Monday, October 19, 2020

MSU softball earns pair of wins, lives to see another day in NISC

May 17, 2017
<p>Spartan teammates laugh during the game against University of Michigan on April 18, 2017 at Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex in Ann Arbor. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines, 3-1.</p>

Spartan teammates laugh during the game against University of Michigan on April 18, 2017 at Wilpon Baseball and Softball Complex in Ann Arbor. The Spartans were defeated by the Wolverines, 3-1.

Photo by Chloe Grigsby | The State News

Just the day before, MSU softball had its heart shattered. As the Spartans were the benefactors of an auto-bid to the National Invitational Softball Championships, they were enjoying their best season since 2007.

However, after the loss to Murray State, MSU's season hung in the balance. The Spartans would have to win a pair of games to live to see another day.

And that, they did.

In their first game of the day, the Spartans trounced IUPUI, 7-1. The win prolonged their season for at least one more game.

But MSU would have to face Murray State again. This time, the stakes were exponentially higher, the loser's season would come to a disappointing end.

The Spartans didn't let the chance slip away, this time breaking the Racers' heart instead. Heading into the sixth inning down, 6-0, MSU exploded for 10 runs. Junior pitcher Bridgette Rainey earned the save as she shut the door on the Racers in the seventh.

MSU is headed to play the region's host, Illinois State Thursday.

To get to that point, MSU's first foe was IUPUI. The Jaguars similarly had lost their own heartbreaker to Illinois State the day before. In the bottom of the seventh, the Redbirds rallied and scored three runs, stealing the 5-4 win over IUPUI.

With both team's respective season up against the wall, it would be the resilient Spartans breaking through. As part of a brilliant pitching performance, Rainey and redshirt-junior pitcher Kristina Zalewski combined to allow just one run.

Arguably, though, the story of the game came from sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Eveland. The Anaheim, California native went 3-for-4 on the day, hitting a home run and tacking on four RBIs. Freshman infielder Melanie Baccay — moving up to seventh in the order — was a perfect 3-for-3.

As the Racers fell to Illinois State, 2-0, in a nail-biter, the rematch was officially on. The twist came when Murray State ran out to a 6-0 lead on the Spartans, a flip from the day before. Heading into the sixth, MSU was facing elimination right in the face, needing six runs to tie the game.

They got the runs and then some. The Spartans sent a grand total of 12 batters to the plate in the decisive sixth. Junior outfielder Lea Foerster, just as she has done all season long, hit a crucial two-run single in the inning, extending the Spartan rally.

But the cherry on top came courtesy of freshman catcher Kelcey Carrasco. Her two-run homer extended the Spartans' lead to a smooth 10-6.

Foerster and junior infielder McKenzie Long both went 3-for-4. Eveland came up big again, as well, going 2-for-4 with two extra base hits.

By the time the dust around the circle had settled, MSU had the 10-6 lead. With the game heading into the final inning, the Racers were down to their final strikes.

As Rainey earned the final Racer out to close the game, the game was set. The Spartans live to see another day, playing Illinois State.

The game is scheduled Thursday at 1 p.m. as the Spartans look to extend their season. MSU must beat Illinois State twice to advance to the Championship Round, as the Redbirds have won both of their games this round thus far.

"We never thought the game was over, never hung our heads, never gave up," head coach Jacquie Joseph said to MSU Athletic Communications. "We were tenacious, both at the plate and in the circle - this was a team win, thanks to everyone doing their part. Now, we have a big opportunity ahead of us tomorrow - we will get some badly needed rest and take on an Illinois State team that is very talented and has its home crowd behind it."

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