Heartbreak. After exploding to an early 6-0 lead, MSU softball allowed seven straight unanswered runs to Murray State. The seventh and final run — the gut-wrenching, excruciatingly painful one — came in the bottom of the ninth, as the Racers walked off on the Spartans, 7-6.
MSU faced Murray State at the opener of the National Invitational Softball Championships in Normal, Illinois. The Spartans earned a slot in the tournament as an automatic qualifier from the Big Ten. Coming into the tournament, MSU had won ten of its last fifteen games.
Junior pitcher Kristina Zalewski got her fourth-straight start on the mound. She went three innings to begin the game, but came back later in the bottom of the sixth, pitching a total of 6.2 innings and allowing four runs, two unearned.
Zalewski was replaced in the fourth by junior left-handed pitcher Bridgette Rainey. Rainey allowed one hit and one run.
MSU made its third pitching change in the fifth with freshman Jordan Watson taking the mound. Entering the seventh Zalewski was looking to close out the game, but the Racers wouldn't go down, scoring a pair to force the game into extras.
Sophomore outfielder Lexi White hit her ninth home run of the season for a 2-0 lead in the second inning.
The shot was followed by a home run from freshman catcher Kelcey Carrasco the next inning, her 10th of the season.
After the Spartans made it 6-0, a homer in the third by Murray State's Brenna Finck and a run in the fourth cut the Spartan lead down to four. In the fifth, Racer Jessica Twaddle hit a two-run homer to shrink the gap further.
This was the fourth game this season MSU had gone into extra innings. In the eighth, Zalewski chalked up two strikeouts to retire the side.
The top of the ninth saw some action for the Spartans but no runs, with MSU stranding two on base. After getting a runner to third, Murray State scored the winning run on a wild pitch from Zalewski.
MSU is now slated to play IUPUI at 2 p.m. Wednesday as part of the double elimination format of the NISC.