East Lansing, Mich. — Michigan State staked a 5-0 lead early in Tuesday night’s contest at Florida Atlantic, but committed six errors in the balance of the game and fell, 6-5, to the host Owls in eight innings. MSU is now 5-11 on the year, which includes three extra-inning losses. Florida Atlantic improves to 12-8 overall, with four of its 12 wins coming over Big Ten teams.
The Owls were far from perfect on the night, despite rallying for the victory. The home team collected nine hits, left 11 on base, and committed three errors of their own, while Owls starter Amanda Wilson lasted just three innings, allowing three hits and all five runs, four of them earned.
Shanin Thomas homered for MSU, while junior Stephanie Sanders delivered a RBI pinch hit double in the third inning to help build to a 5-0 lead. Starter Valerie Kaff went four innings, allowing five hits and leaving with a 5-2 lead. Kelly Smith relived the freshman in the top of the fifth, and allowed four runs on four hits, striking out two. Five of MSU’s six errors came in the final four innings, and neither MSU pitcher surrendered an earned run.
MSU opened the scoring in the top of the second, when Thomas launched a 3-2 pitch over the right-field wall for her second homer of the season. After Kassidy Kujawa flew out, Alyssa McBride reached on an error, stole second, and advanced to third on another FAU error. With Destinee Luna at the plate, the shortstop reached on another FAU error – the third of the inning for the home team – which plated McBride. Freimuth lined out to center to end the inning, but the Spartans took full advantage of the Owl miscues to take a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the second.
Melissa Martinez led off the FAU half of the second with a single down the right-field line, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Shelby Knox. Kaff struck out both Jordan Stovall and Carnesha Thompson to strand Martinez at second base and end the inning.
MSU added to its lead in the top of the third. Amanda Wilson issued a one-out walk to Gutknecht, retired Besson on a popup to short, then walked both Thomas and Kujawa to load the bases. Joseph brought in pinch hitter Sanders, who lined a two-out double to right center to empty the bases and give the Spartans a 5-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, a bunt single by Shell and a walk to Melissa Martinez gave FAU runners at first and second. Knox then reached on an error by Gutknecht to load the bases; however, Kaff stood tall, striking out Stovall swinging for the first out, but Thompson followed with a sacrifice fly to left to plate two runs and cut the MSU lead to 5-2. Mickey Bell singled to put runners at the corners for the Owls, but Kaff got out of the jam by getting Spack to fly out to center.
In the home half of the fifth, the home team looked to cut further into the lead. Kelly Smith relieved Kaff in the circle and got the first two outs, but back-to-back MSU errors put runners on the corners for the Owls. Smith got Knox to fly out to right to end the threat, preserving MSU’s three-run lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Stovall reached base on an error and advanced to second, and two batters later Bell singled up the middle to plate one run. Spack reached on an error by Gutknecht, forcing in a second run, but Smith countered when she got Herb to pop out for the second out of the inning. Christina Martinez doubled down the left field line to score Spack, allowing the Owls to tie the game. After a walk to Shell, Smith retired Marissa Martinez to get out of the inning, but not before the damage had been done, as the teams headed into the seventh inning knotted 5-5.
Meanwhile, FAU pitcher Messer did not allow a hit to the Spartans over the balance of the game, and despite 12 of the 15 batters she faced making contact, Messer did not allow a baserunner and created the opportunity for FAU to get back in the game.
Knox led off the bottom of the seventh with a walk, and Delaney Rickey advanced pinch runner Sarah Howell to second with a sacrifice bunt. Thompson then lined out to right to move Howell to third base with two outs. Bell, who had two hits in her previous at-bats, came to the plate with a chance to win the game on a walkoff, but Smith was up to the task and got Bell to go down swinging and send the game to extra innings.
Messer continued her mastery of the Spartan lineup into the top of the eighth, sending down the order to bring the home team to the plate. Spack smacked a leadoff double to left, and Herb followed with a single to put runners on the corners. Christina Martinez laid down a sacrifice bunt, and a throwing error allowed Spack to score the winning run.
The Spartans are back in action on Thursday evening, with a game at Florida International on the docket. Game time is 5 p.m.