March 7, 2018
THE WEEKEND AHEAD Michigan State completes its 10-day trip to Southern California for spring break with three games at the Louisville Slugger Invitational at No. 21 Long Beach State. MSU plays the host team on Thursday, No. 3 UCLA on Friday, and wraps the week with a game vs. San Diego State.
Links for live statistics for each MSU game will be available on the program's official website, MSUSpartans.com.
MSU's game vs. No. 21 Long Beach State will have a webstream via BigWest.TV.
SPARTAN TEAM NOTES The Spartans have seven players from the state of California on its roster: seniors Lindsey Besson (San Rafael) and McKenzie Long (Alta Loma), junior Kaitlyn Eveland (Anaheim), sophomores Melanie Baccay (Elk Grove) and Kelcey Carrasco (Woodlake), and freshmen Caitie Ladd (Los Alamitos) and McKenna Gregory (Benecia). It is the most-represented state on the MSU roster next to Michigan, which also has seven players.
MSU expected to play five games in the opening Spring Break weekend at the Judi Garman Classic, but was reduced down to three when all was said and done. Weather-related travel issues for the Spartans forced the cancellation of MSU's Friday opener vs. No. 2 Florida, and Saturday's game vs. No. 17 Louisiana was cancelled due to malfunctioning lights at the Fullerton field.
The Spartans won their opener vs. Stanford (4-2) on a walkoff two-run home run by Kaitlyn Eveland. On Sunday, MSU fell in a pair of walkoff losses - a 4-3,eight-inning affair vs. Cal Poly, followed by an 8-7 loss to homestanding Cal State Fullerton. MSU played at Fullerton on Tuesday, dropping a 7-1 decision.
The Spartans have lost three straight after a seven-game winning streak.
In their three-game skid, the Spartans have left 36 runners on base, including 15 and 13 in the last two games against Cal State Fullerton.
MSU allowed 37 runs over the four games, but just 12 were earned. The pitchers walked 16 and struck out 20.
MSU's pitching staff owns a team ERA of 2.04, surrendering 119 hits and striking out 107 batters over 120.1 innings. MSU's ERA ranks third in the Big Ten and 43rd nationally, and the Spartan staff ranks second in the B1G in strikeouts.
MSU pitchers have thrown 12 complete games in 18 contests this season. The Spartan hurlers have matched their 2017 total of complete games (12).
MSU's lineup has shuffled more than the coaching staff would like, dealing with injuries over the first two weeks of the season. The Spartans have started four different players at both corner infield positions in 18 games.
As a team, the Spartans hit .291 over its last four games. The Spartans have hit eight homers in their last nine games after none in the first nine games of the season..
MSU committed just six errors its last nine games after committing 16 miscues over its first nine contests.
Seven of MSU's 18 games have been one-run contests, and MSU is 3-4 in those games. A year ago, MSU had 15 one-run games and was 7-8.
Five games this season have been walkoffs - two wins (vs. Northern Ilinois, Stanford) and three losses, two of which came in extra innings (vs. Georgetown (9) and Cal Poly (8).
The Spartans return 15 letterwinners from its 2017 team that finished 34-24 and seventh in the Big Ten with an 11-12 record in Conference play. The Spartans lost just one starter to graduation (1B Sarah Gutknecht) and return two starting pitchers as well as starters in seven of eight field positions, plus DP.
The 2018 Spartan softball schedule features games against schools from 14 different conferences, nine non-conference teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and three which advanced to the Women's College World Series in 2017. MSU will have 19 games against 11 teams in the NFCA 2018 preseason Top 25 poll.
MSU's Big Ten schedule features seven three-game series as well as a pair of midweek contests against Michigan. The Spartans have three home series: against Indiana (March 30-April 1), Minnesota (April 6-8), and Rutgers (April 27-29). MSU has road series at Nebraska (March 23-25), Penn State (April 13-15), Ohio State (April 20-22) and Maryland (May 4-6). Minnesota, Michigan, and Ohio State were all NCAA Tournament teams in 2017.
A year ago, MSU ranked among the national top 25 in seven different categories: slugging percentage (.524, sixth), doubles per game (1.57, eighth), triples per game (0.34, eighth), home runs per game (1.14, ninth), scoring (5.95 runs per game, 15th), on-base percentage (.404, 16th), and batting average (.313, 21st).
In 2017, the MSU pitching staff led the Big Ten in saves (10), which was a new single-season school record for the Spartans. Michigan State pitchers combined for 309 strikeouts (fourth-all-time at MSU), while the combined innings pitched (382.2) was the tenth-most in program history. In the Big Ten, MSU's pitching staff ranked third in strikeouts (309), fifth in strikeouts looking (74), third in innings pitched (382.2), and led the conference in saves (10). The Spartans were ninth in ERA (4.12).
Michigan State head coach Jacquie Joseph begins her 25th season at the helm of the Spartan softball program, and is the longest-tenured coach in program history, along with being the third-longest-tenured head coach in MSU's athletics department.
Joseph captured her 800th career victory with the 5-4 victory over Michigan in the 2017 Big Ten quarterfinals. Earlier in the season, she won her 650th game as the Spartan mentor - a win over Western Michigan (March 29) at Secchia Stadium.
MSU hitting coach Kaela Jackson is in her third season in East Lansing, while pitching coach Ben Sorden joins the staff for 2018. Volunteer assistant coach Kelsey Christenson is beginning her second season.
PLAYER NOTES - PITCHERS
After 12 complete games in the first 14 MSU contests this year, MSU used three pitchers in three of their last four games, and two in the win over Stanford.
Bridgette Rainey appeared in all four of MSU's most recent games (10.0 innings), and suffered a pair of losses, to Cal Poly and second game against Cal State Fullerton. She owned a 2.10 ERA on the weekend, striking out 10 and walking 11, giving up 16 base hits.
On the season, Rainey owns a 2.14 ERA (13th, B1G) and a 4-4 record, striking out 55 batters in 49.0 innings pitched (10th, B1G), surrendering 15 earned runs. Opponents have a .265 batting average.
Rainey is tied for fourth in the Big Ten in strikeouts (55) and third in strikeouts per seven innings (7.9).
With 310 career strikeouts to her credit, Rainey needs six to break into MSU's all-time top 10 in that category.
Kristina Zalewski threw 5.1 innings over the last four games, surrendering five base hits while striking out three and walking three.
Zalewski ranks fifth in the Big Ten with an 1.14 ERA (53rd nationally) on the year, ranking 13th in strikeouts (36) and third in walks allowed per seven innings (1.05). She has issued just 11 free passes in 43.0 innings pitched.
Zalewski ranks fifth in career innings pitched in the MSU annals (580.0) sixth in career victories (42), and ranks second in career strikeouts (509).
Among active career Division I leaders, Zalewski is fifth in pitching appearances (138), 24th in games started (83), 13th in innings pitched, seventh in saves (12), 17th in strikeouts, and 21st in strikeouts per seven innings (6.14).
Jordan Watson is 2-1 on the season with a 2.89 ERA. She has three starts and eight appearances overall, tossing two complete games. She has struck out 16 and walked just four over 26.2 innings.
Freshman McKenna Gregory made her MSU debut on Tuesday against Cal State Fullerton, allowing five hits and two earned runs in 1.2 innings. She faced 10 batters, walking one.
PLAYER NOTES - FIELD PLAYERS
Just two players have started all 18 games at the same position: LF Ebonee Echols and CF Lea Foerster. Melanie Baccay is the only other player to start 18 games; she has 14 starts at 2B and one at 1B.
Kaitlyn Eveland led MSU at the plate over the last four games, hitting .545 with one homer and five walks, striking out once in 17 plate appearances. Her homer was a two-run walkoff shot vs. Stanford.
Eveland missed seven games with injury, but has reached base in all 11 contests she's played. On the year, she's hitting .438, but has not appeared in enough games (75%) to be ranked in the Big Ten (she would rank second). She is second on the team in walks (7)
Eveland owned a five-game hitting streak earlier this year, she is tied for the team lead for the longest hitting streak of the season. She was 3-for-3 with a walk in MSU's most recent setback vs. Cal State Fullerton.
With a career .368 batting average, Eveland ranks second on MSU's all-time career list. She hit .403 a year ago, which is fifth all-time in a single season at MSU.
Freshman Caitie Ladd has become the starter at shortstop, getting the nod there in the last nine games. She hit .385 on the weekend with two walks and an RBI.
CF Lea Foerster had a pair of home runs and four RBI in the games at Cal State Fullerton. She hit .385 and drew three walks and was hit by a pitch.
On the season, Foerster is batting .362 (12th B1G) with six doubles (third, B1G), three homers (T-5th B1G), nine RBI, and a team-best nine runs scored.
Foerster ranks among MSU's top 10 in eight different career categories. She is MSU's all-time run-scoring (167), extra-base hit (95) and doubles (59) leader, is third in batting average (.368), fourth in home runs (26), seventh in base hits (216), and RBI (112), and 10th in triples (10).
The center fielder ranks among active Division I career leaders in several categories. She leads active players in doubles, (59), is sixth in hit by pitch (51), 11th in runs (167), and total bases (373), 15th in hits, 21st in triples and 20th in at-bats (589). Her .633 career slugging percentage is 50th.
Senior McKenzie Long hit .333 with four base hits, three walks, and a run scored over the last four games. On the year, she has a .326 batting average with three doubles, four RBI and seven runs scored, and a stolen base. She leads the team with eight walks.
Long has 108 career runs scored, which ranks ninth all-time in the MSU record book. She also just moved into MSU's career top 25 in base hits, ranking 23rd in program history with 163. She also ranks eighth all time in walks (68).
Katie Quinlan appeared in all four games last weekend, compiling four hits and a walk in seven plate appearances. On the year, she's hitting .250.
Ebonee Echols owns a .322 batting average with four doubles eight RBI, and 19 base hits, which second on the team and tied for 10th among Big Ten players
Echols owns has 21 career triples, which is an MSU career record and ranks sixth all-time in the B1G. She is the career leader among active Division I players in triples - as a junior.
Fifth- year starter Lindsey Besson hit .286 over the last four games with a pair of RBI singles.
Besson has started 17 of 18 games behind the plate. She has thrown out eight stolen base attempts, the most in a single season in her career, and leads the Big Ten. She is a deft handler of the pitching staff, catching both Zalewski and Rainey throughout their careers. She currently ranks fourth in the Big Ten in putouts (111)and is without an error in 121 chances.
Joanna Bartz made a splash with her first career base hit, smacking her first career home run vs. Stanford. She had two pinch hits in two tries over the last four games, and is hitting .400 in her six plate appearances this season.