Softball Hosts No. 13 Michigan in Final Regular-Season Series

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 Softball Hosts No. 13 Michigan in Final Regular-Season Series
MSU ranks fifth in the Big Ten with a 9-9 record heading into weekend action.Â
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State softball team hosts Big Ten Conference-foe, No. 13/12 Michigan for the final two games of the regular season, Saturday and Sunday at Old College Field. MSU (34-22, 9-9 Big Ten) currently ranks fifth in the Big Ten, while Michigan (35-13, 12-4 Big Ten) is second in the conference standings. The Wolverines hold a 60-24 advantage in the all-time series, and hold an 8-5 upper hand in the last five seasons. The Spartan softball team will also recognize the 30th anniversary of the 1976 AIAW National Championship team on Saturday and will honor its senior class prior to Sunday’s regular season finale.
Weekend Review
Michigan State (34-22, 9-9 Big Ten) suffered a series sweep against then-No. 14 Northwestern, falling 5-0 and 9-4 last weekend at Old College Field. MSU managed just seven hits against the conference leader, which included tying a season low with one hit in Friday’s loss. MSU rebounded with a series split against Illinois on Sunday, losing game one 7-4, while Caitlin Mahoney’s sixth home run of the season propelled State to a late-inning, 5-4 win in game two.
The Michigan Series
The Wolverines hold a commanding 60-24 advantage in the all-time series, including an 8-5 upper hand in the last five seasons. Under the direction of Jacquie Joseph, MSU is 11-25 against its intra-state rival. During the back-to-back NCAA Regional seasons in 2003 and 2004, State won three and two games in the season series, respectively. State last defeated the Wolverines in the 2004 Big Ten Tournament, en route to its first-ever tournament title. Michigan swept the 2005 regular season series and defeated MSU, 6-2, in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament.Â
Big Ten Standings
Michigan State (9-9) ranks fifth in the current Big Ten standings, trailing No. 12/13 Northwestern (14-3), No. 13/12 Michigan (12-4), Ohio State (11-5) and Iowa (11-6). State has made three consecutive Big Ten Tournament appearances, winning its first-ever tournament crown in 2004. The top eight teams in the final regular season standings advance to the Big Ten Tournament.    Â
1976 National Championship Anniversary
The Spartan softball program is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the 1976 AIAW National Championship team this weekend. The team featured head coach Dianne Ulibarri, Gloria Becksford and current University of Michigan head coach Carol Hutchins. The 1976 team finished with an overall 24-4 record, defeating Northern Colorado, 3-0, to win the national title.Â
Against Ranked Opponents
In 2006, MSU is 1-3 when facing a ranked opponent. MSU fell, 5-4, in extra innings against then-No. 12 Georgia, and defeated then-No. 25 North Carolina, 5-3, at the FAU Parents’ Weekend Tournament on March 18. The Spartans most recently suffered a series sweep against then-No. 14 Northwestern, April 28-29.Â
Pitching Woes
State has gone 2-8 in its last 10 games, and the Spartan pitchers have struggled from the circle. Lesley Noel has allowed five home runs during the stretch, Rachel Turney has allowed three and Megan Hair has allowed two four-baggers, while opponents have hit .280 at the plate. In the 10 games prior to the current streak, the trio allowed a combined three home runs, and held opposing batters to a .233 batting average.Â

TV Spotlight
The April 26 win against Central Michigan marked the first television appearance for the Spartans in 2006. Both games of the Michigan series will be televised live on Comcast Local.
A Look At Michigan
• The reigning national champions return nine starters in 2006, including 2005 Big Ten pitcher of the year, Jenny Ritter.
• Michigan is 35-13 including a 12-4 mark against league opponents after splitting a doubleheader against Northwestern last weekend.
• Jenny Ritter leads the Wolverines from the circle with a 0.70 ERA and an overall 22-6 mark.
• Becky Marx anchors a strong offense, hitting .333 with 47 hits and 41 RBI heading into weekend play.
• Michigan is led by Michigan State alum Carol Hutchins, in her 22nd year at the helm of the Wolverine program.
Last Season Against Michigan
Big Ten Tournament
Although MSU dropped five of its last six Big Ten contests of the year, its 7-9 record was good enough for an eighth-place finish in the league standings and a trip to the conference tournament. After suffering consecutive losses to the top-ranked Wolverines to end the Big Ten regular season, MSU entered the 2005 Big Ten Tournament as the eighth seed, earning a first-round matchup against Michigan. State faced Jenny Ritter, the Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, for the third consecutive contest and fell 6-2 despite a fourth-inning home run from Elizabeth Peterson.Â
Big Ten Regular Season
Playing in front of a record crowd at Alumni Field in Ann Arbor, No. 1 Michigan defeated Michigan State, 8-0 and
9-1, a year ago. Both games went only five innings due to the Wolverines having at least eight-run leads. Wolverine hurler Jenny Ritter pitched both games of the doubleheader sweep, holding the Spartans to just seven hits for the day. Nicole Mercado led the Spartan offense with two hits in game two and a 3-for-3 combined effort in the series.
Big Ten Tournament Rivalry
The rivalry between MSU and Michigan also extends into postseason play. Michigan State entered the 2004 tournament as the seventh seed and defeated top-seeded Michigan, 5-1, in opening-round play. MSU went on to claim its first-ever Big Ten Tournament title, defeating Northwestern and Illinois in the process. Michigan got its revenge in 2005, defeating the Spartans, 6-2, in opening-round action.
Streaking Spartans
Until the 5-4 victory in the second game of the doubleheader against Illinois on April 30, MSU had lost a season-high seven consecutive Big Ten contests. In State’s first eight league wins of the year, the Green and White offense tallied 63 hits, 35 runs and a .309 average at the plate. During its recent losing streak, MSU posted just 32 hits, 12 runs and a .188 average at the plate.Â
Coming On Strong
Dayna Feenstra continues to climb in multiple categories in the Spartan record book. With three RBI last weekend against Northwestern and Illinois, Feenstra’s 97 career RBI move her to fifth on the all-time list. Feenstra hit two home runs against the Wildcats and Illini, climbing to third in the MSU record book with 17 career homers.
League Dominance
Spartan third baseman Caitlin Mahoney leads MSU in nearly every offensive category against league opponents. Mahoney has 20 hits, which includes five doubles and four home runs in league play. Mahoney is the only Spartan with double-digit RBI totals (15) and holds a team-best .392 batting average.Â
A Closer Look At The Numbers
The Spartans are better than their opponents in nearly every offensive statistical category - batting average (.274-.217), hits (404-306), runs (222-153), RBI (202-141), doubles (65-45), home runs (27-19) and total bases (562-428). MSU has hit six triples this season, including four by Nicole Mercado and two by Nikki Nicosia.
One At A Time
With 34 wins, State has posted its 12th consecutive season with at least 21 victories - MSU’s best season in the win/loss column came in 1997 under the direction of Jacquie Joseph, when State competed in the NCAA Regionals and finished the season with an impressive 47-22 mark.Â
Rookie Power
Freshman catcher Kara Weigle has made 40 appearances behind the plate in 2006. She also leads the freshman class with a .299 batting average, 44 hits and 14 RBI. In the field, Weigle has made just one error and has gunned down nine stolen base attempts.

Heavy Hitting
MSU gave up a season-high 13 hits to Ohio State in the 13-4 loss on April 23. Spartan pitchers have allowed double-digit hit totals just six times in 2006: versus Southern Illinois (10), Toledo (10) Iowa (10), Northwestern (11) and Illinois (10).
Grand Slam Performance
Designated player Dana Rosenblatt hit her first career grand slam in an 8-2 victory over Purdue on April 8. During her first two seasons at MSU, she recorded just four hits in five starts; in 2006, Rosenblatt has made a significant impact on the Spartan offense with 23 hits, 18 RBI, and six home runs.Â
Did You Know?
The Green and White offense has posted 12 games with double-digit hit totals in 2006, most recently against Detroit on April 18 (10). State has posted at least five runs in 21 games, and has scored 10 or more three times. In 2005, MSU managed six games with double-digit hit totals, and just 11 games with at least five runs scored.Â
Slim Margins
State has played in 28 games decided by two runs or less. The Spartans are 10-8 in one-run games, and hold a 5-5 mark in games decided by two runs.
Best In A While
MSU’s 8-2 start in Big Ten play was the best opening to a conference season since the 1997 campaign, when State began the year 12-0 against league opponents. The Spartans earned bids to both the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Regionals that year.
Multiple Efforts
The Spartan offense has tallied 93 multi-hit and 46 multi-RBI games in 2006. Nikki Nicosia holds a team-best 12 multi-hit games, highlighted with a 5-for-5 performance vs. Wright State on March 9. Dayna Feenstra has 10 multi-RBI games, including two games with at least five RBI. Feenstra tallied five RBI against Buffalo on March 5, and set a single-season record with seven RBI against Wright State on March 9.
Around The Bases
Michigan State has posted 27 home runs through the first 56 games of the season. In 2005, the Spartans managed just 11 home runs in 54 games played. Dayna Feenstra has two home runs in Big Ten play and Caitlin Mahoney has hit a team-best four home runs against league competition.
The 15-Win Mark
Michigan State reached the 15-win mark in just 23 games. It is the fastest the Spartans have reached 15 wins since the 2003 season when it was done in just the 18th game of the year. State’s 4-0 start at the Holiday Inn Express Pirate Classic marked the best start by a Spartan squad since the 1997 season when Jacquie Joseph led MSU to a 7-0 mark to begin the year.
MVP In Style
Spartan pitching ace Rachel Turney went 2-0 at the Pirate Classic with wins against Army and host ECU in the championship game of the weekend. For her play, Turney was named the Holiday Inn Express Pirate Classic Tournament MVP, and also Big Ten pitcher of the week. Turney garnered her second MVP honor when she was selected, along with teammate Dayna Feenstra, as the FAU Parents Weekend tournament co-MVP on March 19.
 Courtesy of MSU SID.