Softball travels to Michigan State, welcomes Toledo for weekend series

Junior outfielder Sara Hansen runs to third base during the game against Valparaiso on March 28 at Margo Jonker Stadium.

After losing 2-of-3 games against Ball State this past weekend, the Central Michigan softball team has now lost two straight series.

As a result, the Chippewas (19-20, 9-8 Mid-American Conference) have dipped back to a losing record after being three games over .500 just two weeks ago.

“We need to get back on track with our offense, defense and pitching all in one game,” said head coach Margo Jonker. “The players need to enjoy and focus on the process, we are a couple hits away from flipping our record around over the past couple weeks.”

CMU — now losers in five its last six contests — has dropped to fourth place in the MAC West Division. They are five games out of first place with six conference games remaining.

The Chippewas have a chance to get right back in the race this weekend. First place Toledo (30-15, 14-3) comes to town for three games following a nonconference meeting with in-state foe Michigan State (17-24, 4-11 Big Ten) at 4 p.m. on April 25 in East Lansing.

“I think Michigan State has a couple really good hitters and they can pitch as well, they don’t have one particular strength,” Jonker said. “Toledo has all aspects of the game going well for them right now and they are really good this year. It’s the first time in awhile they've had a team this good.”

To Jonker’s point, this will be the Rockets first winning season since 1996. With three more wins, they will clinch a MAC West Title.

Scouting MSU and UT

The Spartans topped fellow MAC opponent Eastern Michigan 9-1 in five innings on April 24 but were swept by Ohio State before that. MSU is currently 12th place in the conference.

MSU’s leading hitter is senior outfielder Lea Foerster who leads the team in batting average (.360), hits (41), doubles (15) and home runs (seven) in 39 games. Junior third baseman Kaitlyn Eveland would be next in line, hitting .310 with five homers and 17 runs batted in.

The ace of the Spartans staff is Kristina Zalewski (9-10). She has posted a 2.13 earned run average with 12 complete games in 18 starts. She also leads the team with 125 strikeouts, good for fifth in the Big Ten.

As for the Rockets, pitching is their strong suit. UT is first in team ERA (2.57), innings pitched (313) and wins (30). They are also third in opposing batting average (.243) and second in saves (seven).

The duo doing the damage for UT is juniors Heather Webb and Kailey Minarchick. Webb (13-8) leads the team with a 2.21 ERA and 92 strikeouts, while Minarchick (16-4) leads the team in wins and saves (four), while holding a 2.47 ERA. Both ERA’s rank in the top-10 of the MAC.

Bailey Curry leads the Rockets at the dish with a .375 batting average (ninth MAC) and 13 home runs (second MAC). 

Recent history

The Chippewas played the Rockets in a three-game weekend set last season, taking two of the three games for a series win. 

MSU traveled to Mount Pleasant last year for a single game and it was CMU walking out victorious with a 6-2 win. It was CMU’s lone win against the Big Ten in three attempts.