Entering her final season as a Spartan, Kelly Smith knew she wanted to leave her mark on the program, whether it be in the record books or simply leaving a lasting effect on younger players — and Wednesday, she did just that.
On a sunny afternoon at Secchia Stadium, Smith etched her name into the MSU softball record books as she pitched the 20th no-hitter in Spartan history en route to a 1-0 victory over Eastern Michigan.
MSU (10-28 overall, 2-12 Big Ten) only registered three hits, but still was able to snap a four-game losing streak thanks to an impressive outing from Smith and a late home run from junior outfielder Carly Nielsen.
Smith went all seven innings, only allowing three Eastern Michigan (9-27, 0-8 MAC) base runners and registering nine strikeouts. Smith was so much in the zone that it wasn't until the post game team huddle that she realized her historic accomplishment.
"I really honestly didn't know I threw a no-hitter until (head) coach (Jacquie Joseph) said 'Oh yeah, it's the 20th in the history of our program,' and I kind of looked at my teammates like 'what' and she was like 'you threw a no-hitter,'" Smith said.
Smith's no-hitter was the first full-seven inning no-hitter since Megan Hare threw one in 2006.
Joseph was more aware of the incredible feat then Smith throughout the game and said she was proud of her senior pitcher on the accomplishment.
"I'm thrilled for her," Joseph said. "I'll tell you this, it is never easy to get a no-hitter and it doesn't matter who you're playing or what day. It's a tremendous accomplishment and it comes at a great time for us, for her, so I couldn't be more happy."
Despite Smith's outstanding game, it wasn't until late that MSU was able to take a lead. The game was in a scorelss draw through the first five innings, with MSU threatening in each frame, but failing to get a runner home. MSU had runners in scoring position in the first four innings of the game, including the bases load in the first inning, but came up short each time.
However, the scoreless tie was finally broken in the bottom of the sixth when Nielsen took a full count pitch over the left field wall to give MSU the only run it would need for the win. Nielsen came off the bench to pinch hit when she hit the game-winning home run.
Nielsen said when she stepped into the batter's box she was trying to keep it simple and get something going off the bench.
"I really wasn't thinking that big," Nielsen said of the home run that gave MSU its first home win of the season. "I was really just trying to keep my mind clear and overall just have a good at bat and it just went well for me."
The game-winning home run was Nielsen's second of the season. It was one of only three Spartan hits. MSU left eight runners on base in the game. Scoring runners is an area that Joseph said needs to see improvement.
"Hitting is important, timely hitting is twice as important," Joseph said. "I mean you don't need (a lot of) hitting if you have timely hitting. One key hit in those first four innings and we could of had two, three, four runs on the board early. Two out hitting is big."
MSU will have a chance to improve on timely hitting this weekend when the Spartans return to conference play at Iowa in a three-game series starting on Friday.
Coming off a tough three-game sweep last weekend against Michigan, Nielsen said the win was big in proving MSU is still going to play hard throughout the rest of the season and not throw in the towel just yet.
"It shows that even though we've had a lot of adversity, we are still fighting back and still trying every single game and we haven't given up."
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