This week will provide opportunities for the MSU softball team to regain some traction with non-conference games today and tomorrow after a weekend sweep at the hands of Michigan knocked the Spartans from second place in the Big Ten.
MSU (21-17 overall, 7-4 Big Ten) takes on Notre Dame (29-10, 10-1 Big East) at 5 p.m. today at Secchia Stadium at Old College Field before another home match at 4 p.m. Wednesday against Toledo (11-25, 4-8 MAC).
Heading into last weekend, MSU and the Wolverines held the top two spots in the conference, but after the Spartans went 0-3 against Michigan, they tumbled to fourth place.
The Fighting Irish are one of the Big East’s best clubs, ranking in the top-three in the conference in team batting, fielding and pitching.
“Notre Dame is gonna be a real quality opponent,” MSU head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “They have a lot of history and tradition in softball. We’ve gotta work very hard to put this game and this weekend behind us so we can look forward to what we have to get done with Notre Dame and Toledo on Wednesday.”
Notre Dame pitcher Laura Winter leads the conference in strikeouts with 193 to go along with an 18-8 individual record and 1.97 ERA. She likely will duel with MSU junior ace Kelly Smith, who has the third-most strikeouts in the Big Ten but suffered a pair of losses against the Wolverines.
It will be interesting to see how Joseph elects to pitch to Notre Dame’s Emilee Koerner, one of the most prolific hitters in the Big East. Koerner is the single leader or co-leader in her conference in batting average (.504),
doubles (17) and triples (3).
The Spartans tried to pitch around U-M’s most dangerous hitter, Sierra Romero, by intentionally walking her when they could last weekend, but she made them pay with a pair of grand slams.
“They’re always a really good team,” sophomore designated player Sarah Bowling said. “They’re always very well-coached, so I think that it’s going to be a good matchup, definitely. We’re just gonna play as hard as we can and see what we can do.”
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