The softball team secured an elusive Big Ten victory Sunday afternoon.
MSU (16-17 overall, 1-5 Big Ten) defeated Penn State (17-16 overall, 2-4 Big Ten), 8-6 at Secchia Stadium for the team’s first conference win of the season.
“I’m happy that we found a way to win one game,” head coach Jacquie Joseph said. “We’ve got work to do.”
Sunday’s victory snapped a five-game losing streak. MSU dropped both games of the doubleheader Saturday against the Nittany Lions.
Freshman pitcher Kristina Zalewski was able to get Penn State’s Erin Pond to line out to center and work her way out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning.
MSU came back in the bottom of the inning and put a run on the board when sophomore third baseman Sarah Gutknecht scored senior first baseman McKinzie Freimuth from third base after her leadoff double.
The Spartans pushed their lead to 3-0 in the next inning, courtesy of a sacrifice bunt and a Penn State error.
Pond got the Nittany Lions on the scoreboard in the third inning with a sacrifice fly to right field and avoided any further damage after Zalewski forced a fly out to center field.
Penn State responded in the fourth inning with three hits to score two runs and tie the game.
On a 3-2 count, senior outfielder Stephanie Sanders sent a shot over the scoreboard to give the Spartans a 4-3 lead.
“It felt really good coming off the bat,” Sanders said of her first home run of the year. “I’m just stepping in there wanting to compete for my team, we need to have our pitchers’ back.”
Junior third baseman Shanin Thomas did just that when she came in to pinch-hit and drove in three more runs with a home run in the bottom of the fifth inning.
It was a nail-biting finish for the Spartans, who gave up two runs in the sixth inning and were threatened in the seventh by Penn State.
In came sophomore pitcher Valerie Kaff with two on and none out with her team up two runs. Kaff answered the call, forcing a groundout and double play to win the game for MSU.
“(Valerie) is that good, and if she just carries it forward, I think we’ve got a shot,” Joseph said. She hoped her performance Sunday would give her confidence going forward as the Spartans will travel to Piscataway, New Jersey, next weekend to take on Rutgers (13-9 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) in a three-game series.