SPARTANS CRUISE WITH 7-0 VICTORY OVER HOOSIERS IN EAST LANSING
East Lansing, Mich. - Several weeks ago, in home games against highly regarded Northwestern and nationally-ranked Illinois, Indiana was playing its finest softball of the season. The past few weeks, however, have not been kind to the Hoosiers and today was no different as three Indiana errors led to five unearned runs in Michigan State's, 7-0 victory at the Old College Field. The two teams return to action at 1:00 p.m. EDT/noon EST Saturday.
Leading 2-0 after 3 1/2 innings, Michigan State (31-14 overall, 9-5 Big Ten) scored four unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to extend its lead to 6-0. Back-to-back errors by Indiana shortstop Heather Suca and leftfielder Abby Stark set the stage for a three-run double by Michigan State senior centerfielder Sandy Lewis with one out in the inning that cleared the bases and pushed across the final three runs of the stanza, essentially sealing the game.
Michigan State junior Jessica Beech (21-6) entered today's game with a 0.99 earned run average in 31 appearances, while allowing only 106 hits in 170.0 innings pitched. She had struck out 174 batters. While the Hoosiers did record five hits, Beech did not allow an earned run and struck out 10 Hoosier hitters. The shutout was Beech's 11th of the season.
Indiana junior Heather Stillians (8-15), who did not pitch as poorly as the final score indicated, pitched six innings and allowed seven hits and two earned runs in 6.0 innings pitched. She walked one and struck out two. Offensively, Stark led the Hoosiers with two hits. Lewis was 2-for-4 with four RBI for the Spartans.
After Beech retired Valerie White, Heather Suca, and Stormy Hanson all on strikes and in order in the top of the first, the Spartans secured a 1-0 lead on the bottom half of the inning. Stillians walked Beech, the MSU leadoff hitter, to begin the top of the first inning and, with one out, first baseman Natalie Furrow tripled over Katie Joy's head in center to score Beech from first.
The Spartans extended their lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the second. With two outs, leftfielder Angel Merren singled. Shortstop Margaret Schick followed with a bunt that Stillians fielded cleanly. Her throw to first, however, pulled second baseman Ashley Griffiths off of the bag at first. With runners now at first and second, Beech singled to score Merren from second.
White hit a two-out double to right field in the top of the third inning but the Hoosiers did not score as Beech struck out Suca looking for the final out of the inning.
After Stillians retired the side in the top in the bottom of the third inning, Indiana looked as if it might cut into the Spartan lead in the top of the fourth but a base-running error proved costly. With one out, Stark singled to left field. After a pop out, Stark advanced to second on a wild pitch. Stillians followed with a single to shortstop that Schick threw into the dirt at first base but Furrow came up with the ball. On the play, Stark rounded the third base bag to far and was caught in a rundown and was ultimately tagged out on the play.
Defensive miscues by the Hoosiers blew the game wide open in the bottom of the fourth as the Spartans scored four unearned runs. Catcher Lacy Hauxhurst led off the inning reaching on an error by Suca. Hurtado followed with a line drive to left that was dropped by Stark, who was immediately removed from the game by first-year head coach Sara Hayes. With runners at first and second, Merren dropped down a sacrifice bunt attempt but Kristine Dugan's throw to third base to cut down the lead runner was late. Now with the bases loaded, Schick reached on an infield single that scored Hauxhurst to push the MSU lead to 3-0. After the first out of the inning was retired at home plate on a fielder's choice, Lewis tripled over Joy's head in center to clear the bases.
Michigan State added a lone run in the bottom of the sixth on a run-scoring triple by Lewis and Beech retired the side in order in the top of the seventh to end the game.