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Michigan State Softball splits a pair of one-run games at the FIU Panther Invitational

Michigan State split a pair of one-run games at the FIU Panther Invitational on Saturday, falling to Ole Miss 4-3 before rebounding to defeat host Florida International in the nightcap by an identical score. The win over FIU snapped a four-game skid for Michigan State (9-7), and was also the 1,000th win in program history; the Spartans are one of five schools in the Big Ten to reach 1,000 program victories.

Spartan senior McKinzie Freimuth went a combined 3-for-7, while Shanin Thomas went 2-for-7 with three RBI. Senior Alyssa McBride had a hit in each game, extending her hitting streak to 16 games, recording a hit in every game this season. Freshman Lea Foerster has a hit in 15 of 16 contests, and was 2-for-5 with a double on Saturday.

Michigan State plays the same two teams tomorrow, taking on Ole Miss (10 am) and Florida International (12:30 p.m.)

Ole Miss 4, Michigan State 3

Michigan State fell in its opening game at the FIU Panther Invitational, falling 4-3 to Ole Miss on Saturday. It was the third straight one-run loss for the Spartans, who fall to 8-7 overall.

A lengthy rain delay after the sixth inning apparently gave time for head coach Jacquie Joseph to rally her troops, as Michigan State scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh, but fell short in the comeback attempt.

“I like the way we came back in the seventh, but as you can see, it just wasn’t enough,” said Joseph. “We keep preaching and working on consistency, inning to inning, at-bat to at-bat. We didn’t get anything going until it was far too late in the game today. It just has to start coming sooner.”

The Rebels drew first blood, scoring two in the second inning. Alex Schneider hit a one-out homer to left field to put the first run of the game on the board, and after Kaff got Alyssa Invergo to ground out back to the circle, Haley Culley walked on four pitches. She stole second, and came home on a Courtney Syrett infield single.

MSU tried to get something going in the third. Lea Foerster drew a leadoff walk, and was sacrificed over to second by McKinzie Freimuth. After Shanin Thomas lined out to the shortstop, Stephanie Sanders singled up the middle, moving Foerster to third and leaving runners on the corners. However, pitcher Emily Gaitan got Sarah Gutknecht to fly out to left to retire the side.

A Spartan infield error in the top of the fifth plated two more for Ole Miss, pushing the Rebel lead to 4-0. A leadoff walk and bunt single put two runners with two out on for Strother, who made contact to the left side. The error allowed both Elantra Cox and pinch-runner Paige McKinney to cross the plate and double Ole Miss’ lead.

MSU made its move in the bottom of the seventh. Pinch hitter Lindsey Besson led off with a single, and pinch runner Ellie Stoffer came around to score when Alyssa McBride extended her hitting streak to 15 games with a double to left. Lea Foerster followed with a double of her own, scoring McBride and making it a 4-2 game. Senior McKinzie Freimuth singled, and both she and Foerster advanced into scoring position on a passed ball, putting two runners in scoring position with no outs. Looking to halt the comeback, pitcher Gaitan got a groundout, a strikeout, and a flyout from the next three hitters in the order, retiring the side and preserving the Rebel win.

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Valerie Kaff was once again on the short end of a tough decision, as she pitched her second consecutive complete game, scattering just four hits. She struck out six on the day.

Michigan State 4, FIU 3

Michigan State snapped a four-game skid with a 4-3 victory over Florida International on Saturday evening. McKinzie Freimuth had a pair of hits and an RBI, while Shannin Thomas was 1-for-3 with three RBI in the Spartan victory. Kristina Zalewski pitched a complete game, scattering nine hits and striking out six to improve to 6-3 on the season. MSU is now 9-7 overall.

The win was also the 1,000th in program history, making MSU one of six Big Ten programs to reach that milestone .

“We did what we needed to do tonight, getting some timely hitting,” said head coach Jacquie Joseph. “We continue to try to just put together that consistency we’re seeking, but being rewarded with a win is important for us right now. We’ll come back tomorrow, and have to be ready to go to face these teams again.

“As for 1,000 program wins, that’s just what it is – a program win,” continued Joseph. “So many players are a part of us reaching this milestone, and the tribute is to everyone who has won the Green and White.”

The Spartans took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, as McKenzie Freimuth doubled to center, advanced to third on a passed ball, and then came home on a groundout by Shanin Thomas. MSU threatened in the second getting a pair on, but the Spartans stranded both, thanks in large part to second baseman Ashley Leon making a diving stop and firing to first to rob Alyssa McBride of a hit and RBI.

The home team tried to get something going in the bottom of the third, as Ashley Belans doubled to right center, and Marissa McGregor moved her to third with a groundout. Rebekah Sanchez looked to drive her in, but popped up to shallow left, and McBride’s diving catch got the Spartans out of the inning without any damage.

The home team went ahead in the bottom of the fourth as Leon led off with a single, stole second, and scored on a Stephanie Texeira double to center to knot the game at one. Spallone grounded out to second to move Texeira to third, and Krystal Garcia tripled down the right field line, plating another run and leaving a potential third in scoring position. Zalewski got some help from a Almeia Lopez foul out for the second out of the inning, but pitcher Shelby Graves followed with a second triple in the inning to plate the third FIU run. Zalewski got out of the inning by striking out Ashley Belans, stranding one and sending the teams to the fifth, with MSU trailing 3-1.

MSU put together a rally in the top of the fifth, all with two outs. The Spartans laced together four consecutive base hits from McBride, Foerster, Freimuth, and Thomas, regaining the lead at 4-3 and chasing Graves from the circle in favor of Corinne Jenkins. Kujawa came in as a pinch hitter for Sanders, but popped out to end the inning.

The Panthers tried to stage a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the fifth, as Leon and Texiera put back-to-back singles in play, but Zalewaki got Gabby Spallone to ground to end the FIU threat.

The score held to the bottom of the seventh, when the Panthers were desperatep for a tying run. Belans led off the bottom of the seventh with a single through the left side, and Dominique Grossman came to the plate as a pinch hitter, and reached on a fielder’s choice for the first out of the inning. Zalewski got Sanchez to swing at strike three, for the second out, and Leon to ground out at second to end the game.