The Michigan State softball team (20-20, 1-9 Big Ten) is slowing down gameplay after the last two, very game-congested weeks. They will have a few days off following the weekend series against Nebraska (26-11, 8-0 Big Ten) The Spartans did not find a single victory over the Cornhuskers between Saturday and Sunday.
”I thought we competed extremely well, I thought we responded well from the first game of the series on Saturday," MSU Head Coach Jacquie Joseph said postgame. "I think if we can figure out a way to put three phases together, I mean I like us a lot. I thought we showed a lot of improvement, especially offensively, today."
Final: Nebraska 6, Michigan State 0
Ybarra steps up to the plate. It's going, it's going and it's gone. The Huskers with five runs in the top of the second inning.
MSU kicked off their weekend series against the Huskers Saturday at 2 p.m. with a 6-0 loss. This earned Nebraska their 11th consecutive win of the 2022 season.
MSU started off strong in the first inning, making sure Nebraska infielder Cam Ybarra didn't make it past second base. In the following inning, Nebraska outfielder Abbie Squier scored to lead off the game.
Just when things were steady for the Spartans, Ybarra redeemed herself in the second inning when she hit a grand slam making it 5-0 Nebraska.
"I didn't think we competed very well today. One of our goals is to have no back-to-backs and they capitalized in the second inning, hit a grand slam and that was pretty much the game right there," Joseph said. "I didn't think we competed very well at the plate although we played great defensively, but you've got to score a run to win and we didn't score any runs."
MSU's defense wasn't enough for them to make the comeback. They lacked consistence offensively, resulting in the loss. Coming off of the grand slam, there wasn't much drive for the spartans.
"It was a big momentum shift after that and a big deflater," Joseph said.
Sophomore Zaquai Dumas had a lead-off walk at the bottom of the third followed by a hit for Senior Kendall Kates , but Dumas couldn't get past second. Sophomore Alexis Barroso advanced to third after a walk in the sixth inning, but the inning ended shortly after with a grounder from Freshman Kayleigh Roper to make it three outs.
MSU will return to Secchia Stadium tomorrow for their double header versus the Huskers. Nebraska is a tough team to matchup with, having a few top ranked players on the roster.
Final: Nebraska 7, Michigan State 5
The Spartans came in hungry for a victory, hoping to upset the only undefeated team in the Big Ten, but fell short after nine full innings.
MSU opened the game with a run in the bottom of the first inning off a single from Barroso, allowing them to lead the Cornhuskers for the first time at Secchia Stadium this weekend.
However, Nebraska had an answer as they opened the second with a pair of runs off singles from both senior pitcher Courtney Wallace and sophomore infielder Sydney Gray, taking the lead.
No one scored in the third inning, and both made him home once in the fourth to bring the score up, 4-3.
MSU was fighting hard, pushing ahead again in the bottom of the fifth inning with a double to left center from senior outfielder Courtney Callahan that allowed senior outfielder Abby Joseph and senior outfielder Jessica Mabrey to circle around.
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Nebraska seemed to have an answer for everything, however, when they reclaimed the lead in the top of the sixth with a single off junior infielder Mya Felder up the middle, collecting two runners batted in, or RBIs.
Fans thought it was over, but of course, it's never over with the Spartans. Comebacks are their thing, and in the bottom of the seventh, Mabrey blasted a home run out over left field, her fifth of the season, and knotted the board, yet again, 5-5.
The game went two extra innings, until the Cornhuskers eventually prevailed. In the top of the ninth, senior pitcher Olivia Ferrell shot a home run out over the center field wall, blowing away the crowd as she brought herself and Squier home for the 7-5 lead and the win.
Nebraska advanced 2-0 on the weekend after game two, going into game three looking for the ultimate season sweep and hoping to remain undefeated.
Sophomore infielder Billie Andrews and freshman catcher Ava Bredwell carried in the hitting department for the Cornhuskers, with three and two hits respectively of the total 13. Nebraska struggled with leaving runners on base, ending the game with 11 women who were never brought home. Sophomore pitcher Caitlynn Neal carried with two of the total seven runs, as well.
"There's not a lot of opportunity to do (much discussion) between a doubleheader," Joseph said. "But, they did meet as a group after Saturday's game and I thought they responded well (from that breakdown)."
Final: Nebraska 5, Michigan State 4
The second game started off a lot slower compared to the first. The first two and a half innings went scoreless, despite MSU getting three hits and Nebraska getting two hits – all of those batters were left on base.
In the bottom of the third, Barroso was the one to open scoring for the second consecutive game, doubling down the left field line to both run Callahan home and bring herself to third – where she was replaced by Joseph as pinch runner. There was only one out at this point and fifth-year infielder Caitie Ladd stood at the plate, able to single to first base, loading both corners of the field.
Caitie Ladd stole second base, allowing Joseph to steal home with the ultimatum of who to tag out. Ladd quickly advanced to third base on a passed ball, waiting for her chance to solidify the 3-0 lead, though it never came.
But, there was Nebraska, responding with another slap in the face. A second double-run home run from Ferrell brought herself and Squier, again, around the bases to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth.
The game went on to tie again in the fifth inning, when Billie Andrews doubled down the right field line to bring her sister, junior infielder Brooke Andrews, home. It didn't stop there, though, when the other Andrews sibling made it home off a Felder single, to put Nebraska in the lead for the first time in game two.
Dumas hit a deep, solo home run to open the bottom of the sixth inning, her seventh on the season, though it didn't do too much for the final outcome.
Nebraska kept up the dominance at bat and in the field in the seventh inning of game two to secure the series sweep this season. MSU went 0-3 on the weekend against the still undefeated Cornhuskers, who remain atop the Big Ten throne.
"We really just played well in a lot of different areas," Joseph said. "We made some nice plays on defense and had a tremendous amount of offense in the doubleheader. We've never had this much offense all season, so we just need to put it together and hopefully we do that on Wednesday."
The Spartans fall 20-20 on the season, 1-9 in conference and will host Western Michigan (14-19) in a single, non-conference game on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Big Ten Plus.
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