Softball played their first home game of the season Wednesday, which in itself was far from a certainty after the floods which hit MSU this winter.
But despite the weather, the Spartans defeated Western Michigan 6-1 thanks to a dominate 11-strikeout performance from redshirt senior pitcher Kristina Zalewski.
“Z was lights out. 11 strikeouts, hitting 67 on the gun, devastating changeup,” head coach Jacquie Joseph. “She’s a shutdown pitcher. When Z decides to pitch, she can beat anybody.”
The Spartans scored two runs in the first inning, largely by working counts and drawing walks. Senior outfielder Lea Foerster was hit by a pitch in the first at-bat of the game, but was unfazed afterwards.
“I get hit probably once a game,” Foerster said. “I toe up on the chalk. A pitcher would rather miss inside than down the middle. I’m used to getting hit.”
Joseph said she was pleased with the team’s patience in the first inning, but warned that type of approach must continue throughout the game if the Spartans are to contend in the Big Ten.
“We really showed a lot of patience at the plate in the first inning,” she said. “We didn’t expand the strike zone, that’s definitely been a point of emphasis for this year to not chase pitches out of the zone. After the first inning we got a little bit complacent.”
In the bottom of the sixth inning, sophomore catcher Kelcey Carrasco doubled home a run, and showed some emotion afterwards after having struggled during the beginning of the season.
“No matter what the numbers say, I want to be clutch for (my teammates),” Carrasco said. “Today, having my fans behind my back, having my parents come down from opening day from California, I just felt like I could breathe a little more than I could at the beginning of the season. I was seeing the ball really well, so it was just awesome.”
Joseph said starting slow and finishing big is typical of Carrasco, as it happened last year as well.
“The kid is a great player, and we really need her to come on," Joseph said. "Today showed her what she’s capable of doing. We need her to be more consistent.”
Junior utility player Kelly Zackrison followed with a pinch-hit two-run home run to left field to push the margin to 6-0, a lead Zalewski held easily.
“I get a lot of encouragement from my teammates, my catcher especially,” Zalewski said. “That helps a lot knowing that my teammates have my back, it takes the work out of it.”