The calendar may have flipped to April, but Mother Nature partook in her own April Fool’s Day tomfoolery, blowing frigid temperatures through Secchia Stadium through the weekend as Ohio State won the series over MSU softball with two wins to MSU's one.
Junior Sarah Ladd got the start in the circle for the first game of the series and was dazzling through five innings allowing one run, two hits and one walk on 72 pitches. The problem was Ohio State graduate pitcher Lexie Handley was even more dominant, going the distance on 119 pitches surrendering just three hits, one walk and six punchouts.
“We just didn't square any balls up,” MSU Head Coach Jacquie Joseph said. “We swung at good pitches, we just fouled them off and two pitches went over the fence and that was the game so the margin is very, very small.”
The visiting Buckeyes got on the board early, taking a solo shot from senior Jaycee Ruberti as the second batter of the game.
Ladd firmly settled in for the next five innings tossing zeros on the board, but OSU finally discovered the keys to unlock her, starting with a blooper single to left in the sixth. Fifth-year Caitie Ladd then made a diving play to beat the runner at second on a fielder’s choice, ultimately saving a run on the board. Ohio State's sophomore McKenzie Bump launched a two-run home run over the right-field fence at the next at-bat, extending OSU’s lead to three.
The Spartans comeback efforts were determined but came up short with Handley repeatedly shutting the door. MSU got a leadoff single up the middle from sophomore Alexis Barroso in one of the gutsiest battles of the night, but a foul-out and two straight pop-outs put an end to Michigan State's night.
“The approach shouldn't change, but hitters have to want to be up to score runs,” Joseph said. “Somebody's gotta get it done. It's just one of those things where it's one or zero. You either got it done or you didn't. We're close, but close doesn't count. We gotta get some kids that want to be up with runners on.”
After being shut out in the first game of the weekend series against the 19th ranked Buckeyes, MSU came out of the gate strong as freshman Kayleigh Roper belted a one-run home run to put the Spartans up early in the second inning.
The Buckeyes matched MSU for almost every punch the Spartans threw as they hit a solo shot in the next half inning to level the game at one.
The Spartans and Buckeyes seemingly traded innings after both leaving runners stranded and making breathtaking defensive stops, but the game-changing play came in the bottom of the fifth innings.
Sophomore Zaquai Dumas crushed the go-ahead one-run home run off of the Secchia Stadium scoreboard, and that was all of the offense MSU needed to pull out the win.
On the defensive side, sophomore Ashley Miller put on a pitching clinic as she struck out 12 Buckeye batters while only giving up one run.
Because of her performance, the Spartans went on to win two to one and tie up the series at one apiece.
Miller is no stranger to great outings this season as she has only given up three or more runs four times in her 19 appearances on the mound, earning her an outstanding below one earned run average and a 12 and seven record.
Miller’s performance and getting the team’s first Big Ten win have given her and her squad a tremendous boost of self-belief going into the heart of the Big Ten season.
“It gives me a bunch of confidence and the team a bunch of confidence too,” Miller said. “We can hang right in there with them.”
Joseph could not stress enough how important the win was and how the crowd had a large role in the effort.
“Today was everything,” Joseph said. “Today was monumentally important for our program. We needed to get off the ‘schneid,’ get that first Big Ten win and get ourselves established at home as well. We had an almost capacity crowd and their energy was awesome. It was important for us to come out and play well.”
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With the win today, the Spartans move to 20 and 14 on the season and will look to lock up their first Big Ten series win tomorrow in the tiebreaker against the Buckeyes.
After a tough loss Friday followed by a comeback Saturday, the Spartans returned to Secchia Stadium Friday to wrap up their weekend game series against OSU, in hopes of a final victory.
It was an intriguing game, to say the least, consisting of numerous fielding errors as well as a blank scoreboard until the top of the sixth inning when it started heating up.
OSU brought in two runs, and MSU proceeded with one to wrap it up, leaving a final inning for the Spartans to change the fate of the game.
Just when it looked like all hope was lost, Barroso hit a line-drive double to center field. Not only did this break the no-hitter streak of the game, but it gave MSU a shot to tie it up. Dumas walked next with two outs on the board, leaving a player on first and second to make their move.
“I think it was great momentum, and we were going into it hard, just barely missing the ball,” Barroso said. “We have a great team, and we’re ready for anything that comes our way.”
Unfortunately, they couldn’t pull through to tie it up, resulting in a 2-1 final score, with OSU taking home the overall series win.
“I’m disappointed with the outcome,” Joseph said. “The game was there for us to win, and you’ve gotta tip your cap because their pitcher was better. She was better and she beat us.”
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