LEXINGTON, Ky. - Freshman Sam Lenahan homered and drove in three runs, and senior Ali Bainbridge went 3-for-4 as the Mississippi State softball team fell 12-6 to No. 23 Kentucky Friday evening in the opening game of a three-game SEC series in Lexington.
Senior Chelsea Raines followed last Sunday's heroics against Arkansas with a 2-for-4, two-RBI outing Friday night. Junior Ka'ili Smith scored three times as she went 1-for-2 and walked twice.
In a game that went back and forth over the first few innings, Mississippi State (15-15, 5-3 SEC) took the early lead with two runs in the top of the first. Bainbridge opened the game with her 11th double of the year, and she scored two batters later as Smith lined a double of her own off the wall in center field.
Smith moved to third on a Courtney Nesbit base hit and scored on a Lenahan fielder's choice to put the Dawgs in front 2-0.
The lead was short-lived, however, as Kentucky (20-7, 6-3 SEC) scratched across the tying runs in the bottom of the second inning. Brittany Cervantes opened the frame with her ninth home run of the season, and Samantha DeMartine scored the tying run as she singled and came around to score on Alice O'Brien's one-out sacrifice fly.
The Dawgs regained the lead at 4-2 in the top of the third as Smith walked and Lenahan lined her fifth home run of the season over the wall in right-center field.
UK, however, got a leadoff home run from Megan Yocke and a three-run blast from Lauren Cumbess in the home half of the third to reclaim the lead at 6-4. Yocke and Cumbess drove in three runs each to pace the Wildcats at the plate.
"They scored all of their runs in three innings, but the six-run fifth broke our back," Mississippi State coach Jay Miller said. "We have to keep the ball in the yard. We threw too many balls over the fat part of the plate, and they took advantage of it. We have to fix that for tomorrow and hopefully come out strong."
Mississippi State answered with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game at 6-6. Smith and Nesbit opened the inning with back-to-back walks, and Raines cleared the bases with a one-out double off Kentucky starter Rachel Riley.
Riley, who improved to 6-2 with the win, put the Wildcats on top for good as she helped her own cause with a two-run home run off MSU reliever Misty Flesher that sparked a six-run Kentucky fifth inning.
Annie Rowlands added an RBI single off Stephanie Becker – State's third pitcher of the game – and Yocke capped the frame with a two-run base hit.
Flesher fell to 6-4 as she was touched for six runs and four hits over two innings. Becker tossed the final two frames, allowing three unearned runs and three hits while striking out a trio of Wildcats.
Sophomore Kylie Vry tossed the opening pair of frames, surrendering three runs and four hits.
The two teams resume the series at 12 p.m. CT on Saturday. Sunday's series finale is also scheduled for a Noon first pitch. Both games can be heard for free at www.mstateathletics.com/m2mlive.
Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - It's a state-of-the-art, Olympic certified surface track fans can see first-hand on Saturday as Mississippi State hosts its first meet in nearly four years.
It's a meet, however, that's anything but ordinary. In fact, you can call it historical as Saturday marks the debut of the inaugural SEC/Big 10 Challenge.
This event, the first of its kind, pits four SEC teams (Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Auburn and Georgia) against four squads from the Big 10 (Ohio State, Illinois, Indiana and Purdue) in a conference vs. conference showdown at the Carl Maddox Track facility.
The challenge, which is free to attend, gets underway at 9 a.m. with the women's hammer, while the running events are slated to begin at 1 p.m. The day will conclude with the highly-anticipated 4x400-meter relay, which the Bulldogs are ranked No. 3 nationally after finishing second last June at the NCAAs in Oregon.
The format, using the international scoring system, will crown both a men's and women's champion. In each event, first place will be awarded 10 points, second 8 points, third 6 points, fourth 5 points, fifth 4 points, sixth 3 points, seventh 2 points and eighth 1 point. All the points earned will be pooled together to the appropriate conference to determine the winners.
"We are so proud to finally be able to show off our facility," MSU director of track & field Al Schmidt said. "The administration gave us everything we wanted, and it was our intention to have an event of this magnitude mark the opening. But we wanted to make sure we had teams everyone could identify with and teams that have historically had strong programs. Hopefully, this will be the first of many."
Making the meet intriguing is the fact rivals such as MSU and Ole Miss will basically team together for the SEC. Indiana and Purdue will do the same for the Big 10.
"You're going to see some athletes out there this weekend that you'll see later in the Olympics," said MSU head coach Steve Dudley, whose men's team enters the meet ranked No. 8 nationally. "I think fans will find the format exciting. We always talk about conference pride, and that will be evident on Saturday."
In addition to the Bulldogs' ranking on the men's side, Ole Miss comes to Starkville at No. 13, followed by Auburn at No. 18 and Georgia at No. 23.
On the women's side, Auburn is No. 10 and Indiana is No. 23.
"We're looking forward to this," said MSU junior O'Neal Wilder, who enters the weekend ranked. "There seems to be that rivalry between the SEC and Big 10. I think it's going to be the start of something great. The competition will be outstanding."
STARKVILLE, Miss. - MSU's women's tennis team (2-9, 0-5 SEC) fell to the 34th ranked Gamecocks of South Carolina (11-4, 3-2 SEC) at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
"We had a really big win on court 1 of doubles today," coach Daryl Greenan said. "Unfortunately we are battling through some injuries right now and we had to withdraw from a couple matches. Hopefully we can get six healthy girls on the courts to compete at Florida on Sunday."
Starting in doubles action, the Gamecocks took the early doubles point. On court 3, the Gamecock pair of Katerina Popova and Madeleine Saari-Bystrom defeated State's Vivian Pietraroia and Danielle Terpko 8-1. South Carolina's tandem of Miljana Jocic and Anya Morgina topped Mariia Ryzhova and Jordan Zachary 8-2 at the No. 2 position.
At the top spot however, the Lady Bulldog pair of Alexandra Perper and Olesya Tsigvintseva took down South Carolina's 34th ranked duo Dominika Kanakova and Dijana Stojic 8-4.
Heading in to singles action, Lady Bulldog senior Elizabeth Hall withdrew early from court 6 after falling behind 5-3 to South Carolina's Adriana Pereira. In the five spot, Kanakova took down Pietraroia in a two setter 6-0, 6-0. Also, at the No. 3 spot Terpko fell in a two set decision to Popova 6-2, 6-0.
In the second position, Ryzhova withdrew during the second set as 103rd ranked Stojic took the match 7-6, 2-1 (def.). Battling on court 4 was Tsigvintseva who eventually fell in two sets to Saari-Bystrom 6-2, 6-2. At the top spot, Perper dropped a tough first set 7-6 and eventually dropped the match to 41st ranked Morgina 7-6, 7-5.
The Lady Bulldogs are back in action on Friday, April 8 against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Match time is set for 3 p.m. CT at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre where admission to all MSU home matches is free.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - This Saturday, Mar. 26, the 31st-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis team will serve up to the No. 19 nationally ranked Florida Gators at home at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre which is located on campus and admission is free to all MSU home tennis matches.
MSU men's tennis will host its second match that is a part of its 2011 Sorority Challenge where each MSU sorority will take part in hosting a match. This Saturday the Phi Mu sorority and the Chi Omega sorority will be hosting the match against the Gators.
The Bulldogs enter the match with a 9-5 overall record, 4-1 record in SEC play and are riding the wave of a four-match win streak and are winners in five of their last six. Florida is 11-5 overall and also 4-1 in conference play but the Gators are coming off two 4-3 losses to No. 3 Southern California and No. 23 Ole Miss.
State is fresh off a dominant 7-0 win on Wednesday against 41st-ranked Nebraska. The Bulldogs compiled fourth 7-0 victory of the season and second-straight by taking down the Cornhuskers. MSU not only won 7-0 but swept the doubles point and are now a perfect 5-0 this season when claiming the opening doubles point.
Three different Bulldogs recently achieved their fourth-straight win with Malte Stropp, Zach White and No. 92 nationally ranked Louis Cant all achieving that impressive mark. No. 85 nationally ranked Artem Ilyushin just achieved his 30th career dual match victory with his match-clinching win against the visiting Cornhuskers. Bulldog sophomore James Chaudry is a stellar 9-1in dual match play and has won 11 of his last 12 matches.
In doubles MSU is led by No. 69 nationally ranked tandem of Cant and Stropp who are fresh off their upset victory against Nebraska and have won two-straight and three of their last four. MSU's duo of Ilyshin and White are a perfect 3-0 against SEC opponents this season.
Florida's Coach Andy Jackson is the former MSU coach and led the Maroon and White from 1989-2001. All of Florida's players that have participated in dual match play have at least a .500 record or better and are led by Nassim Slilam who is 12-3, playing primarily at the No. 3 and 4 positions this season. The Gators Alexandre Lacroix stands at No. 6 nationally and has achieved an 11-5 dual match record. Sekou Bangoura Jr. ranks 39th nationally and is 11-4 in dual match play.
Florida has been solid in doubles play this season, winning 11 doubles point in the 16 matches played. The Gators boast three ranked doubles teams including 16th-ranked Lacroix and Slilam, followed by 46th-ranked Bangoura Jr. and Lacroix and No. 56 Michael Alford and Bangoura Jr.
The Bulldogs and Gators will serve it up at 1 p.m. at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre where admission is free to all MSU home tennis matches and live stats will be available at www.mstateathletics.com