Michigan State came up with a season-best 16 hits and blew open a tight game with a six-run seventh inning to post a 9-0 victory over Connecticut on Sunday morning at the Gamecock Invitational at South Carolina. MSU (10-8) faces the Huskies again in the third-place game of the tournament at 12:45.
Kristina Zalewski twirled a gem, striking out a season-best nine batters while scattering just three hits, two of which came in the fifth inning when she worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam. She faced just 26 batters – five over the minimum – and walked just two.
I thought that this was a really good way for us to bounce back after a tough day yesterday. Kristina Zalewskideserved the run support she got, but as it turns out, she was fantastic in her own right and really threw a great ballgame. We have some really good things going with the top of our lineup right now, and that continues to build confidence in our young team. “
– Head Coach Jacquie Joseph
Celeste Wood went 4-for-5, with four singles. Lea Foerster posted a 3-for-4 performance. Sarah Gutknecht went 3-for-4 with a fourth-inning double, her fifth of the season. Kaitlyn Eveland had a two-RBI single in the seventh to finish 1-for-3, and classmate Ebonee Echols finished 1-for-2 with a two-RBI triple in the same inning. Kristina Zalewski was masterful, scattering three hits and striking out a season-best nine batters, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth when UConn had two of it’s three hits.
STATS AND STORYLINES
The Spartans greeted UConn starter Jill Stockley with three consecutive singles in the top of the first inning, going to the left side (Foerster), center (Long) and right field (Wood). However, all three were stranded as Stockley worked out of the jam with two strikeouts and a groundout. She extended her “bend, don’t break” strategy through four innings, as MSU had six hits and a baserunner in every frame, but all were stranded.
Michigan State finally broke through in the top of the fifth. Lea Foerster led off with a single through the left side, and one out later, Wood followed suit to leave two runners on for Sarah Gutknecht. Gutknecht laced a single up the middle, scoring Foerster. Stockley hit pinch hitter Lexi White to load the bases, and Jordan Davisstepped in as a pinch hitter. She reached on a fielder’s choice, but a throwing error allowed and Gutknecht to score after Wood was thrown out at the plate. A wild pitch plated Eveland, who re-entered for White, for a 3-0 lead. A leadoff double, walk, and infield single loaded the bases for UConn in the bottom of the fourth, as the Huskies looked to counter MSU’s three runs in the top of the frame. Kelli Bates grounded into a fielder’s choice, as Echols threw out Lexi Gifford at the plate for the second out. Taylor Townsend grounded into a fielder’s choice at second, as Echols got Bates going to second to end the inning. The Spartans blew open the game with six runs in the top of the seventh. Leadoff singles by Wood and Gutknecht, plus a throwing error, left runners on the corners with no outs. Jacquie Reiser came in to run for Gutknecht, stole second, and scored easily along with Wood on a single through the left side by Kaitlyn Eveland. The Huskies made a pitching change, bringing in Kayla Doty. Doty got the first out of the inning, but then gave up three consecutive hits – singles by Kujawa and Thomas, and then a triple by Echols that scored two – as the Spartans pushed their lead to 9-0. After she hit Foerster to put two on, Doty finally got a groundout by Long and a lineout by Wood to get the Huskies out of the inning.
MSU came up with a season-high 16 hits, bettering its previous high of 13 hits vs. Stony Brook on Feb. 26.
Zalewski picked up her first win of the weekend with a stellar outing, She had nine strikeouts, bettering her season-best eight she recorded in the season opener vs. Middle Tennessee. She allowed the Huskies just three hits, and walked just two.
Celeste Wood has base hits in eight of her last 11 at-bats in the Gamecock Invitational. She went 1-for-3 vs. Kennesaw State, 3-for-4 vs. South Carolina, and 4-for-5 in the game this morning. She matched Lea Foerester’s four hits as the team’s game high this season.
Foerster’s hitting streak is now at five games, the longest active streak on the team.
MSU’s top five batters were a combined 12-for-21 on the day.