DeLand, Fla.– Stetson used a four-run fourth inning to post a 5-1 victory over Michigan State in the 2014 season opener for both teams. The Spartans, who are competing in the Stetson Leadoff Classic for the fourth time in the last five seasons, will play twice on Saturday, including a second game against the host Hatters.
MSU had some opportunities on the day, stranding seven runners after failing to get timely hits. One big inning by Stetson – on home runs by pitcher Meredith Owen and second baseman Demi Meza – gave the home team a win on opening day at Patricia Wilson Field. Four Spartans each had a hit on the day, while both Kelly Smith and freshman Valerie Kaff saw time in the circle.
MSU had a promising start, as Stetson starter Meredith Owen hit back-to-back MSU batters with one out, but Kassidy Kujawa grounded out to third, and Stephanie Sanders struck out looking to strand runners at second and third.
Stetson opened the scoring in the bottom of the first, as leadoff hitter Jesse TenBroeck singled to right, then stole second. Starter Kelly Smith hit Owen, putting runners on first and second for Amanda Grimaldo. Grimaldo singled to center, sending TenBroeck home for the first run of the game. Smith got the next two batters to pop out to first and strike out looking, stranding two runners and limiting the home team to a single run.
The Spartans looked like they may get something going early in the third, as Jacquie Reiser laid down a nice bunt single, and Alyssa McBride followed that with what appeared to be a second consecutive hit for MSU. However, Reiser was called out for leaving first early, sending McBride back to the plate. McBride struck out on the ensuing pitch, and McKinzie Freimuth grounded out to second to end the inning.
Senior Sarah Bowling led off the top of the fourth with a double to right, and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Kujawa. After Stephanie Sanders reached on an error, Dana Briggs entered to pinch-run for Bowling and Shanin Thomas came to the plate with runners at the corners. Thomas’ sacrifice fly to left plated Briggs, but the Spartan threat ended when Lindsey Besson grounded out to the pitcher to allow the Hatters out of the inning with just one run allowed.
Stetson secured its win in the bottom of the fifth, as the top of the order came to the plate. TenBroeck earned a bunt single, and Chrissy Morello followed with an infield single. With two on and no outs, Smith was relieved in the circle by Kaff, facing her opposing pitcher Owen. Owen hit a 3-2 pitch over the right-field wall for a three-run homer to retake the lead, and two batters later Meza hit hers over the left-field wall. After Kayla Drury followed that with a single to left, Kaff retired the next two batters to end the inning.
MSU looked to threaten again in the top of the sixth, as Destinee Luna knocked a two-out single to right to advance Sanders, who was hit by a pitch, to third base. Pinch hitter Sarah Gutknecht, hitting for Lindsey Besson, grounded to short to allow the Hatters to get the force-out at second to end the MSU threat. In the seventh, Owen struck out the first two batters and retired Freimuth with a flyout to left to end the game.
Smith went four innings, allowing four hits and three earned runs with six strikeouts; in Kaff’s first collegiate outing, she allowed three hits and two earned runs and struck out one. For Stetson, Owen scattered four hits while striking out eight, but hit three batters.
The Spartans will be back in action on Saturday with a pair of games. MSU plays the University of Rhode Island at 1:30, and faces off with the Hatters again at 6:30 p.m.