The mercy rule was invoked in the middle of the fifth inning of MSU’s 12-2 win over Western Michigan University on Tuesday, in part because of the pitching performance of sophomore Bridgette Rainey. After giving up two earned runs and three hits in the first inning, Rainey held the Broncos scoreless during her final four innings.
Rainey appeared in her fourteenth overall game on Tuesday, and it was her fifth turn as starting pitcher this season. Teammates Dani Goranson and Kristina Zalewski are responsible for 26 of the team’s 32 starts. Rainey has often come on in relief of one of the two.
Rainey pitched what head softball coach Jacquie Joseph called “her best outing of the year” in Tuesday’s game.
Rainey put together five innings with two earned runs, three hits allowed, three walks and three strikeouts. After the first inning, Rainey’s only blemish was a single walk, as she retired 12 of the final 13 batters she faced.
The southpaw pitcher faced some struggles during the first inning. Western Michigan’s Ivy Schaaf kicked off the game with a leadoff single. After a sacrifice bunt sent Schaaf to second, Kelsea Cichocki put herself on second base and sent Schaaf to third thanks to an MSU error in left field. Rainey then walked Erin Binkowski to load the bases. Abby Stoner hit a double in the next at-bat, scoring two runs.
At this point, the potential was there for a disastrous inning. A similar bases-loaded start for MSU in the bottom of the first led to six runs. But Rainey was able to control the damage. Despite allowing a walk that re-loaded the bases, Rainey did not give up any more runs in the first inning.
“The trouble that Bridgette Rainey got into is nothing at all compared to the trouble that Bridgette Rainey is capable of getting into,” Joseph said. “The first inning, compared to the other innings, was her worst inning. However, she did an amazing job.
“She stayed focused when there was a miscue in left field. ... She minimized the damage that could have happened, but didn’t. She got out of a bases-loaded jam with low damage. And then she recovered and was able to string four shutout innings.”
When Rainey’s MSU teammates came out in the bottom of the first inning, they were focused on providing some run support for their teammate. They did just that, scoring six runs in the first inning en route to a 12-run outburst.
“I had to back Bridgette up after the first inning,” left fielder Lexi White said. “I wanted to back her up and get her back.”
White scored three runs, including a home run, and drove in two more over the course of the game. An RBI single and one run scored came in the first inning.
Thanks to Rainey’s pitching performance from the second to the fifth inning, as she held Western Michigan’s batters without so much as a single hit for the rest of the game, the mercy rule was applied.
The NCAA rule states that any game during which one team is ahead by eight or more runs after five or more innings will be called off.
Teammate McKenzie Long cited Rainey’s performance as the highlight of the team’s overall performance.
“The best part of it was that Bridgette was on the mound, and she absolutely crushed it,” Long said. “Hats off to Bridgette.”
Rainey’s win gave her a 3-1 record on the season, and helped her improve her season ERA to 4.71. Her continued success as a third starter will no doubt be of importance to the team as they prepare to play 17 games, including 16 in conference play, throughout the month of April.
“Overall, Bridgette Rainey had a great outing,” Joseph said. “I’m really proud of her progress.”