MSU’s first game at the Littlewood Classic vs Northern Iowa was a wild offensive affair, with the teams combining for 23 hits and 22 runs in a 13-9 win for UNI.
A a six-run inning for the Panthers in the top of the fifth gave them some breathing room, with a12-4 lead and an opportunity to end the game early on a run rule. However, MSU batted around in the home half of the frame to score five runs to cut it to 12-9, and MSU pushed until the final out.
MSU got a 3-for-4 performance with a grand slam from freshman Celeste Wood and a solo homer from Kassidy Kujawa. Both teams used four pitchers as the hits piled up on both sides of the scoreboard. Caitlin Wnek and Courtney Kroedinger each had three hits for the Panthers, who are now 8-2 on the year. MSU is 4-2 headed into the nightcap vs. No. 17 Arizona State.
“That much offense is fun for the fans, but we have to shore up some things both pitching-wise and defensively so that those big innings give us a lead, not just get us back into games. I’m obviously happy that our bats responded when our backs were up against the wall, but it’s important for us to get all the elements of our game firing at the same time. “
— Head Coach Jacquie Joseph
Celeste Wood went 3-for-4 at the plate, with four RBI on her first career home run, a grand slam in the fifth. McKenzie Long , Lea Foerster, and Kassidy Kujawa each had a pair of hits for the Spartans on the night as they compiled a season-best 12 hits. Kassidy Kujawa hit her first home run of the season and finished the game 2-for-3 with an RBI. It was her 15th career round-tripper Lindsey Besson had a double with two RBI in the third to cap a two-out rally, Kristina Zalewski got the start, and went 3.1 innings with five strikeouts and two walks, surrendering five runs, all earned. She re-entered in the fifth, and gave up just three hits and struck out two others
STATS AND STORYLINES
MSU tied its season best with 11 hits,. UNI left nine runners on base, while MSU stranded six.
Zalewki struck out the side in the top of the first, including two K’s looking. It was the third time in her last four innings pitched that she had struck out the side.
UNI took the game’s first lead in the top of the third. a leadoff single and a walk put two on for Brittney Kroedinger, who reached on a fielder’s choice and allowed hern sister, Courtney, to score on the ensuing error for a 1-0 lead. Chelsea Ross singled to bring home two more, but Zalewski worked out of the jam (including the third out on a strikeout looking) and stranded two runners.
MSU staged a two-out rally in the bottom of the third. McKenzie Long singled and moved to second on a throwing error, and Lea Foerster brought her home with a single to left to cut the UNI lead to 3-1. Sarah Gutknecht kept the rally going with a single to right, putting runners at the corners; Besson then doubled to left center to bring both home and knot the game 3-3.
Back-to-back doubles in the top of the fourth gave the Panthers back a 4-3 lead; after a walk to put a pair of runners on with one out, Bridgette Rainey came in and hit consecutive batters to bring across the fifth UNI run, then a sac fly brought home the sixth run with two outs. Rainey got out of the spot with a strikeout, sending MSU to the bottom of the fourth trailing 6-3.
For the second straight inning, the Spartans rallied in the bottom of the fourth with two outs, as Kassidy Kujawa launched a two-out solo shot over the wall in left center. It was the first of the season and 15th of her career, moving her into a tie for ninth place in the career annals with Patti Raduenz.
With two on and none out in the top of the fifth, Celeste Wood came in for Rainey, and gave up a single and grand slam, pushing UNI’s lead to 10-4. Rainey was tagged for three earned runs after walking two and hitting three. Three walks later, an RBI single to center scored two more to make it a 12-4 contest, and Zalewski re-entered to take over pitching duties again. She got out of the inning without further damage, but the Spartans still trailed by eight.
MSU’s offense kept the Spartans in the game, loading the bases in the bottom of the fifth with one out. A Foerster single – her second of the night – started the rally, and Gutknecht reached on an error to put runners at the corners. Besson was hit by a pitch to load the bases, leaving a big opportunity for Wood. She siezed the opportunity, and jacked her first career home run – a grand slam – to make it a 12-8 ballgame. MSU loaded the bases once again, as Luna reached on a bunt single, Shanin Thomas walked, and Kujawa singled to left for a big opportunity for freshman Ebonee Echols. Echols worked a walk out of her at-bat, plating the fifth run of the inning for MSU and leaving the bases loaded for Long, the ninth batter of the inning. An attempted steal of home was the second out of the frame, and Long lined out to third to end the inning.
With two on and none out in the top of the seventh, a pair of fielder’s choice kept two runs off the board when Long threw out two runners at home. A sac fly brought home a 13th run, but Zalewski got a groundout to end the inning.
Wood ripped a single up the left field line to lead off the seventh, but Jordan Davis hit into a double play to empty the bases. Kaitlyn Eveland was hit by a pitch to bring Kujawa back to the plate, but she popped out to end the game.