Michigan State softball picked up a much needed win over Oakland despite a comeback effort from the Golden Grizzlies late into the game, ending in a 4-3 victory. The win pushes MSU to 11-17 overall on the season.
Oakland got off to a quick start in the top of the first. Redshirt junior catcher Jen Krizka connected with an inside pitch for a bloop RBI single to right field, putting the Golden Grizzlies up 1-0.
A response from the Spartans came rather quickly. Senior third baseman Jessica Mabrey ripped a ball down the left field line that hugged the foul pole, but eventually stayed fair for a home run. Shortly after, redshirt junior outfielder Jenae Wash hit a line drive down the right field line for a double. In the very next at bat, utility and first baseman junior Collette Allen singled to left to add a third run for MSU.
Following the three-run outburst, Oakland sophomore pitcher Mia Konyvka saw her day on the mound end as she walked senior shortstop Anna Fox with the bases loaded to add a fourth run. Redshirt junior pitcher Sydney Campbell came in and finally put an end to the bleeding, leaving MSU up 4-1 after the first inning.
The offensive explosion soon turned into a pitching duel for both teams. Campbell was very solid since coming in during the bottom of the first. Sophomore pitcher Madison Taylor also picked up the intensity on the mound. Each pitcher allowed a few hits here and there, though no real threat was posed.
Head coach Sharonda McDonald-Kelley was able to give some praise to Taylor after her fight on the mound.
“She was awesome today,” Kelley said. “She did a great job. You know, we tell our pitchers all the time, give us a chance to win and she did more than that.”
In the top of the fifth inning, Oakland found a way to claw back within reach of the MSU lead. Junior outfielder Allisa DiPrima tripled to right center field to bring two runners home and cut the deficit to 4-3.
Freshman outfielder Hailey Bila recorded her first career hit with a single that forced a diving effort from the Oakland defense in the bottom of the sixth inning. Bila described the feelings she had in an unforgettable moment.
“Honestly, I’ve been waiting for this moment for a really long time now and I’ve had a lot of support through my teammates,” Bila said. “Throughout the whole entire time I’ve just been working hard and it felt really good to finally get my first hit, and it was a team effort for the win.”
Bila also added that her teammates were excited for her, even when her name got called for the lineup, which also marked her first career start.
MSU continuously struggled to rally, leaving many runners stranded over the course of the game since the first inning. Junior pitcher Ashley Miller came to the mound to close the game out despite the lack of recent offensive production. Miller set the tone, forcing the Golden Grizzlies to ground out twice and strike out for three straight outs to end the game.
Coach Kelley emphasized that the win gives the Spartans some much needed confidence as they dropped four-straight previous games, including getting swept by Maryland.
“Any time you can get a win on the ball field, it’s huge,” Kelley said. “We just take each piece of that, that we liked, and kind of build on it and move forward.”
Rival Michigan comes to town Wednesday in the Spartans next game, which is set to begin at 5 p.m., weather permitting. Kelley highlighted what needs to be done from her team to steal a victory from a nationally recognized program.
“I don’t think I’m going to have to talk them into competing,” Kelley said. “You know, when you get a rivalry matchup, it’s always a hard fought one. But I want to see us do us. I want to see us bring you know, our identity, which is being fighters and playing hard, and really bring our talents to the ball field.”