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Softball Hosts Butler for 2012 Home Opener

Redshirt freshman Stephanie Sanders owns a team-best .767 slugging percentage.

March 29, 2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State softball team will host Butler for the 2012 home opener on Thursday (March 29) at 4 p.m. After 29 games on the road, the Spartans will finally be able to play on their own field in the new Secchia Stadium.

Series History...
MSU looks to take the lead in the all-time series with the Bulldogs as the schools are tied 1-1. The first meeting between the Michigan State and Butler was in 2004, when the Spartans overpowered the Bulldogs 6-0. Butler retaliated in 2008 as MSU fell 2-1 in the second matchup in the all-time series.

Last Time Out...
The Spartans opened Big Ten action last weekend when they traveled to West Lafayette, Ind. to face Purdue. Michigan State was defeated by the Boilermakers in both games of the opening day double-header 10-6 and 8-4 and were unable to get a win over Purdue as they fell 2-0 in the second day. Junior Kylene Hopkins led the offense for MSU over the weekend going 6-9 at the plate, notching three RBI, one double and scoring one run.

Spartan Scouting Report...
Junior Kylene Hopkins is the top Spartan batter with a team-high batting average of .416. Of her 32 hits, six of which were doubles and one was a triple. With 13 RBI and 15 walks, the junior has an on base percentage of .516 and a slugging percentage of .519. Hopkins also leads the team in base running with nine stolen bases in 10 attempts.

The pitching workload for MSU has primarily been split between sophomore Cassee Layne and freshman Carly Nielsen. In 67.0 innings of work, Nielsen owns a 5.43 ERA and 35 strikeouts. The right-hander ranks seventh in the nation for most saves with three. Layne has earned 44 Ks and an ERA of 7.51 in 68.0 innings pitched.

Butler Scouting Report...
Cassie Rupel boasts Butler's highest batting average going .400 at the plate. Rupel has tabbed 10 hits, one RBI and one stolen base. In 77 at-bats, junior Meaghan Sullivan owns a .312 batting average and .416 slugging percentage with 24 hits and eight doubles.



In the circle, junior Jenny Esparza leads the Bulldogs with a 1.58 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 31 innings pitched.

Freshman Success...
In addition to Carly Nielsen's contribution in the circle, Michigan State sees five freshman rotating into the Spartan lineup who are adding to the team's success. Stephanie Sanders has started in the designated player position 13 times this season. The redshirt freshman owns team-high .767 slugging percentage, .372 batting average and a .438 on base percentage. Sanders has tabbed 17 RBI off 16 hits, which includes five doubles and a team-best four home runs.

Alyssa McBride and McKinzie Freimuth have been in the starting lineup for MSU in all 29 games this year. McBride, who is Coach Joseph's go-to shortstop, is batting .231 and has notched 15 hits, three RBI and 11 runs. McBride sits just behind Hopkins in most stolen bases with eight stolen in nine attempts. Freimuth has earned her title as starting first basemen with a .984 fielding percentage and team-best 170 put-outs. Offensively, Freimuth has scored 15 runs, tabbed 12 hits and notched one triple.

Ellie Stoffer has appeared in 23 games, including one start, totaling 18 at-bats. She owns a .333 average at the plate and a .478 on base percentage. Stoffer has posted six hits, five RBI and has scored four runs. Kelsey Cleary has seen action in 16 games, primarily for pinch running purposes, scoring seven runs and stealing two bases.

Player of the Week...
Redshirt freshman Stephanie Sanders earned her first Big Ten accolade when she was named Freshman of the Week on March 19. Sanders drove in seven runs and hit two home runs to help the Spartans to three wins at the Hoosier Classic. Sanders had a hit in each of the four games, including a two-hit effort against Wright State, to finish the tournament with a .417 average. The Lima, Ohio native belted a three-run homer against UIC and capped the week with a two-run long ball against Wright State to combine for a weekly OPS of 1.462.

Rough Road Home...
The Spartans have faced the most challenging schedule in head coach Jacquie Joseph's era. The MSU calendar has an average RPI of 65 for the entire season and earned a 44 for the first week alone. Michigan State has competed against five Top 25 teams, including then-ranked No. 1 Florida, and faced two teams that are receiving votes. All before entering the Big Ten which includes teams like No. 22 Michigan and Nebraska, who is receiving votes.

Big Ten Rankings...
As a team, Michigan State is second in the conference in triples with five and are fourth in stolen bases with 35. The Spartans are also in the top half of the league in sacrifice bunts (5th), steal attempts (3rd) and saves (1st). Individually, MSU sees players ranking in the top of the Big Ten offensively and defensively. Junior Kylene Hopkins is fourth in the conference in batting average (.416), fifth for on base percentage (.516), third in sacrifice bunts (6) and sixth in stolen bases (9). Senior Ali Grant is tied for fourth in triples (2) and sacrifice flies (2). Freshman Carly Nielsen leads in the conference in saves (3), games finished (9) and games in relief (13) and is tied for third in appearances (23). Junior Shelby Wise is second in the Big Ten in games in relief (11) and third for games finished with eight. With 22 batters struck out looking, sophomore Cassee Layne is currently sixth in the Big Ten in that category. Freshman McKinzie Freimuth sits in sixth place in the Big Ten for fielding chances (182) and putouts (170), while senior Brett Williams is third for caught stealing by (6).

Next up...
The MSU softball squad will stay at home this weekend when it hosts Ohio State for it's Big Ten home opener. The Spartans and the Buckeyes will face off in a double-header on Saturday (March 31) at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The three-game series will conclude on Sunday (April 1) with a 1 p.m. start time.

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