Michigan State sinks Iowa softball

BY JACK ROSSI | APRIL 21, 2014 5:00 AM

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In the rubber match of the three-game series in Iowa City, Michigan State came out on top 4-0 with the help of pitcher Kelly Smith shutting down the Iowa offense for the second time in three days.

The win put the Spartans at 12-29 while the Hawkeyes fell to 13-25 on the season, 6-11 in Big Ten play. Iowa has lost three of its last four series.

“I’m not very happy at all actually. We were out there a little lethargic today, and Michigan State came to play,” head coach Marla Looper said. “I don’t know that we didn’t come to play, but we didn’t come as much as they did. We put ourselves in a hole, and it’s hard get out of your hole when you dig it that deep.”

Looper rearranged the lineup for Sunday’s game. Second baseman Claire Fritsch came down with an illness, which moved senior Michelle Zoeller from third base to replace Fritsch. Freshman Alyssa Navarro took Zoeller’s spot at third.

“Initially going into it, I was asked to play second because Claire [Fritsch] wasn’t here, and I don’t think I’ve ever played second at any of my college games yet,” Zoeller said. “It was definitely an adjustment from third. Third is a lot quicker and is more short game. Second base is more lateral movement. I tried to adjust as quickly as possible.”

But the adjustment didn’t go as smoothly as Zoeller would have liked; she committed two errors in the game.

In another lineup change for the Hawkeyes, sophomore Haley Hansel started her third game of the season in right field. Hansel is primarily used as a pinch runner because of her speed.

While the look was different in the field, Looper said, the result was not an effect of that despite three errors.

“I don’t think our defensive adjustments really are any of the reasons. It was our attitude and effort — two very controllable things,” Looper said. “I don’t really feel we were that out of position. It looked different, but that wasn’t the problem. We had errors, but that’s nothing majorly new for us.”

Iowa’s Kayla Massey and Michigan State’s Smith faced for the second time on Sunday. Smith got the best of Massey on April 18 when the Spartans won, 1-0. Smith also won the second go-round. As seen in by 1-run outing, Massey received virtually no run support from her offense.

“How we made [Smith] look doesn’t really show how good she is,” shortstop Megan Blank said. “We kind of made her look like an all-star this weekend.”

Adapting to pitchers is something the team has struggled doing this season, and Sunday was another example poor adjustments.

“We didn’t help ourselves offensively. If you’re going to give up runs that’s fine, but you better be able to score some,” Looper said. “We didn’t make any adjustments in the two times we faced her.”

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