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Softball team sweeps Indiana in first Big Ten series

March 31, 2013
	<p>Junior catcher Emma Fernandez, left, celebrates as she runs towards the home plate after junior outfielder Sarah Bowling hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, Saturday, March 30, 2013, at Secchia Stadium at Old College Field. <span class="caps">MSU</span> defeated Indiana in the second game of the three-game series by 10-7. Justin Wan/The State News</p>

Junior catcher Emma Fernandez, left, celebrates as she runs towards the home plate after junior outfielder Sarah Bowling hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, Saturday, March 30, 2013, at Secchia Stadium at Old College Field. MSU defeated Indiana in the second game of the three-game series by 10-7. Justin Wan/The State News

Photo by Justin Wan | The State News

Friday night, MSU softball coach Jacquie Joseph received a text message from Jayme O’Bryant that said she would be better going forward, and she wasn’t kidding.

The senior third baseman finished a three-game sweep of Indiana (16-19, 1-5 Big Ten) with five hits, two of them being home runs and six RBIs.

It was the first time the Spartans (17-13, 3-0 Big Ten) swept a Big Ten series since 2010 and the first time they’ve started the Big Ten schedule, 3-0, since 2006.

“Winning always feels great, but playing well even feels better,” Joseph said. “We did all the things we needed to be successful.”

MSU won, 5-0, Friday, 10-7 on Saturday, and 2-1 after eight innings Sunday.

O’Bryant was quick to give all the credit to her teammates.

“Our team as a whole, we really wanted this and we worked really hard and we prepared well for this,” O’Bryant said. “Going into the season, going into conference play, this is what we needed. We found a way to get on and get some runs in.”

Joseph said the passion O’Bryant exudes is what she loves most about the talented infielder.

“Nobody cares more, nobody has more pride in Michigan State, in the jersey (than O’Bryant),” she said. “The kid just showed up big. If we’re going to have success this year, then kids like Jayme, (senior outfielder Kylene Hopkins), (and senior second baseman) Jenny (Ramsaier), they’ve got a lot at stake.”

Junior pitcher Kelly Smith pitched complete games Friday and Sunday, allowing one run on six hits and 16 strikeoutsthrough 15 innings.

With 145 strikeouts on the season, she ranks eighth in the MSU record book for single-season strikeouts.

She said after Spartans went 0-23 in Big Ten play last season, getting a trio of wins will only propel the team forward.

“It’s a huge confidence booster, especially after last season,” Smith said following Sunday’s game. “It just gives us confidence going into Penn State, and then going to Purdue and Michigan. We just keep getting better teams to play. Our confidence just needs to build, and our ability will build with our confidence.”

While O’Bryant was the offensive star during Saturday and Sunday’s games, the lynchpin of Friday’s victory was junior outfielder Sarah Bowling, who finished 1-3 with two RBIs and one run.

She said she was dialed in during her at-bats, and it felt really good to get back on the winning side of things.

“It feels awesome, it really does,” Bowling said. “We’ve been working so hard in the preseason to get to where we are. Our whole stamina for this game set the bar for the way our season is going to go this year.”

In her first at-bat Sunday, Bowling was hit by a pitch and didn’t return. Joseph said she was undergoing X-rays and didn’t know the extent of her injury.

MSU takes the field again for a doubleheader against Penn State beginning at 3 p.m. at Secchia Stadium at Old College Field.

The weather forecast calls for a high of 39 degrees and a 30 percent chance of snow, an outlook Smith said will be a relatively new experience for her.

“I’m from Texas, so I’ve really honestly only pitched in the cold one time,” she said. “I feel like when I pitch, I just kind of block everything out. It should be interesting, but there’s no worries.”

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