April 27, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State softball team will stay on the road this weekend when it travels to Lincoln, Neb. The Spartans and the Cornhuskers face off in a double-header on Saturday (April 28) that begins at 2 p.m. ET and continues at 4 p.m. The series wraps up on Sunday (April 29) at 2 p.m. and will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
"Nebraska is new to the Big Ten, but they aren't new to me or the softball world," said head coach Jacquie Joseph. "Nebraska is a nationally respected and competitive team, but if we can keep the game close and put ourselves in a position to score, then we will be alright."
This weekend's series will mark the first time MSU and Nebraska meet as Big Ten foes and only the third overall matchup between the schools. Michigan State trails the all-time record 2-0 after falling 4-3 in a nine-inning heartbreak with the Cornhuskers in 1997.
Last Time Out...
The Spartans took a break from Big Ten action and headed to Notre Dame, Ind. on Tuesday (April 24) to face the Fighting Irish. A third-inning setback allowed Notre Dame to claim a 7-1 victory over MSU.
Senior Ali Grant led the Michigan State offense against the Fighting Irish. The Lutz, Fla. native was two for three at the plate and scored MSU's only run of the game after notching a lead-off double. Sophomore Cassee Layne was in the circle for the majority of the game after relieving junior Shelby Wise in the third inning. Layne struck out one batter and only allowed one hit to the Fighting Irish, keeping Notre Dame scoreless for 3.2 innings.
Spartan Scouting Report...
Atop the MSU offense is Kylene Hopkins, who leads the team in batting average (.403), hits (52), doubles (12), RBI (20), walks (19) and on base percentage (.483). The junior center-fielder is in a 13 game hitting streak and has reached base in 19 straight outings. Hopkins and senior Lori Padilla have each tabbed 13 multiple hit games while sophomore Sarah Bowling has had six multiple RBI games. Padilla leads the team in runs with 28 scored and owns a .336 batting average.
Carly Nielsen tops the team in earned run average and innings pitched with a 5.72 ERA and 111.1 innings in the circle. Sophomore Cassee Layne owns the most strikeouts on the MSU pitching staff with 64 Ks. Layne has a 6.89 ERA in 108.2 innings pitched.
Michigan State is currently 11-34 on the season and 0-15 in the Big Ten.
Scouting the Cornhuskers...
Nebraska enters competition against Michigan State with a 29-18 overall and 10-5 conference record. Heading the offense for the Cornhuskers is Gabby Banda, who is batting .364 and has 30 RBI on 55 hits.
Ashley Hagemann leads Nebraska in the circle with a 2.58 ERA. Hagemann is 21-14 on the season and has struck out 282 batters in 228.1 innings of work.
Big Ten Rankings...
As a team, Michigan State is in the top six of the conference in as many categories. The Spartans are tied for first in saves with four and third in fielding double plays with 15. MSU sits in fifth place in steal attempts (53) and triples (6) and is tied for fifth in stolen bases (39) and sacrifice bunts (31).
As of Thursday (April 26), there are several Spartans ranking in the top of the Big Ten individual standings. Leading the league in games finished (13), games in relief (18) and saves (3) is Carly Nielsen. The freshman is also fifth in appearances (35) while senior Rebecca Rogers is second in games finished (12) and fourth for games in relief (14). Junior Shelby Wise is the third pitcher for MSU to rank in the top three as she sits in second place in the Big Ten for games in relief with 17. With 11 double plays, freshman McKinzie Freimuth is tied for fourth in that category. The first baseman is also sixth in the conference in putouts with a team-high 276.
Offensively, junior Kylene Hopkins boasts the third-best batting average in the league with .403 and is tied for sixth in hits (52) and doubles (12). Senior Ali Grant has tabbed three sacrifice flies this year, which ties her for third in the Big Ten.
Michigan State will return to East Lansing, Mich. when it hosts non-conference foe Western Michigan on Thursday (May 3) at 5 p.m. ET. The Spartans will return to Big Ten action when they take on Northwestern at home next weekend. The three-game series begins with a double-header on Saturday (May 5) at 1 p.m. and continues on Sunday (May 6) at 1 p.m.