Midweek Tilt on Tap at Notre Dame
April 1, 2014
Michigan State plays a midweek game at Notre Dame on Wednesday, its first non-conference game since B1G play began two weeks ago.
The Spartans trail the all-time series against the Irish by a 7-1 margin. Despite the proximity of the schools, there have been just five gamedays between the two teams: a doubleheader in the 1993, 1994, and 1995 seasons, as well as single games in each of the last two campaigns. Notre Dame won last year's meeting of the squads in East Lansing, 2-0.
TEN FOR TWITTER
.@MSU_Softball plays at @NDSoftball in a non-con game Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Just eight games between @MSU_Softball and @ND Softball all-time; DH's in `93, `94, `95, single games in `12 & `13. ND leads series 7-1.
Live stats on Gametracker; upgraded software allows fans to follow on cell phones & mobile devices. Link at MSUSpartans.com
Notre Dame will provide a webstream of Wednesday's game at http://tinyurl.com/MSUNDSB.
MSU dropped 2-of-3 at @PurdueSoftball, winning middle game, 6-3.
Kassidy Kujawa was MSU's top hitter against Purdue, going 3-for-6. Leads team in BA (.284), OBP (.407), and BB (11), 2nd in hits (19), 2B (5), and TB (30).
.@Sarah_Gutknecht leads team in hits (21), RBI (21), HR (5), 2B (6). Has played 25 games at RF, 1B, 3B, DP.
.@Alyssa_McBride is hitting .417 w/1 2B, 5 BB in B1G games, owns 5-gm hitting streak, reached base in 8 straight gms.
Sr. P @smith6kelly ranks 8th in B1G in app. (20) - 13 starts (T-9th), seven7in relief (8th), 3rd in saves (2).
Jr. @SLSanders20 is 6-of-11, 8 RBI as a pinch hitter in 2014; hit .400 as a PH as a soph.
MSU dropped two of three games last weekend at Purdue, winning the middle game by a 6-3 score and dropping 10-1 decisions in the first and final contests.
The Boilers were the beneficiary of MSU's thinning pitching staff, which has just two healthy hurlers: freshman Valerie Kaff threw 10.2 innings over the Sunday doubleheader with the Boilermakers, while senior Kelly Smith threw a complete game on Friday and 2.1 innings on Sunday.
MSU has already had five games this season washed away due to weather, including last Tuesday's home opener against Western Michigan. In addition, the Spartans are hoping to have their first home games of the season this weekend against Penn State, as the Purdue series was originally to be played in East Lansing.
MSU has played 28 games, the fourth-fewest in the Big Ten; Iowa has played a league-low 24, Northwestern and Penn State each 27. Nebraska leads the league with 34 games played, while Indiana has 33 and both Purdue and Ohio State have played 32.
MSU's 10-inning win over Toledo (3/15) is the longest game in the Big Ten this season. MSU's 30 putouts in that game is also a league-high this season, as is MSU's five sacrifice hits that it had against UNC-Wilmington on Feb. 22.
Through 28 games, MSU has had only two players appear in every game this season - the middle infield duo of 2B Jacquie Reiser and SS Destinee Luna. Lately, MSU has been hit by the injury bug, as head coach Jacquie Joseph has had to patch together lineups. Junior 1B McKinzie Freimuth returned in the OSU series after missing the previous five games, the first missed games of her career. Lindsey Besson has returned after missing the OSU series behind the plate, senior Dana Briggs has been out since suffering a leg injury on the spring break trip, and junior Stephanie Sanders has been limited in recent games. However, the most affected group has been the pitching staff - sophomore Dani Goranson is now not expected back this season (the coaching staff was hoping to have her back in action for the Big Ten season), and freshman Kristina Zalewski was injured during the Purdue weekend and is now out for the remainder of the season.
Spartan batters have been hit by pitches 31 times, good for second in the league behind Nebraska (34).
The Spartans lead the Big Ten in sacrifice bunts (28).
MSU is 8-6 when allowing five runs or fewer, and 0-14 when allowing six or more.
MSU has played five extra-inning games this season, and lost the first four before breaking that streak on March 15 against Toledo. Three of the games went eight innings (Bethune-Cookman, and both against Florida Atlantic), while the SIU-Edwardsville game took nine innings, and the Toledo game 10.
The Spartans have lost in a walkoff situation twice this season - the first game after a valiant rally against Oklahoma which fell short, and against Marshall (2-1). In all, MSU is 2-6 in one-run games this season.
MSU will play 12 games against six teams which appeared in last week's NFCA poll (March 25). MSU has already played single games against No. 22 Oklahoma and No. 5 Washington, and has a single game against current No. 25 Notre Dame along with three-game series against Big Ten foes No. 6 Michigan, No. 19 Nebraska, and No. 23 Northwestern. In addition, MSU has played two against Hofstra and one against Virginia Tech, both which sit just outside the top 25. Big Ten foe Minnesota is also ranked (No. 15), but is not on MSU's regular-season schedule this year.
Nineteen of MSU's 26 non-conference opponents finished fifth or better in their conference in 2013, and five are their defending conference champions. Washington and Oklahoma, as well as Big Ten foes Nebraska and Michigan, made the Women's College World Series. Four Big Ten teams received bids to the NCAA Tournament overall.
MSU was the fifth-most improved team in Division I softball in 2013 from its 2012 record. The 2012 Spartans suffered through an 11-42 campaign riddled with injuries, but went 24-25 in 2013, a 15-game improvement. Only four programs had more than a 15-game improvement from 2012 to 2013: Delaware (+19.5), Northwestern State (+18.5), St. Joseph's (+17), and UNC Greensboro (+15.5).
MSU's infield features mostly underclassmen, with the exception being junior 1B McKinzie Freimuth. The middle infield of Jacquie Reiser and Destinee Luna are sophomores, while Sarah Gutknecht (1B/3B), catcher Lindsey Besson, and two of MSU's three healthy pitchers (Valerie Kaff and Kristina Zalewski) are all freshmen. Four of MSU's five outfielders are juniors - Alyssa McBride, Carly Nielsen, Stephanie Sanders, and Ellie Stoffer - and left fielder Kassidy Kujawa is a first-year player.
Freshman Kassidy Kujawa was MSU's top hitter against Purdue, going 3-for-6 with a double and was hit by a pitch once.
On the season, Kujawa leads the team in batting average (.284), OBP (.407), and walks (11), while ranking second in hits (19), runs (11), doubles (5), and total bases (30), She ranks third in homers, and had a season-best six putouts in the series finale against Purdue. On the year, her fielding percentage is perfect, with 46 putouts in left field.
Alyssa McBride followed up her 3-for-5 performance at OSU by going 3-for-7 at the plate with 2 RBI and a stolen base against Purdue. She has the team's longest active hitting streak (five games) and she has also reached base in eight consecutive games, also the team's longest active streak.
In the second game at Purdue, Sarah Gutknecht went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run, and three RBI.
Gutknecht owns the team lead in hits (21), RBI (21), homers (5), doubles (6), slugging pct. (.512), plate appearances (92), and at-bats (82). She is third in batting average (.256) and walks (9).
Gutknecht has played the most positions on the field of any player on the roster. She has logged games in right field, third and first base, in addition to being the designated player. She has played all of the Big Ten season, and the most games overall, at third base.
McKinzie Freimuth and Destinee Luna have each been hit by a pitch a team-high six times, which ranks fifth in the Big Ten. Freimuth ranks 38th in the nation that category. She was injured on her most recent HBP against Marshall (March 7), which caused her to miss five games - the first games missed in her MSU career.
Stephanie Sanders continues her prowess as a pinch hitter. The junior has had 11 pinch hit appearances and is 6-for-11 (.545) with eight RBI. In the Big Ten, only Purdue's Katy McJunkin (7-for-10 (.700), 4 RBI, 1 2B) and Kelsey Susalla of Michigan (5-for-5 2 2B, 3 RBI) are at the same level of proficiency as Sanders. She hit .400 last year as a pinch hitter.
Jacquie Reiser set an MSU single-game record with four sacrifice hits in the 5-2 win over UNC-Wilmington on Feb. 21. Those four sacrifice bunts is the most by any Big Ten player in a game this season. Reiser's nine sacrifice bunts this year is the most in the Big Ten, and ranks 19th nationally.
Senior Kelly Smith has been versatile for the Spartans this season, raking eighth in appearances (20), which includes 13 starts (tied for ninth in the Big Ten) while entering seven games in relief (T-10th). Her two saves ranks fourth in the Conference.
Valerie Kaff ranks 12th in the league in innings pitched (74.1), and starts (12). Over the last seven games, she has lowered her ERA from a season high 5.73 (on Feb. 22) to 4.46. She threw 10.2 innings on Sunday against Purdue in the doubleheader.
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