The late-season slide for the MSU softball team continued over the weekend as the Spartans (21-23 overall, 7-9 Big Ten) suffered a 10-0 shutout by No. 90 Illinois on Sunday at Secchia Stadium.
The loss completed a three-game sweep at the hands of The Fighting Illini (19-25 overall, 9-11 Big Ten), who are finishing their season strong with an eight game winning streak. It was the ninth straight loss for the Spartans.
The loss came on a day that was worth some celebration, or at least recognition. It was senior day, and MSU’s senior class — Raime Cronkhite, Kylene Hopkins, Jayme O’Bryant and Jenny Ramsaier — received acknowledgement before the game.
Head Coach Jacquie Joseph expressed gratitude for her seniors, who endured a disappointing season last year and helped the team get off to a great start this year. The Spartans finished last season 11-42 overall with a 0-15 home record.
“They never quit on the program,” Joseph said. “They never quit on me, they never quit on the program, they never quit on each other. They really helped us get over a hump, if you will. To set the foundation for making the jump with our program. I think that, regardless of the rest of the year, they’ve done a great job of keeping us together.”
Sophomore first baseman McKinzie Freimuth led the team going 2-3 at the plate.
Pitching duties were shared between freshman Dani Goranson, junior Kelly Smith and sophomore Carly Nielsen. Goranson allowed 4 earned runs in 3 innings pitched and Smith allowed six runs in 2.2 innings pitched.
The Spartans fell behind 6-0 at the top of the third after Goranson gave up a run to junior center fielder Jenna Mychko, who finished with one RBI on two hits.
The game was put out of reach at the top of the sixth, when Perez hammered home the first Illinois grand slam of the year, putting them up 10-0.
MSU had a chance to respond with a grand slam at the bottom of the sixth when a triple by Friemuth and two consecutive walks loaded the bases for sophomore shortstop Alyssa McBride. However, Illinois senior pitcher Pepper Gay, who pitched her 16th career shutout, struck out McBride and ended the game.
Joseph was hesitant to say the recent bad weather, which has cost MSU 12 games this season, has had a factor in the Spartan’s skid.
“You hate to talk about the weather because you don’t want it to sound like you’re making an excuse,” she said. “But clearly, it has not helped us as all in terms of preparing to play.”
Joseph said the team has to get back to process-oriented, fundamental softball. The losing streak began when MSU lost a three-game series to No. 9 Michigan, a series that might have knocked the Spartans off of their foundation.
“We’re not playing one pitch at a time,” she said. “Whenever you get in a skid, or a slump if you will, you automatically start thinking big picture. I have to get a hit. And the minute your brain goes there, you don’t.”
The Spartans will finish their regular season 5 p.m. Wednesday with a game at Eastern Michigan.
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