Spartans walk-off against Buckeyes on Senior Day

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EAST LANSING, Mich.—It was a thrilling offensive showcase at Secchia Stadium on senior day as Michigan State (24-17, 7-9 B1G) beat No. 25 Ohio State (27-13, 10-6 B1G) 7-6. The Spartans walked-off against the Buckeyes in the bottom of the seventh thanks to a two-out-single by Ebonee Echols.

“It is just a great, great day for us,” said head coach Jacquie Joseph. “We found a way to win in a small-ball game on Friday, and today we won in a slugfest. We are finding different ways to win, and that is the key.”

The game started by honoring senior first baseman Sarah Gutknecht, who was playing in her 187th game. Gutknecht also ranks in the top 25 for hits and top five for home runs and RBIs in Michigan State history.

“There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I would not trade any of the experiences for the world,” said Gutknecht. “The people that I have met and the coaches that I have had, and getting this opportunity is a once in a lifetime chance, and I am so grateful that I have had it.”

Michigan State jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first thanks to a double from Kaitlyn Eveland. Ohio State managed to pull one run back in the top half of the second before Michigan State responded with two more runs on the bottom of the third.

Then there was an offensive explosion by Ohio State in the fourth and fifth innings. By the middle of the fifth Ohio State had scored five runs to make the score 6-4 in their favor. They had chased Spartan starting pitcher Bridgette Rainey, and looked to be in the driver’s seat.

However, Michigan State responded with two runs of their own in the bottom of the fifth. A two-out, two-RBI single from Kelly Zackrisson meant that both teams were tied with six runs each.

“We just keep fighting,” said Gutknecht. “That has been the motto all season. Just getting that one hit. It is all about creating offense and sticking by that process.”

Michigan State reliever Jordan Watson came in and pitched two scoreless innings, setting up the Spartans for a grandstand finish in the bottom of the seventh.

Three of the first four Spartan batters reached base safely, putting pressure on Ohio State’s pitching. After a pitching change saw Shelby Hursh replace Morgan Ray for Ohio State, the bases remained loaded with one out.

After Melanie Baccay popped out to the second baseman, Echols stepped to the plate with two outs.

“I was a little nervous, I am not going to lie,” said Echols. “But my coaches prepared me and kept faith in me, even when I was struggling. I just had to have confidence in myself and come through for my team.”

With a full count she rifled a single up the middle of the infield, bringing in Kelcey Carrasco for the winning run.

“I knew it was a good hit,” said Echols. “I just didn’t know if she (the Ohio State shortstop) was going to get over there.  So I was praying that it would get through, and when it did I was like, ‘Okay, we are good’.”

It was a very different win from the 3-2 pitching duel between the two teams in Friday’s matchup. The win also sets up a potential sweep for Michigan State, who remain undefeated at Secchia Stadium.

“Hopefully Z(alewski) will be ready for tomorrow,” said Joseph. “We know that they (Ohio State) will throw the kitchen sink at us tomorrow, and we just have to keep battling and put ourselves in a position to win the game.”

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