Michigan State softball struggled significantly with its offense on Tuesday, as the Spartans were defeated by Notre Dame in a blowout loss 8-0.
Notre Dame struck first right away in the top of the first inning. Senior infielder Joley Mitchell brought home the first run with a single just past the outstretched gloves of the MSU infield to put the Fighting Irish up 1-0.
Two more runs came for the Irish soon after in the first. After a few stolen bases, senior outfielder Leea Hanks grounded a ball slowly to second base resulting in a fielder’s choice for the RBI. In the next at bat, senior outfielder Macie Eck got a bloop single in center field to drop for another run to cross the plate.
The Spartans came alive in the bottom of the second inning. Freshman outfielder Britain Beshears ripped a ball down the left field line that hit the fence upon contact, barely missing a home run. Junior third baseman Alexis Barroso then singled to the shortstop as she left the Notre Dame infield confused on where to throw the ball. After a walk following an out, MSU loaded the bases with two outs. Senior outfielder Jessica Mabrey stood in for the next at bat in the pressure filled situation, and lined out to right field to end the threat.
Beshears’s efficient day at the plate didn’t go unnoticed by head coach Sharonda McDonald-Kelley. The freshman has come alive in the last two games and has worked hard all year to get consistent time in the lineup.
“She really has made some strides with her swing,” McDonald-Kelley said. “She got an opportunity last game and came through, and then another opportunity this game and again, she looked really good at the plate.”
Beshears also acknowledged herself with her powerful swings and a total of two hits on the day to try to get the rest of the team going.
“Honestly, I just stayed relaxed and calm and just swing at the pitches that I knew were hittable ,” Beshears said. “And trusting myself obviously, and I was very confident in the box.”
The Fighting Irish were able to capitalize in the third inning. Junior infielder Karina Gaskins jumped on a pitch and gave the ball a ride to deep center field for a home run to extend the lead to 4-0. Four at bats later, sophomore infielder Anna Holloway joined the homer un party with a two-run shot of her own to extend the lead to six for Notre Dame.
After a pair of singles, the Irish were able to put runners on second and third in the seventh inning. Sophomore infielder Jane Kronenberger hit a ball deep enough to center field for a sacrifice fly to score a seventh run.
The momentum kept going for the Irish in the top of the sixth thanks to the bat of Hanks. After loading two more runners on base, an RBI infield single by Hanks added another run to make the score 8-0.
MSU just couldn’t seem to generate much offense. Notre Dame freshman pitcher Micaela Kastor put forth a productive start on the mound with many pitches reaching fast speeds.
The Spartans were unable to capitalize multiple times, and eventually ended the game with zero runs, leading to the game getting called at the conclusion of the sixth inning.
McDonald-Kelley explained her strategy to get her squad back on track following a few games where the Spartans fell behind early rather quickly.
“We knew for us, the key to winning today was playing tough defense, and us coming through in some spots that we needed to,” McDonald-Kelley said. “We just didn’t do that.”
McDonald-Kelley also noted that there were some good at-bats, and she felt that some of the picky techniques that have been worked on in practice resulted in more patient at-bats. She wants to see tougher defense however, though those opportunities will come with practice and eventually happen.
The Spartans will host rival Michigan on Wednesday, with first pitch set for 5 p.m. McDonald-Kelley knows it is a big test for her team, especially as it is her first matchup with the Wolverines in her MSU coaching tenure.
“I know how big of a deal it is, and I think our team is going to come ready to go … We think this Michigan team is a team that we matchup well against,” McDonald-Kelley said.