Spartans Sunk Late by Oklahoma, 7-6
Six-run rally in top of seventh thwarted by bottom-seventh Sooner walkoff.
Feb. 16, 2014
East Lansing, Mich. - - Junior third baseman Shelby Pendley delivered a one-out, two-run double in the bottom of the 7th inning to give defending National Champion Oklahoma a 7-6 walkoff victory over Michigan State on Sunday afternoon in the finale of the Littlewood Classic at Arizona State. Freshman Sarah Gutknecht had a solo home run and a two-run double for MSU, which falls to 2-5 on the season. No. 11 Oklahoma improves to 6-4 overall.
The Spartans had considerable trouble with the top of the Sooner order today, as its first through fourth hitters accounted for all eight Oklahoma hits on the day, which included three RBI doubles by Pendley. Freshman pitcher Valerie Kaff came on in relief of Kelly Smith and threw 5 1/3 strong innings, scattering five hits and striking out three. Classmate Kristina Zalewki took the loss for MSU, surrendering Pendley's game-winning hit. Ellie Stoffer had a pair of hits for the Spartans as well.
"This is a tough one," admitted head coach Jacquie Joseph. "Oklahoma is trying to replace some great players who graduated from their championship team, but still have experience and plenty of talent there. We continue to be a work in progress, but I think people can see that there's certainly some promise in our young players. Val [Kaff] pitched well this weekend but didn't end up with the wins to show for it, and [Gutknecht] came up with those two big hits for us today. We'll try to take the good from the weekend and move on to next week at South Carolina."
MSU's wild seventh inning began with Gutknecht drilling a solo homer to left for her second round-tripper of the season. Lindsey Besson reached base on an error, and was replaced by pinch runner Emma Fernandez. Ellie Stoffer came to the plate and delivered her second hit of the day, and McKinzie Freimuth followed with a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third. Carly Nielsen singled through the left side, plating Fernandez to cut the Sooner lead to 5-2.
The Sooners sent Taylor Dewbery to the circle to replace starter Georgia Casey, and MSU countered by pinch-hitting for Jacquie Reiser and sending Stephanie Sanders to the plate. Sanders, who hit .400 as a pinch hitter last season, singled to right to score Stoffer and move Nielsen to third.
Oklahoma made another pitching change, as Kelsey Stevens came in to pitch to the top of the Spartan order. Destinee Luna stepped in to face the sophomore with one out, and Reiser, who re-entered the game to run for Sanders, advanced to second on a wild pitch, putting two runners in scoring position. Stevens ended up walking Luna on five pitches, but then got McBride to ground into a fielder's choice, forcing out Nielsen at home. Kassidy Kujawa was hit by a pitch to force in Reiser from third to bring the Spartans within a run at 5-4. Having batted through the order, Gutknecht came back to the plate and proceeded to smack a two-run double to plate two and give MSU its first lead of the day. Fernandez struck out to end the six-run Spartan rally.
The Sooners sent their top of the order to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, a top of the order which had been particularly difficult for MSU all day. Kaff walked Casey, and Erin Miller sacrificed her over to second. Zalewski came in for Kaff, intentionally walked Chamberlain, then surrendered the two-run double to Pendley to end the game.
Oklahoma took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. The pitcher, Casey, led off the inning with a single up the middle and after Kelly Smith retired the next two batters, Pendley doubled to right, moving Casey to third. Brittany Williams doubled in both baserunners with her drive to left center for an early advantage.
Valerie Kaff came on for Smith in the bottom of the second, and got a strikeout followed by back-to-back infield putouts to retire the side. The Sooners doubled their lead in the bottom half of the third after Kaff retired the first two batters on just four pitches, but she surrendered her first hit of the day when Chamberlain singled to center. Pendley came to bat and ripped her second double of the day, moving Chamberlain to third. Williams then collected her second hit, singling in both Chamberlain and Pendley, for a 4-0 Sooner lead. Kaff struck out Kady Self to get out of the inning.
Stoffer laced a one-out single to left in the top of the fifth, hoping to get something going for the Spartans, but Casey struck out the next two MSU batters to get the Sooners out of the inning. It was the second straight day that Stoffer delivered the first hit for MSU, as she broke up the no-hitter against Washingon on Saturday evening with a pinch-hit single.
The top of the Sooner order once again caused trouble for MSU in the bottom of the fifth. Casey led off with a single, and Erin Miller followed with another single to move Casey to second. Chamberlain was walked on four pitches, and Kaff got Pendley to pop out to Reiser at second for the first out of the inning. Williams, who already had two doubles and four RBI on the day, hit a liner off of Kaff's glove to plate Casey, but she was thrown out at first. That left runners on second and third for pinch hitter Paris Townsend, but Kaff got her to ground out to short to end the threat.
MSU got a leadoff bunt single in the top of the sixth from Reiser, but then went down in order to finish its half of the sixth. Kaff countered by sending down the Sooners in order in the bottom of the sixth. That set up the wild seventh inning, as the teams combined for eight runs on six hits.
Michigan State will head to South Carolina next weekend for four games, taking on UNC-Wilmington, Boston University, Georgetown, and the host Gamecocks.