Monday, October 19, 2020

MSU softball forces regional final, but couldn't piece together one last rally, ends season

May 18, 2017
<p>Sophomore utility player Ebonee Echols (3) looks to the ball after hitting it 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>

Sophomore utility player Ebonee Echols (3) looks to the ball after hitting it 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

The MSU softball team's resiliency shined throughout the postseason. It all began with a huge win against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament. The very next day, the Spartans shocked the Wolverines on their way to the semifinals.

While the Spartans stumbled against Ohio State, they were still headed to the National Invitational Softball Championships. They were in the midst of enjoying their most successful season since 2007.

Even at the NISC, the Spartans magically bounced back after a heartbreaking loss to Murray State. MSU would enact revenge on the Racers off the shock of a 10-run sixth inning.

There the Spartans stood, two games away from the Championship Round in the NISC.

After the first contest against host Illinois State, the dream was still alive. MSU continued its late-inning, hot-hitting magic as sophomore outfielder Ebonee Echols walked off the Redbirds. Her double broke the 3-3 tie as the Spartans forced a winner-take-all game two, 4-3.

But unfortunately, the rejuvenating 2017 season ultimately found its end. MSU failed to muster one final rally late in the regional championship, falling to the Redbirds, 6-0.

The Spartans mustered up just five hits in the loss, as no player had more than one hit on the game.

"We've battled to the end in so many games, and so many times we came out on the good end, but despite the disappointment in today's result I have nothing but pride about what this team accomplished," head coach Jacquie Joseph said to MSU Athletic Communications. "I know that they left it all out on the field, and we kept fighting to the very end."

MSU trotted out to the mound its customary two pitchers it has relied on all postseason — redshirt-junior Kristina Zalewski and junior Bridgette Rainey. But the story of the game came from Redbird pitcher Ali Domkuski. She pitched the complete game to aid Illinois State to the Championship Round of the NISC.

While the Spartans faced a disappointing end to the season, MSU established a number of team records. The Spartan offense shined, as they scored 345 runs, batted .313 and totaled 820 bases on the season.

On the roster, the Spartans graduate just two seniors — first baseman Sarah Gutknecht and former pitcher Valerie Kaff. Kaff retired midway through the season from pitching, but stayed on the team, appearing as a pinch runner down the stretch of the season.

As the curtain falls on the 2017 Spartans, the season was a successful one. MSU won 26 games on the season, a total that hasn't been seen since 2006.

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