Spartans Fall Late in Both Games at FAU Invite

MSU drops games to Marshall (2-1) and FAU (4-2, 8 inn.)  Photo courtesy of MSU SID MSU drops games to Marshall (2-1) and FAU (4-2, 8 inn.) Photo courtesy of MSU SID

East Lansing, Mich. -  Michigan State had a rough opening day at the Florida Atlantic Tournament, falling 2-1 in the opener to Marshall and dropping an eight-inning heartbreaker to FAU in the nightcap.  MSU falls to 5-13 and has lost five straight, with the last three coming in either extra innings or a team’s final at-bat.

MSU’s freshmen pitchers each went the distance today and taking the losses despite overall strong outings, as Valerie Kaff started against Marshall and Kristina Zalewski drew her first collegiate start and pitched the full eight innings against Florida Atlantic.

MSU wraps up its spring break trip on Saturday with back-to-back games against Hofstra (9 a.m.) and Virginia Tech (11:15 a.m.).

Marshall 2, Michigan State 1
Box Score:

The Spartans dropped another heartbreaker, as Savanah Webster lined a two-out double to plate the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to give Marshall a 2-1 victory over MSU.

The Spartans once again struggled with timely hitting, stranding seven runners in the first three innings and nine overall in the game.  Freshman Kassidy Kujawa stroked singles in each of her first two at-bats, snapping a 0-for-17 streak at the plate.  She and classmate Lindsey Besson each had a pair of hits on the day.  Meanwhile, Stephanie Sanders led off the seventh inning with a pinch-hit single, the fourth for the junior in seven pinch-hit at-bats.

Valerie Kaff went the distance for MSU, scattering seven hits and striking out three.  She falls to 3-6 on the year.  Marshall starter Jordan Dixon went four innings, surrendering the Spartan run on seven hits and hitting two batters.  Linsdsey Fadnek came in and closed it out for the Herd, allowing just two hits and striking out two.

The day started with promise for MSU, as McKinzie Freimuth drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a two-out single by Besson.  However, Dixon got Shanin Thomas to pop out to second to end the MSU threat.

The Herd was able to get on the board in its half of the first, as Kaelynn Greene laid down a bunt single and advanced to second on a throwing error.   Morgan Zerkle advanced Greene to third on a sacrifice bunt, but Kaff got Savannah Webster to ground out for the second out of the inning.    Raquel
Escareno singled to right to plate Greene, and  Shaelynn Braxton’s single to right gave Marshall runners at the corners with two out for Lucas, but Kaff got her to ground out back to the mound to get out of the inning with just a 1-0 deficit.

The Spartans had something going in the top of the second, as Kujawa led off with a single through the left side to break up her personal hitless streak.  Dixon got the next two batters swinging (her only strikeouts of the day), but then hit Destinee Luna, putting runners at first and second.  Freimuth came up with a two-out single to load the bases, but Carly Nielsen grounded out to third to end the inning.

MSU left two more batters in the top of the third, after Besson and Kujawa added their second hits of the day.  However, MSU rallied back to knot the game in the top of the fourth.  Freimuth was hit by a pitch with two outs in the inning, and Carly Nielsen doubled to left to score pinch runner Emma Fernandez.  Sarah Gutknecht followed with a single to center, but Nielsen was gunned down at the plate to end the inning for MSU.

Fadnek replaced Dixon in the circle in the fifth, and retired the Spartans in order for the first time on the afternoon.  Meanwhile, Kaff was efficiently getting out of innings, retiring the side in order in both the fifth and sixth.

Stephanie Sanders came in to pinch hit in the top of the seventh, and delivered her fourth pinch hit in seven at-bats, and then was sacrificed over to second by Nielsen.  After Fadnek got Gutknecht out swinging, Besson lined out to second to end the MSU threat.

Marshall’s first baserunner since the fourth inning came in the bottom of the seventh.  Emileigh Cooper laid down a one-out bunt single in the bottom of the seventh, stole second, and advanced to third on a Greene bunt single.  After Greene advanced to second, Zerkle reached on a fielder’s choice, as third baseman Shanin Thomas gunned down Cooper at the plate.  That still left runners on the corners for Webster, who doubled to center to plate the winning run.

Florida Atlantic 4, Michigan State 2
Box Score:

The Spartans dropped their fifth straight game,  and third straight heartbreaker, with a 4-2 loss to Florida Atlantic in eight innings on Friday to cap the day.  A pair of doubles in the top of the eighth helped the Owls produce three runs to break the game open, and MSU’s rally in the bottom of the inning fell short.  Kristina Zalewski earned her first collegiate start, going the distance and scattering seven hits.  The freshman, who ranked second in the Big Ten in both relief appearances (6) and games finished (6) heading into the weekend games, had pitched a combined 10 innings in her previous six appearances this season.

MSU played its fourth extra-inning game of the season, and it was the sixth game of the season that was decided either in extras or in the final at-bat.  MSU lost to Florida Atlantic on Tuesday by a 6-5 score in extra innings, as the Owls rallied from a 5-0 deficit thanks in large part to six Spartan errors.

FAU got going right from the start, as Whitley Herb led off with a single up the middle and advanced to second on groundout by Christina Martinez.  Lindsey Shell followed with an infield single to advance Herb to third, and cleanup hitter Melissa Martinez walked to load the bases.  Shelby Knox hit a sacrifice fly to bring Herb home and give the Owls a 1-0 lead, but Camesha Thompson flied out to center to end the FAU threat.

In the Spartan half of the inning, Carly Nielsen reached base after she struck out, but outran the throw to first after the passed ball on the third strike.  Alyssa McBride moved Nielsen to second when she grounded out to short, and Gutknecht fouled out to the right fielder to end the inning.

In the top of the second, Zalewski issued a one-out walk to Jordan Stovall, who advanced to third two batters later when Herb reached base on an error to put runners at the corners.  Christina Martinez came to the plate for FAU, but grounded out to second to end the inning without any further damage.

FAU put MSUs leadoff runner on base in the bottom of the inning when Hanson hit Besson on an 0-2 pitch.  Kujawa advanced Besson to second with a long foul ball to left that was snagged on an impressive play by the left fielder Shell, leaving Sanders at the plate with the runner on second.  Sanders hit a comebacker to the pitcher for the end of the inning.

Zalewski retired the Owls in just four batters in the top of the third, and MSU again got the leadoff batter on base in the bottom of the inning, as Bowling pinch-hit for Reiser and singled to left. Destinee Luna moved her over to second with a sacrifice bunt, and pinch hitter Ellie Stoffer stepped in and delivered a two-out double to left center, scoring Bowling to knot the score at 1-1.  Gutknecht lined out to close out the inning, but MSU got the equalizer and the teams headed to the fourth inning tied.

Zalewski gained confidence as the innings went on, retiring side in the fourth on six pitches, two on flyouts to center field and one a foul out into right.  She retired the side again in the fifth, and Melissa Martinez broke up a streak of seven consecutive retired batters when she led off the sixth with a double to right center.  After Knox fouled out, Thompson laced a single down the left field line, moving Martinez over to third.  Bell came to the plate with runners on the corners and just one out, but she popped up to first for the second out of the inning.  Zalewski got Jordan Stovall to fly out to center to strand both runners, and preserve the 1-1 score.

In the bottom of the sixth,  Nielsen led off and fouled off to third, but Ellie Stoffer laced a double to left center to break up Hanson’s streak of eight consecutive batters retired to give MSU a baserunner.  Sarah Gutknecht had a lengthy nine-pitch at-bat, but grounded out to third for the second out of the inning, and Lindsey Besson, who had two hits in the first game of the day, popped out to short to keep the  game knotted at one.

Zalewski came out aggressive in the 7th, getting both Kathryn Spack and  Herb to ground out on the first pitches they saw, and worked a quick 1-2 count on Christina Martinez before she got the center fielder to ground out to second.   That brought Shannon Thomas to the plate in the bottom of the inning, but she flew out to center for the first out.  Kujawa walked on a full count, but Sanders lined out to center and Sarah Bowling to left to send the game to extra innings.

To start the FAU half of the 8th, the Owls placed Christina Martinez on second, and she was promptly sacrificed over to third by Shell.  Melissa Martinez singled up the middle to plate Christina Martinez from third to take a 2-1 lead. Knox reached on a fielding error by Luna to put runners on first and second for Thompson, but she lined out to right and left runners on the corners for  Mickey Bell.  Bell smacked a double to center, emptying the bases and giving the home team a 4-1 lead.  Zalewski struck out Stovall to end the inning, but not before the home team had taken a commanding advantage.

MSU brought Luna to the plate to lead off the bottom of the 8th,with Reiser placed on second.  The shortstop lined out to center for the first out of the inning, but Reiser advanced to third on a wild pitch to Carly Nielsen.  Nielsen fought through a seven-pitch at-bat and singled to short, plating Reiser to cut the lead to 4-2.  Stoffer moved Nielsen over to second, but Gutknecht flied out to left to end the game.

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