Michigan State rallied for five runs in the top of the seventh inning, and took the season series from homestanding Ohio State with a 9-7 victory in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Sunday’s finale was another slugfest between the teams, combining for 16 runs and 24 hits on the day. The Spartans hit three for extra bases: doubles byCeleste Wood and McKenzie Long, and a home run by Lea Foerster. Trailing 6-4 entering the top of the seventh, MSU kept chipping away, plating five runs in the top of the frame – including four runs with two outs – and held off the Buckeyes in the bottom of the seventh to claim the series victory.
Kristina Zalewski got the start on her 21st birthday, scattering 13 hits and striking out four. The Buckeyes managed a pair of doubles but played a conservative small-ball game, but the trio of OSU pitchers issued 10 walks on the day, in addition to a home run and a pair of doubles to the Spartans.
The Big Ten tournament begins on Thursday, with the top 12 teams descending on State College for the four-day tournament. MSU (27-27, 8-15 B1G) has won five of its last seven games, and enters the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 10 overall seed and will play Illinois (34-20, 12-11 B1G) on Thursday at 2:30 pm to open the tournament.
Celeste Wood went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI.Lea Foerster hit her sixth home run of the season and finished with two RBI.Kristina Zalewski improves to 15-14 on the season, tossing her fourth consecutive complete game and scattered 13 hits, striking out four.
“I cannot express how truly proud of this team I am, and how excited I am that things seem to be coming together for us at the right time. Our players have been so resilient – we have battled through injuries in the big picture, but they never quit. We were behind in both the Saturday and Sunday games this weekend, and we rallied both times, refusing to give up. It worked out better for us today than it did yesterday, and that is a just reward for our players. Never give up, never fold. That’s one of the most enjoyable traits of this team, and we’ll look to continue this in the Big Ten Tournament. “
— Head coach Jacquie Joseph
STATS AND STORYLINES
Unlike the first to games of the series, Ohio State struck first, as Alex Bayne (single) and Cammi Prantl (double) put a pair of runners in scoring position with just one out. A fielder’s choice by Clark loaded the bases for Saturday hero Maddy McIntre, who belted a two-run single to give the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead. The Spartans loaded the bases on Hursh in the top of the second, using a pair of walks and a single byKassidy Kujawa with just one out. Lindsey Besson walked – the third of the inning – to bring home Sarah Gutknecht to cut the lead to 2-1. Hursh struck out Shanin Thomas for the second out, bringing the top of the lineup, Celeste Wood, back to the plate. Wood singled to second base, bringing home a pair of runs for MSU to take a 3-2 lead. Lea Foerster led off the third inning with a solo home run to center field, sending a 2-2 pitch over the wall after fouling off four straight pitches. Despite the Buckeyes having to make a pitching change, the Spartans loaded the bases and stranded all three, and then two more in the fourth inning after a leadoff single by Wood and a walk to Gutknecht. The Buckeyes cut into the lead in the fourth, trimming the Spartan advantage to 4-3. In the fifth, a trio of singles around a strikeout loaded the bases with just one out. Goodwin lined out to Eveland at third, and Bayne just got back to avoid the double play. Jess Machovina stepped in as a pinch hitter, but Zalewski got her to strand the runners. OSU once again led off the sixth with a trio of singles after an out, pushing the tying run across and leaving runners on the corners for no. 3 hitter Cammi Prantl, who was 3-for-3 on the day. She sent a double off the wall in right to score two more, giving OSU a 6-4 lead. Down to its final at-bat, MSU put a pair of runners on with one out in the top of the seventh, as Ebonee Echols legged out a one-out infield single and Kujawa drawing a walk. Lindsey Besson laced a single into left to score Echols to make it a one-run game. Hursh re-entered in the circle for the Buckeyes, and a fly ball byDestinee Luna moved pinch runner Lexi White to third. The Buckeyes opted to intentionally walk Wood, leaving the bases loaded for McKenzie Long. She sent a bloop single just out of the reach of the shortstop into shallow left to tie the game at 6-6. Foerster followed with another single, plating White, and Hursh then walked Sarah Gutknecht to bring home an eighth run. The final run of the inning came from the bat of Kaitlyn Eveland, who had struck out to lead off the frame – she singled to right to bring home Long, but the Buckeyes gunned down Foerester to end the frame. OSU got one back in the bottom of the seventh, as pinch hitter Bri Betschel hit a two-out single, stole second, and came home on a fly ball that fell into right on a miscommunication. A ground ball to short by Taylor White ended it, and MSU captured its second consecutive series victory. Four of MSU’s five runs in the seventh inning were scored with two outs., and six of its nine runs overall. MSU scored all seven of its runs on Saturday with two men down. Kristina Zalewski tossed her fourth consecutive complete-game victory, and 16th of the season overall. Foerster’s home run in the third gave her six on the year, her career-best in a single season. It also pushed MSU’s team total to 41 on the season, good for fourth all-time. MSU has 66 doubles, which ranks seventh all-time. Wood’s two-RBI single in the second pushed her RBI total to 40 on the year, good for 10th in the single-season MSU annals. Echols went 2-for-4, her first multiple-hit game since April 10 at Maryland, a game in which she sustained an injury that forced her to miss the next two games.