The Michigan State softball team (19-13) were able to find a win against Toledo (8-17) in a mid-week, singular, non-conference game, 5-4. The Spartans came into Wednesday on a high note after sweeping a victory-less Detroit Mercy (0-21) in a doubleheader.
The top of the sixth inning is when the pace really picked up. With two outs and two strikes on the board, senior infielder Raelyn Nyren went down at first base. She laid there writhing in pain and holding tightly to her left shoulder for a minute, before she had the strength to stand up and and get escorted off by a Toledo athletic trainer. The cause of Nyren's injury is unknown, though the field is wet from the light storm earlier, which could have resulted in a slip.
The Rockets managed to tie it up after that mishap. Two solid and separate drives down right field brought home senior outfielder Anna Dixon and sophomore Bella Brass.
The Spartans went scoreless when it was their turn at bat and the game extended as they duked it out to untie the 3-3 knot.
Some things, if not most, stayed the same in the less than 24 hour break the team had between matchups. MSU Head Coach Jacquie Joseph said after yesterday's long evening that they were strong in pitching, as always, and if they keep it that way, they'll be in every game they play, period.
Sophomore pitcher Ashley Miller, one half of the "seasoned pitching duo" Joseph called them, took the mound for the first five innings. She only allowed three hits, two runs and two errors, as well as two walks and four strikeouts out of 80 pitches thrown, before getting replaced by junior pitcher Sarah Ladd, her counterpart.
Miller had an ERA of 0.80 on the evening.
Ladd started out slower than she did yesterday, allowing two runs, one hit and one error in the top of the sixth immediately after she was subbed in for Miller. However, when it got to be crunch time, she reeled it in.
”She came in and shut them down and never wavered, even when they went ahead," Joseph said postgame. "She's a seasoned vet and she knows what to do. She came in, shut them down and got it done for us."
Three strikeouts against nine batters from Sarah Ladd sent the green and white into the bottom of the seventh with a chance to take it all after slamming the door in the face of the Rocket's offense.
Joseph also said yesterday night that they needed to figure out a way to score more runs.
Looking at the final statistical book, you could say they did just that. Or attempted.
Two early runs – a homer from senior outfielder Jess Mabrey and senior outfielder Mackenzie Meech reaching home off a single to the pitcher from Mabrey's at bat – gave the Spartans the head start. A third run from senior catcher Kendall Kates in the fourth inning had begun to look like it would be raining green and white confetti. However, we know where the Rockets took that.
It was the bottom of the seventh inning. Mabrey had just grounded out to third base on a sacrificial bunt and gotten freshman shortstop Kayleigh Roper to second. One out, one strike, there was still time to come out on top.
Senior outfielder Courtney Callahan swung and missed.
Junior infielder Camryn Wincher stepped up to the plate and did the same, but manages to walk.
Still two outs.
Sophomore infielder Alexis Barroso comes up, looking to work some magic, and grounded out.
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The game was officially going into an eighth inning.
And what do you know, an immediate rocket of a home run over right field from senior catcher Aubrey Reed to open said extra inning. The crowd was stunned as Reed pumped her fists in the air and circled the bases.
The Spartans got one more chance at-bat and fifth-year infielder Caitie Ladd didn't let that go to waste. She followed in Reed's footsteps, knocking a bomb of a home run over left field to tie the game again.
With two outs on the board again, sophomore infielder Zaquai Dumas came in to pinch hit. She managed to get to first on an error, but still no luck. A ninth inning was on the clock as Roper goes out.
Ladd picked up a fourth strikeout in the top of the ninth to send Toledo out scoreless and give MSU one final chance at redemption. Could they do it?
The answer: No.
Eleven innings later, Michigan State managed to capture the win on a single that went out to center by Barroso and brought home Callahan.
”We won a doubleheader yesterday, won today, and that's what you want to do. Get feeling better about yourselves heading into the weekend," Joseph said postgame. "Nothing better than a walk off win at home."
"We don't always play as well as we can, so I'd like to see us come together (more)," she added. "(I love) our depth. We've got depth on the mount, depth in the defense, depth in (batting). We're still young in some areas but they compete and play hard."
The Spartans advance 19-13 on the season and will host Ohio State (21-6) in a three-game weekend series.
They open Friday with first pitch at 6 p.m. and will follow up with a Saturday 2 p.m. game and Sunday 1 p.m. game. The Buckeyes were recently ranked last at No. 25 in Softball America's Top-25 list as one of three Big Ten schools.
”We're going to focus more on attacking early (this weekend), not leaving it until it's the last second so they can (have room to) come back," Barroso said postgame.
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