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Spartans Fall in Home Opener to PSU

Stephanie Sanders

April 4, 2014

Box Score

East Lansing, Mich. - - Michigan State rallied from a five-run deficit to pull within two, but saw Penn State pull away with a seventh-inning rally to post a 9-3 win at Secchia Stadium in MSU's home opener. The teams now bring identical 8-22, 1-6 Big Ten records into Saturday's game two.

Shanin Thomas led MSU with two hits on the day, while junior Stephanie Sanders delivered a two-run pinch-hit double in the sixth. MSU had just one less hit (7) than it allowed the Nittany Lions (8), but had three errors and allowed just four earned runs.For PSU, both Lexi Kneif and Macy Jones had two hits, and Jones, Kasie Hatfield, and Kristina Brackpool each had two RBI. Both teams stranded eight runners, as MSU left two on in three separate innings.

PSU pitcher Marlaina Laubach tossed a complete game, allowing three earned runs while striking out six and walking four. MSU used both freshman Valerie Kaff (4.1 IP, 4 K's) and Kelly Smith (2.1 IP), each surrendering two earned runs.

"I give all the credit to Penn State - I thought their pitcher did a nice job, and we just didn't respond well or make adjustments," said head coach Jacquie Joseph. "We are still struggling to put together a complete game where we are good defensively, at the plate, and in the circle. We have flashes of each, but never all three at the same time or in the same game."

MSU had a little something going in the bottom of the second. Destinee Luna dropped a single into shallow right field and advanced to second on the throw, and was moved over to third on a groundout by Besson. Ellie Stoffer came in to pinch hit for Jacquie Reiser, but struck out to end the MSU chance.



Reina Furuya singled up the middle to lead off the third for the Nittany Lions and two batters later, leadoff hitter Lexi Knief walked to put runners on first and second. Kasie Hatfield came to the plate and sent a shot into right field, which got past Carly Nielsen for a triple and plated both Furuya and Knief, giving the road team a 2-0 lead.

MSU looked like it was going to counter in the bottom of the inning, as Freimuth led off with a bunt single, and Kujawa legged out an infield single to short. An infield fly by Gutknecht pushed the runners to second and third with just one out, but Thomas popped out to second and Besson flew out to right to get out of the jam and keep the Spartans off the board.

PSU tacked on a pair of runs in the fifth to double its lead to 4-0. Knief led off with a single to center, and Alyssa Sovereign followed at the plate and earned a full-count walk. Kasie Hatfield advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, brining Macy Jones to the plate. The sophomore belted a hit into center that got just under the glove of a diving Alyssa McBride for a two-run triple. Smith got Presto to ground out and Habitz to fly out to left to end the inning.

Val Kaff came back in to throw the sixth, and PSU got another run on an error. With runners at first and second, Sovereign hit a ball to the left side of the infield, and the toss from Luna to Reiser dropped to allow Furuya to be safe at second and Miller to score from second for the fifth run of the day.

The Spartans began the rally in the top of the sixth with a one-out single by Shanin Thomas down the left field line. Laubach walked Besson and McBride to load the bases; Luna grounded out to second, but Thomas scored to get MSU n the board. Sanders came to the plate to pinch hit for Nielsen, and hit a straight shot over the head of the right fielder Jones; that scored Besson and McBride and cut the Penn State lead to 5-3. Pinch hitter Sarah Bowling struck out to end the inning;

MSU headed to the field looked to shut down the Penn State lineup for a chance to inch closer in the bottom of the seventh, but the Nittany Lion bats came alive with four runs on four hits with one Spartan error. Jones led off the inning with a single to center, and pinch hitter Sam Shanahan reached on a fielder's choice; an error in the field allowed Jones to reach second safely with no outs. Habitz followed with a double to right, scoring Jones for a 6-3 lead. Kaff got the next two outs, bringing Kristina Brackpool to the plate as a pinch hitter for Maegan Tupino. Brackpool sent a 2-2 pitch to left center, to score two and push PSU's lead to 8-3, and Tupino re-entered to run for Brackpool. Leadoff hitter Knieif singled to left center to score Tupino, PSU's fourth run of the inning, and the visitors held a 9-3 lead going into the bottom of the inning.

In the bottom of the seventh, Freimuth drew a leadoff walk on four pitches, and Kujawa followed with a long out to the right-center warning track, but Gutknecht grounded a single into center. Thomas flew out to right, which moved Freimuth to third leaving two outs and runners at the corners for Lindsey Besson; she hit a comebacker to the pitcher to end the Spartan threat.

NOTES: Sanders' pinch-hit double improved her average to .583 as a pinch hitter this season (7-for-12) with 10 RBI. She leads the team with a .350 batting average ... Alyssa McBride's six-game hitting streak came to an end, making Kassidy Kujawa's four consecutive games with a hit the longest active streak. McBride did reach base safely, pushing her streak to nine consecutive games, tying Sarah Gutknecht for the team's longest streak of the season ...

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