Armed with comeback spirit in the Big Ten Tournament, MSU softball turned heads all week with its performance.
The Spartans began with an exciting victory over the No. 10-seeded Indiana Hoosiers. The 8-7 victory propelled MSU to face off against its in-state rivals, No. 2 seed Michigan, in the quarterfinals.
There, they didn't disappoint. The Spartans shocked the Wolverines with a three-run seventh inning, one capped off by sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Eveland's single. The historic win snapped the Spartans' 19-game losing streak to Michigan, and earned head coach Jacquie Joseph's 800th career win.
Ultimately, the late game magic fell short. MSU was defeated by Ohio State in the semifinals of the postseason tourney.
The Spartans wouldn't go down without a fight, though. They mustered up three runs in the bottom of the sixth to squeeze it to a one-run affair.
As the side was retired in the sixth for the Spartans, however, a disturbing trend was realized. MSU littered the bases with a plethora of runners, but it failed to turn those chances into runs.
MSU left a staggering 14 runners on base throughout the game, a hefty number compared to the Buckeyes' five. Ohio State powered its way to the Big Ten Championship game, belting two separate two-run home runs. The four total runs proved to be just barely enough for the Buckeyes, besting the Spartans in a 4-3 effort.
Eyes set on the Big Ten Tournament crown, the Spartans' dreams fell short. But MSU, equipped with 31 wins — its most since 2007 — are headed to the inaugural National Invitational Softball Championships.
The Spartans earned the Big Ten's automatic qualifier and are slated to take on Murray State May 16 at 4 p.m.
The NISC is set to be played in a double-elimination format. The Spartans, if they beat Murray State, will take on the winner of Illinois State or IUPUI. As a part of the format, if MSU loses to Murray State, then the Spartans take on the loser of Illinois State or IUPUI. A visual bracket can be found here.
Each double-elimination round will conclude by May 18. At the end of the road, the six-team championship round will run from May 21-24.
MSU earned the Big Ten's auto-bid by having the best regular-season record in the conference who did not earn a berth in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field.
"We have grown considerably as a team not just over the last few years, but also as the season unfolded," Joseph said in a statement to MSU Athletic Communications. "The opportunity for us to play in the Big Ten Championship last weekend was one that our players had not experienced yet in their careers. It's a step forward. Playing for another championship this season is another goal for us to work toward and another opportunity to get better over the next two weeks."
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