, went the distance in game one, collecting ninestrikeouts against three walks to improve to 14-7 this season.
After living in Texas her whole life, Kelly said she’s still adjusting to the colder temperatures in Michigan during the spring.
“It’s definitely different than Texas because you have to, like, make yourself get warm, you’re not already warm from the weather,” Smith said.
The turning point in game one was the three runs MSU was able to produce in the fourth and fifth innings. Sophomore first baseman McKinzie Freimuth got on base with a single to begin the fourth. The next batter, Hopkins, struck out before senior third baseman Jayme O’Bryant belted a double to drive in MSU’s second run.
Pinch runner Emma Fernandez scored the second run of the inning on an error before sophomore catcher Stephanie Sanders had her first of three clutch RBIs on the day as a pinch hitter to give MSU its final run in the fifth inning.
Penn State (7-21 overall, 0-5 Big Ten) got on the board first in the second match, but a five-run fourth inning propelled the Spartans to the sweep.
Junior right fielder Sarah Bowling’s two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning blew the margin open for the Spartans. She finished 2-for-3 at the plate with three RBIs.
“This start definitely propels us to keep winning games and keep doing well,” Bowling said. “And we know what we’re capable of now for this season after these few games.”
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