The senior Lady Spartans took the field at Secchia Stadium for their final time on Sunday. The five seniors, four players and Bryan Rourke, four-year student manager,were joined by their family members on the field to be honored for their contribution to the program over their collegiate years. The seniors gathered with their family members to create an unforgettable moment singing the fight song together for the final time on their home field.
Senior, Emma Fernandez was escorted on the back of her brother with her parents at her side with the goal to make sure the day was fun rather than something to be upset about.
“Senior day is awesome…Four years of hard work, 17 years of playing softball that ends at one of the best stadiums you could ask for…these are the people you have gone through everything with, all the teammates you have been with for four years. To see that it comes to an end is kind of a bummer.”
MSU coach Jacquie Joseph ensured all four seniors saw the field in their final game. Kelly Smith started at the mound while fellow senior, Sarah Bowling pinch hit in her place. In the top of the fifth, Dana Briggs entered at center field, followed by Fernandez’ entrance three batters later as catcher for the inning.
Nebraska’s offense got started early with second baseman Haley Decker’s home run. With the Spartans unable to respond, the Cornhuskers had a 1-0 lead at the end of the first.
In the second inning, the Spartan defense responded with freshman Kassidy Kujawa chasing down a foul ball in left field to send Nebraska’s Kat Woolman back to the dugout. The Spartans sent the Cornhuskers back to get their gloves after Nebraska’s Dawna Tyson hit a line drive straight to third baseman Sarah Gutknecht.
Nebraska pitcher Tatum Edwards sent MSU’s Destinee Luna back to the dugout on her 500th career strikeout in the bottom of the second. The score remained at 1-0 with the Spartan offense unable to round the bases.
Chants of “Go Big Red” filled the stadium in the top of the third when Edwards sent the ball out of the park with her 11thhome run of the season, bringing the score to 4-0.
The fourth inning was straight to the point for Nebraska, with catcher Taylor Edwards’ RBI in the top and a double play to end the inning in the bottom, making the score 5-0.
The score grew to 6-0, with Woolman’s double in the top of the fifth. The Huskers left a runner on with Jacquie Reiser’s catch at second to end Nebraska’s at bat. In the bottom of the fifth, the Spartans had the bases loaded with two outs with MSU’s Lindsey Besson up to bat, but she went down swinging.
In the top of the sixth, Huskers Austen Urness and MJ Knighten had back-to-back RBIs to increase their lead to 8-0 over the Spartans. With the Spartans unable to have anyone round the bases, the game ended in a mercy.
Although it was senior day for the Lady Spartans, Nebraska senior Edwards, held Michigan State to two hits, stealing the show, to lead her team to 8-0 victory.
Despite what seems to be a tough loss, the Spartans took this loss with their heads held high. They believed they played one of their best defensive games of the season, leaving a boost of confidence as the season winds down and the Big Ten Tournament approaches.
“People are starting to want to get up, people are getting their confidence and that’s good going into the tournament that way. We can still get a regional berth winning the tournament, so there’s still life left,” Fernandez said.
The Spartans will face Northwestern in a three-game series starting May 2 in Evanston, Ill. for one last conference series before the Big Ten Tournament begins on May 8.
Nicole Daniel is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Hannah McEnroe/Impact Sports