Underwood brings the late game dramatics to top MSU
More than 40 minutes worth of rain delays slowed down a close game for the Central Michigan softball team as it took on Michigan State on Wednesday, but it couldn't stop Erika Underwood.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning, the first baseman strolled to the plate after junior utility player Sydney Heath was intentionally walked, setting up a great chance for Underwood. She delivered with a walk-off grand slam to defeat the Spartans 6-2.
“I don’t even know where the pitch was, I just know even when I was younger, when someone walked the person in front of me to get to me it has always made me focus more,” Underwood said. “I block out everything behind me and can’t hear anything so I was just really focused.”
It was the Chippewas’ first win against a Big Ten Conference opponent in four ties this season. CMU improved to 31-13 on the year and MSU dropped to 25-19 overall.
Head coach Margo Jonker said it wasn't a shock how the game played out at the finish.
“The walk with the bases loaded was not a bad move at all on their part, Sydney (Heath) had gotten a hit earlier in the game and (Underwood) hadn’t been hitting for us,” Jonker said. “She came through with a big hit, she has a lot of power and hasn't shown it much yet, but I think we will see more of that in her career.”
It didn't take long for the Spartans to get things going on offense.
After a lead-off double to start the game, MSU’s sophomore utility player ripped a single down the third base line to score the runner from third, giving the Spartans the early 1-0 advantage.
The Chippewas answered right back tho, after junior catcher Maison Kalina smashed a double over the center fielders head to score sophomore center fielder Allison Curtis to tie the game at one run apiece.
With two outs in the same inning, Heath hit a dropped in a single right in front of the center fielder, scoring Kalina, which gave CMU their first lead of the afternoon at 2-1.
After junior pitcher Hanna Warren escaped another jam in the top of the second, CMU got a threat going with two outs after back-to-back singles from junior left fielder Lacy Tolfree and Curtis.
Zalewski came back to make a big pitch however, getting Kalina to swing and miss for a strikeout to end the bottom of the second inning with the same score in tact.
In the top of the fourth inning, MSU put together another threat. Back-to-back singles started the inning off, and then a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with only one out.
With the rain starting to come down, Warren found a way to keep her pitches located solid, striking out the next hitter. Then the game took a intermission due to a rain delay.
It ended up being a brief 10 minute delay before the game was resumed, with Warren still in the circle. She responded by getting a routine groundout to second base, ending the Spartan threat.
Senior pitcher Rachael Knapp then came in to start the fifth inning, and she recored two easy outs before MSU’s sophomore utility player Kaitlyn Eveland hit a home run over Curtis’ head in center field to tie the game at two all. It was Eveland’s seventh homer on the year.
Jonker said that the rain had nothing to do with the pitching swap.
“I had told them both the day before that they were both going to be used,” Jonker said. “We wanted to use both of them against this team, and it worked out.”
In the bottom of the fifth frame, Kalina squeaked a single past the short stop to start the inning off. After she was bunted to third, the rain came again and delayed the game one again with two outs in the fifth.
After a rain delay that lasted over 30 minutes, the teams took the field, and Zalewski struck out sophomore first baseman Erika Underwood on the first pitch back to end the frame quickly.
After a pair of quick and easy frames for MSU and CMU, the Chippewas put together a shot at their final act in the bottom of the seventh inning, loading the bases for Underwood to finish it off with the great dramatics.
Knapp recorded the win thanks to Underwood’s bomb to end the contest, moving her to 18-8 on the season. Freshman pitcher Jordan Watson (8-5) picked up the loss, as she came in to pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Warren also had a nice game that was interrupted by rain throughout the game, going four innings while only allowing one run on six hits.
She said she wasn't the only reason that she was able to fight through the stoppages in play today.
“Basically we just got through it because (Kalina) played a great game,” Warren said. “I was missing high early in the game, and she just talked to me about the weather coming in and settled me down. She talked me through the entire game and played fantastic behind the plate.”
Outside of Underwoods homer, Curtis and Kalina led the way for the Chippewa offense. They both went 3-for-4 at the plate, and both scored two runs while Kalina added a run batted in.
Jonker joked before she talked about what is next for the Chippewas, and is coming up rather fast.
“A weekend? We have a weekend coming up? Oh yeah, we have Ball State coming up that’s right,” Jonker said with a smile. “Obviously we know it is a huge weekend, we are both tied for first place, it’s one game at a time and we will see what happens.
“The team is pumped up and we needed something likes this. I’m pumped up and excited that we are in this position.”
CMU will stay here in Mount Pleasant for a monumental series against Ball State who is tied with the Chippewas atop the Mid-American Conference West division at 13-5 in conference play.
“It’s a huge game, like going into the weekend the momentum could take us there and get us to score a little bit earlier,” Warren said. “We need to use the energy to power our dugout and offense to score earlier and it should be great against Ball State.”
Friday will start the three-game set at 3 p.m. from Margo Jonker stadium.
Senior right fielder Evelyn Lorimer did leave the game after the first inning and was replaced by freshman outfielder Bella Robles. There was no reason given to why she exited the game after just a half inning of play.