News from MSU Media Relations--Feb. 13

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Softball, Men's Golf and Men's Tennis.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Freshman Heidi Shape drove in three runs and junior Misty Flesher tossed four shutout innings Sunday afternoon as Mississippi State defeated Illinois-Chicago 5-2 in the final game of the Sportco Kick-Off Classic in Las Vegas.

Shape capped a stellar opening weekend with a pair of hits. Her first-inning single gave MSU a 2-1 lead, and she capped the scoring in the fifth with an RBI double. The Duluth, Ga., native finished her first weekend of collegiate action with a .400 batting average and 12 RBI. She also belted a pair of home runs, including a grand slam.

Pitching in relief of State starter Kylie Vry, Flesher extinguished the Flames' bats, holding them to one hit over the final four innings to earn her first victory.

Senior Courtney Nesbit, who paced the Dawgs (1-4) with a .563 average, doubled home the winning run in the third to highlight a 2-for-3 afternoon.

"We got good pitching today, and I thought we were a little more consistent. We did a better job of hitting through the line-up," Mississippi State head coach Jay Miller said. "Heidi Shape's two-run hit with two outs in the first was big, and Courtney Nesbit came up with a big hit for us. We needed to get that first win under our belt, and it was a good time to do it."

Illinois-Chicago (3-2) jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in its first at-bat. With one out in the frame, Vry, who allowed two runs and five hits in three innings, struck out Carly DeMarco, but a wild pitch allowed her to reach base.

Two batters later, Ashley Hewett singled, and Jenna Marsalli put the Flames up 1-0 as she plated DeMarco with a two-out single to right field.

The Dawgs answered right back, plating a pair of runs on Shape's two-out hit. Junior Ka'ili Smith, hitting in the leadoff spot for the first time, beat-out an infield single. Sophomore Shelby Fisher followed with a base hit, and the pair advanced into scoring position on an Ali Bainbridge sacrifice bunt.

Following a ground-out, Shape battled at the plate before bouncing a ball up the middle to clear the bases and give the Bulldogs the lead.

After UIC put the tying run across with a two-out base hit in the top of the third, the Bulldogs once again responded to regain the lead in the home half of the frame. With one out, Bainbridge reached as UIC second baseman Christie Seddon's throw pulled Coryn Schmit off first base.

Nesbit made the most of the mistake, taking a pitch to the gap in right-center and scoring Bainbridge for the winning run.

The Flames had an opportunity to tie or re-take the lead in the top of the fourth. Reliever Misty Flesher issued a lead-off walk to Kelsey Sturgeon and Melinda Macias followed with a base hit. The pair took third and second, respectively, on a DeMarco sacrifice, but Flesher escaped the jam unscathed as she got an infield pop-out and a ground-out.

The Bulldog bats gave Flesher some additional support as they plated another run in the bottom of the fourth to increase the lead to 4-2.

Brittany Bell opened the frame with an infield single. The Brandon, Fla., native utilized her speed to take third on a wild pitch, and Chelsea Raines brought her to the plate with a single through the left side of the infield.

The Dawgs tacked on another run in the fifth to push the lead to 5-2. Bainbridge and Nesbit sparked the frame with back-to-back singles. After Bainbridge was thrown out at third on a double steal attempt, Shape fired a double down the left-field line that scored Nesbit.

The Bulldogs open the 2011 home slate next weekend, hosting Butler, Louisiana Tech and Southern Illinois in the Feb. 18-20 Bulldog Round-Robin. State opens play at 3 p.m. Friday, taking on Louisiana Tech.

Men's Golf
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Finishing up the final day of play in its spring opening tournament, the Mississippi State men's golf team posted a third-round score of 304 to bring its Gator Invitational total to 903. The two-day event was played at the par-70 Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville, Fla.

For the first time in his career sophomore John Darden led MSU with a three-round total of 217, which was a career-best tournament. Darden fired an even-par 70, which was also a career-best round for him, on the final day of play to finish the tournament at 7-over-par and in a tie for 19th among the individual field, another career mark. Darden was also the Bulldogs' leader in birdies made with eight through three rounds of action.

Robi Calvesbert and Lee Heaton tied for the runner-up finish in the Bulldog lineup, both playing consistent rounds and finishing with a 54-hole score of 228 at the Gator Invitational. Calvesbert led MSU in pars made through three rounds of play with 36.

MSU's Evan Hugall finished the tournament with a 230 followed by Alex Rowland of the Maroon and White who tallied a 54-hole score of 245.

The Bulldogs will look to rebound on Feb. 21 when they tee off in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate.

Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Determination was a key ingredient for the Mississippi State men's tennis team as they opened their home schedule with a pair of 7-0 wins. Today the 32nd-ranked Bulldogs defeated the UAB Blazers in shutout fashion to improve their record to 3-3 this season.

"It is never easy to beat a team 7-0 and our guys did it twice this weekend," said Coach Per Nilsson, who captured his 20th victory over a non-conference opponent while at MSU. "We came into this weekend determined to improve and show we are the better team and we did that at each and every single court on both days and I am proud of the way these guys battled."

The Bulldogs improved to 26-1 all-time against the Blazers. Today's win also marked the first time since 2003 that MSU has captured at least two 7-0 victories in the same season.

For the second-straight match the Maroon and White swept the doubles point. MSU's duo of Louis Cant and Malte Stropp earned their team-best eighth win of the season with an 8-4 handling of UAB's Lucas Dirube and Chris Helliar on court three to give State the early edge in doubles. The Bulldogs clinched the doubles point and took an early 1-0 lead on court two, where MSU's James Chaudry and Tanner Stump, who was making his dual match play debut, defeated Danny Manlow and Daniel Moser of the Blazers, 8-5. Similar to yesterday, State's 53rd-ranked tandem George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin completed the sweep for MSU at the No. 1 position with an 8-7(2) win over Tom Puetz and David Zimmerman of UAB. That victory marked the first win for MSU in a tiebreaker in doubles this season following five previous attempts.

The Bulldogs increased its lead over UAB to 2-0 after MSU's No. 60 nationally ranked Cant blanked UAB's Puetz, 6-0, 6-0, at the No. 4 spot. Cant has now won six of his previous seven matches and with today's win claimed his 20th career dual match victory. On court three, State's Chaudry improved his current win streak to five with a two-set victory over the Blazers' Dirube, 6-3, 6-2. Chaudry is now 3-0 in dual match action for the Maroon and White.

For the fourth-time in his career, MSU's Ilyushin, who was fresh off of claiming his 40th career match at MSU, clinched the match for the Maroon and White with a straight-set victory, 6-4, 6-2, against Manlow of UAB. Ilyushin has now won three-straight matches for MSU.

With the match claimed in MSU's favor the Bulldogs did not hold back as they claimed the three remaining points of the match, first at the No. 5 position where State's freshman Stropp won, 6-3, 6-4, against UAB's Moser. On court one, the Bulldogs' Coupland trailed 4-0 in the opening set but rallied to win the set and eventually the match, 7-6(2), 6-1, over Zimmerman of the Blazers.

Playing in his first dual match of the season, MSU's senior Antonio Lastre fought back after trailing one set down to win the match and completed the shutout for State. Lastre dropped the opening set to UAB's Helliar, 6-2, but blanked his opponent in the following set, 6-0, and eventually clinched the match with a third-set win, 6-3.

The Bulldogs will get a well deserved break before returning to action. MSU will return to the courts on Feb. 25 in Fort Worth, Texas, where they will face 52nd-ranked TCU followed with a match at No. 9 nationally ranked Baylor on Feb. 27.

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