Spartans answer the bell with much-needed conference win

A walk-off sacrifice fly from Kelly Zachrison propels MSU over Maryland in game two

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Spartans answer the bell with much-needed conference win

Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Photo: MSU Athletic Communications

Nathan Stearns, General Assignment Reporter

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EAST LANSING, Mich. – For all of those in attendance on Saturday at Secchia Stadium, the start of the second contest in this three-game weekend set with Maryland reeked of something out of the movie “Groundhog day.’’ The similarities between this game and the one last night were uncanny.  

Maryland answered the bell first, but was unable to keep MSU from scoring a run, as both teams were able to score with ease. Despite both teams throwing haymakers, the Green and White, led by starting pitcher McKenna Gregory, were able to get the last laugh and pick up a crucial in conference win by a final score of 8-7 in dramatic walk-off fashion.

BOX SCORE: MSU 8, Maryland 7

“I think it’s really important for our confidence to know that when we get down we can always come back,” Gregory said.  “I wanted to do it for my team so they didn’t always have to come back from so deep. I wanted to put it on myself.’’

McKenna Gregory/MSU Athletic Communications

In an eerily similar fashion to last night, the Terps got out of the gate quickly en route to a five-run first inning. Also not unlike last night, the Spartans responded in remarkable fashion by scratching across a run in the bottom half of the first.

After the Terps pushed across another run in the top of the third, State responded to this adversity by tying the taking the lead, courtesy of back-to-back home runs from Caitie Ladd and Kaitlyn Eveland.

Their one run advantage would not last for long, as Brashear would bring home her battery mate, Jojo McRae as a result of a gap-splitting double that rolled to the left field wall in the top of the fourth. Leah Shipp, who pitched 1.2 innings last night, was able to get out of the inning with minimal damage allowed.

Stefan led off the fifth with a frozen rope that squeaked out of the park and gave the College Park visitors the one-run advantage.

Once again, the Spartans knocked on the door of retaking the lead in this back and forth affair, but after loading the bases again with one out, they were unable to blow the door down.

After holding Maryland scoreless in the top half of the seventh, MSU was able to get two on with nobody out. After consecutive outs, Caitie Ladd hit a soft fly ball that landed over the head of Bailey Boyd and drove in the game tying run. This marked her third hit and fourth RBI of the game.

“I was just trying really hard to stay calm and see the ball and get the job done for our pitchers,” Ladd said. “They work really hard out there and I thought we did a lot better job today having their backs on the field and at bat.”

After working out of a jam in the top of the seventh, Gregory and crew went back into the dugout and ended up coming close to ending the game in walk-off fashion. After loading the bases with no outs, the Green and White were unable to push across the winning run.

Gregory pitched a quick top of the eighth, as she retired the Terrapins’ lineup in order. After pitching six solid innings of three earned runs, the Spartans were determined to give her a much-deserved win.

Ebonee Echols drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ladd. Once again, the host team had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs.

Unlike previous innings, this time MSU was able to capitilze on Maryland pitching mistakes. In fitting fashion, Zackrison ripped a walk-off sacrifice fly that allowed for Echols to sprint home.

Kelly Zachrison (left)/MSU Athletic Communications

When asked about how it felt to be honored as a senior before the game and hit the walk-off knock for her family, Zackrison was understandably jubilated. She was also quick to give props to Ebbs for scoring on her shallow fly ball.

“Ebbs scored on third on that shallow fly ball, so props to her speed.”

MSU improves to 13-22 and 2-6 in conference with the win, while Maryland drops back to .500 (18-18) on the season and 2-6 in conference . The Spartans collected eight runs on 12 hits, while also committing three errors during the duration of the game. Maryland finished  with seven runs on 16 hits.

Coach Joseph and crew will be looking to win the weekend series when they take the diamond for the rubber match Sunday at 1 p.m.