Spartan Softball Hosts No. 14 Northwestern and Illinois in Weekend Action

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Spartan Softball Hosts No. 14 Northwestern and Illinois in Weekend Action
MSU ranks sixth with an 8-6 record in the Big Ten.
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State softball team (33-19, 8-6 Big Ten) resumes Big Ten Conference play this weekend, hosting No. 14/14 Northwestern (33-10, 11-2 Big Ten) and Illinois (23-25, 7-6 Big Ten) at Old College Field. The Wildcats lead a competitive conference race with an 11-2 record, while Illinois is seventh with a 7-6 mark against league opponents. Northwestern leads the overall series against MSU, 54-22, while Illinois holds a 6-4 all-time advantage.
CMU Recap
Michigan State snapped a five-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over Central Michigan on Wednesday. The win improved head coach Jacquie Joseph’s record to 11-11 against her alma mater. Jenny Poff paced the Spartan offense with one run and three RBI in her first collegiate start, while hurler Rachel Turney allowed just four hits and two earned runs from the circle.
The Northwestern Series
The Wildcats hold a 54-22 all-time series advantage over the Spartans, including a 7-6 record over the last five seasons of Big Ten action. The teams split last season, with MSU winning game one, 2-0 in eight innings, and Northwestern taking a 14-2 six-inning win in game two.
The Illinois Series
The Fighting Illini hold a slight 6-4 advantage in the all-time series against the Spartans. Due to a late snow last spring, the series between the two schools was cancelled. In the 2004 season, Illinois took a 7-1 win in game one, while the Spartans won game two, 2-0. State defeated Illinois, 7-5, in the 2004 Big Ten championship game to claim the program’s first-ever conference tournament title.
Road Weary
Michigan State lost four consecutive conference contests on the road last weekend, suffering back-to-back 1-0 losses to Penn State, and 13-4, and 4-0 setbacks to Ohio State. After winning six consecutive games to start the Big Ten season, MSU has lost six of its last eight conference match-ups.
Big Ten Standings
Michigan State (8-6) ranks fifth in the current Big Ten standings, trailing No. 16/16 Northwestern (11-2), No. 12/12 Michigan (9-3), Ohio State (10-4) and Iowa (9-5). MSU hosts the Wildcats in a two-game series at Old College Field, April 28-29, before hosting the Wolverines in the regular season finale, May 6-7.
Against Ranked Opponents
In 2006, MSU is 1-1 when facing a ranked opponent. MSU fell, 5-4, in extra innings against then-No. 12 Georgia, and most recently defeated then-No. 25 North Carolina, 5-3, at the FAU Parents’ Weekend Tournament on March 18. After the Northwestern and Illinois series, MSU hosts the nationally-ranked Wolverines in the regular season finale, May 6-7.
Bright Spots
Caitlin Mahoney continues to excel at the plate in Big Ten action during her sophomore campaign. The Spartan infielder has 17 hits, including four doubles and three home runs, in conference play. Designated player Dana Rosenblatt continues a breakout junior campaign with eight hits, two runs and six RBI in league games.
A Look At Northwestern
• The Wildcats lead a highly competitive Big Ten race with an 11-2 record.
• Pitcher Eileen Canney tied the NCAA single-game mark with 28 strikeouts in the 18-inning marathon against Minnesota last weekend. The Wildcats won, 4-2.
• Garland Cooper leads the NU offense with 20 hits, including nine doubles and five home runs, against Big Ten opponents.
Last Time Against Northwestern
Michigan State and Northwestern split a pair of games during the 2005 season. Game one of the series saw MSU upset the No. 15 Wildcats in a pitchers’ duel. Nicole Mercado laced a two-out, two-strike, two-run double in the eighth inning to hand the Wildcats their first conference loss of the season in a 2-0 extra-inning Spartan win. Rachel Turney earned her third shutout of 2005 for MSU as the Wildcats left the bases loaded in the fifth and eighth innings. After suffering the loss in game one, Northwestern used a balanced offensive attack to defeat Michigan State, 14-2, in six innings in the series finale.
A look At Illinois
• Jenna Hall has 57 hits, 34 RBI and holds a conference-best .514 average at the plate in 48 games this season.
• Claire DeVreese has made 47 appearances this season from the circle. Her 194.2 innings pitched, 17 wins and 93 strikeouts are all team-highs.
• Illinois is coached by Terri Sullivan in her seventh season.
Last Time Against Illinois
Due to a late April snowfall in 2005, the scheduled two-game series between MSU and Illinois was cancelled. The last time the two schools met in regular season action in 2004, Jessica Beech hit her second home run of the season but took the loss as the starting pitcher in a 7-1 game one loss at Illinois in the Big Ten opener. State rebounded with a 2-0 win in game two behind a 2-for-3 performance from Dayna Feenstra. Beech worked a complete-game, adding 10 strikeouts in the win.
The Spartans and Fighting Illini faced each other for the third time in 2004 in the Big Ten Tournament Championship game. Brittney Green went 3-for-3 with two home runs and four RBI, and Natalie Furrow and Elizabeth Peterson each went 2-for-3 as MSU claimed its first-ever Big Ten Tournament title with a 7-5 win. The win also placed the Spartans in the NCAA Regionals for the second consecutive season.
A Closer Look At The Numbers
The Spartans are better than their opponents in nearly every offensive statistical category - batting average (.278-.210), hits (380-272), runs (209-128), RBI (190-119), doubles (60-43), home runs (23-16) and total bases (519-375). MSU has hit five triples this season, including three by Nicole Mercado and two by Nikki Nicosia.
TV Spotlight
Wednesday’s 5-2 win against Central Michigan marked the first television appearance for the Spartans in 2006. MSU will also be televised when it hosts Michigan in a Big Ten Conference series, May 6-7.
Heavy Hitting
MSU gave up a season-high 13 hits to Ohio State in the 13-4 loss on Sunday. Spartan pitchers have allowed double-digit hit totals just four times in 2006: versus Southern Illinois (10), Toledo (10) and Iowa (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 21 hits, 18 RBI, and six home runs.
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 19 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.
Behind The Plate
Freshman catcher Kara Weigle has made 35 appearances behind the plate in 2006. In those starts, 31 opponents have attempted a stolen base and Weigle has gunned down seven of those runners. In 2005, MSU halted just 12 attempts, while in 2006, State has stopped eight runners from advancing.
Slim Margins
State has played in 27 games decided by two runs or less. The Spartans are 9-8 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 87 multi-hit and 44 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 23 home runs through the first 51 games of the season. In 2005, the Spartans managed just 11 home runs in 54 games played. Dayna Feenstra has one home run in Big Ten play and Caitlin Mahoney has hit a team-best three 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!