Sunday, October 25, 2020

MSU softball shocks rival Wolverines in comeback fashion, advance to Big Ten semifinals

May 12, 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

All seemed lost for MSU softball. The No. 7-seeded Spartans had held an early two-run lead against their in-state rival, the No. 2-seeded Michigan Wolverines, but the home Wolverines had scored four straight runs unanswered.

Heading into the top of the seventh, the Spartans were down to their final outs with the highest stakes of the season — the Big Ten Tournament. After a barrage of four hits and the Wolverines stranding the tying run on second, MSU pulled out the slim 5-4 win.

It was the second straight game the Spartans have roared back late in comeback fashion. The two wins over Indiana and Michigan position MSU nicely into the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. 

Adding an additional layer of victory for the Spartans, the defining win was head coach Jacquie Joseph's 800th of her career.

But first, the Spartans had to silence their demons. And that, they did.

Historically, the Wolverines hung 19 straight wins over the Spartans. In 2017, the Spartans dropped both contests against the Wolverines, mustering up one run apiece.

For the third straight game against U-M, too, the Spartans faced a daunting task: Wolverine All-American pitcher Megan Betsa. In her first two games, she combined to strike out a total of 31 Spartan batters.

However, the Spartans would start the scoring, knocking in two runs in the third. After Foerster hit a deep drive to left, the ball knocked up against the wall. The ensuing disorderly play scored freshman infielder Melanie Baccay. A sacrifice fly then plated Foerster and the Spartans were in business.

The Wolverines, however, refused to lay low. The turning point came in the bottom of the fourth, with Wolverine infielder Lindsay Montemarano singling up the middle to tie the game. The hit came after a long eight-pitch at-bat, one U-M capitalized on.

Following a Faith Canfield two-run single for the Wolverines, a 4-2 deficit put all the pressure on the Spartans. 

In the sixth the Spartans managed just one baserunner in the form of a walk, but they would not go down quietly, placing all their bets on the final inning.

The Spartans then hung the three-spot on Betsa to snatch the desperately-needed lead.

Sophomore infielder Kaitlyn Eveland was the hero for MSU. With runners on first and third, game tied and just one out in the seventh, it was all up to the Anaheim, Calif. native. As her bat met the ball, Eveland's single to left trickled through the infield, scoring junior outfielder Lea Foerster, the crucial go-ahead run.

The sold out Alumni Field crowd was just three outs away from a 2017 first — a Michigan loss at home.

As Wolverine infielder Aidan Falk popped up for the final out, it was a wrap. The Spartans had completed a stunning win and sent the hosting Wolverines home prematurely.

MSU will take on the winner of No. 3-seed Ohio State and No. 6-seeded Wisconsin game May 13. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 p.m.

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