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'We're thin in numbers': Softball leans in during long road trip

February 27, 2020
<p>A Spartan softball player adjusts her gloves during the game against Oakland on April,3, 2019 at Secchia Stadium. The Spartans beat the Golden Grizzlies, 11-3.   </p>

A Spartan softball player adjusts her gloves during the game against Oakland on April,3, 2019 at Secchia Stadium. The Spartans beat the Golden Grizzlies, 11-3.

Photo by Sylvia Jarrus | The State News

Michigan State softball is in the midst of their 2020 preseason run, tallying a 3-10 record during their trip to Florida. 

In 2019, the ladies ended their season with an  overall record of 16-34.

“Preseason is really about seeing who can play where and what roles people can do and fill in, and sort of getting a feel for what we’re really capable of,” coach Jacquie Joseph said. “A lot of preseason is (also) about getting outside and being able to practice to get better.”

Joseph said that her team has started to lean into the tactic of playing one pitch at a time and it focuses on getting mentally stronger every time it hits the field.

She said she has high expectations and hopes that the hard work translates into MSU being “battle-tested” and ready for the Big Ten season.

“We really want to make it to postseason,” redshirt, and lone, senior first baseman Katelyn Hendershott said. “When I first came into the program, we were very successful, we had a good run in the Big Ten tournament and then we kind of fell off and we lost our rails a little bit.”

For her final season, Hendershott said she really wants to see her team get back on its feet.

The Spartan pitching staff has shown vast growth and improvement in their skill and stamina after getting a boost from freshman Sarah Ladd.

Ladd is the only left-handed pitcher on the roster this season. 

“I’m just trying to help my team get as high as we can get,” she said. “We started off a little rough, but I feel that we could have a lot of potential.”

The Spartans have also cleaned up their defensive strategies and their offensive staff is grinding to get the rookies any opportunity possible to rack up at-bats, while simultaneously looking to improve their overall batting average.

Before the Florida Gulf Coast University Spring Break Invitational the weekend of Feb. 21-23, the Spartans were ranked fifth in the league with 29 walks and were next-to-last in the Big Ten for strikeouts with 40 in 234 plate appearances.

“There’s no question: We’re thin in numbers and we’re young,” Joseph said. “All of them are playing and contributing, which is somewhat unusual.  ... It’s not only ‘Am I using them?’, but we need them to be ready and to go in, whether it’s to pinch run, or pinch hit or to play a different position than normal.” 

Joseph said that she thinks this kind of adaptability is important for not only her players, but herself, too.

“As a coach, you’re constantly trying to stay current, evolve, coach differently,” she said. “Even though you’re coaching the same thing, you are constantly adapting and evolving to the types of skill sets that the players have coming in.”

Joseph also said that they look for that trait when recruiting. “Who are the kids that can have a growth mindset? Who are the kids who are a little more resilient? Who are the kids who can adapt to a changing environment?” 

This is Joseph’s 27th season at the helm of the green and white softball team. She is the longest tenured coach in program history and the second-longest in the athletics department.

“Coaching is an incredible blessing, and I’m grateful for the role that I play in (my athletes’) lives,” Joseph said.

The Spartans are scheduled to travel to the west coast Friday, Feb. 28 through Sunday, March 1, to play in the Amy Harrison Tournament at the University of California-Riverside.

They will play a total of 28 games on the road before their scheduled home opener against Oakland (6-3) in East Lansing on March 25.

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