Spartan offense frustrated by Hoosiers, lose 5-1

EAST LANSING, Mich. – After a three-hour rain delay, Michigan State (13-18, 1-5 B1G) finally faced off against Indiana (13-21, 6-0 B1G) in the final game of their weekend series. It was the Hoosiers who won 5-1, completing the three-game sweep and leaving Secchia Stadium with an undefeated record in the Big Ten.

“We’re in the games, we are right there, but the difference between winning and losing is so small and your older kids have to show up and get big hits when we need them. We are just not doing that,” said Michigan State head coach Jacquie Joseph.

It was another frustrating day for the Michigan State offense. The Spartans left 19 runners on base across the double-header yesterday and that trend continued as they left another eight stranded on Saturday.

“If you noticed, we had a lot of kids with a lot of at-bats. It’s consistency that is the problem,” said Joseph. “And it’s kids not really buying into the team concept and team offense. We are not moving runners, which is stuff we normally do.”

The first scoring opportunity for either team came in the second inning when Michigan State loaded the bases. However, the Spartans could not capitalize with Katie Quinlan grounding out to shortstop Sarah Galovich to end the inning.

Indiana would take a 1-0 lead in the top of the third. Gabbi Jenkins hit a triple to left-center field and was driven in by Rebecca Blitz, who hit a seeing-eye single in between third base and shortstop.

Michigan State responded in the bottom half of the inning to tie the score 1-1 after McKenzie Long drove in Lea Foerster with a two-out double.

It did not take long for Indiana to regain the lead. With two outs Sarah Galovich blasted a two-run homerun over the right field wall, making it 3-1 Hoosiers. It could have been worse for Michigan State had Foerster not made a diving catch in center field, robbing Taylor Lambert of an extra-base hit.

“Their leadoff hitter did what she needed to do, she sparks their whole offense,” said Joseph. “And their six hitter hit a two-run bomb. They (Indiana) are feeling themselves right now. They have a new coach and they are playing with a lot of passion. We needed to match that and we didn’t.”

One of the few bright spots today for Michigan State was starter Jordan Watson. Watson had a career-high five strikeouts through four innings of work and kept the Spartans within striking distance.

“I think Jordan pitched an awesome game through the fourth,” said Michigan State pitcher Bridgette Rainey who relieved Watson in the fifth inning. “She did a really good job at keeping the hitters off balance and I am really proud of her.”

Indiana extended their lead to 4-1 in the top of the fifth. Katie Lacefield hit a double that was nearly caught by Michigan State’s left fielder Ebonee Echols, scoring Jenkins from second. It could had been 5-1 in favor of Indiana had Blitz not been thrown out at the plate.

Kaitlyn Eveland doubled in the bottom of the fifth with two outs, but Michigan State could not bring her home. It was a frustrating day for Michigan State’s offense, as they left eight runners on base.

It was more of the same for Michigan State in the bottom of the seventh as the Spartans managed to get two base runners, but could not bring them in.

“I think we have a great hitting team,” said Rainey. “We just have to show out in one of these upcoming games. We are getting our runners in good positions, we just have to finish it off. We are gonna have to continue to play our game, respect the game, respect our opponent and just do what we do best.”

Michigan State will have a few days off before their next game. The Spartans’ next game is at home Tuesday, Apr. 3 at 4 p.m. against Notre Dame.