News from MSU Media Relations--Mar. 29

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Softball, Baseball, Men's Basketball, Track & Field and MSU Athletics.

Softball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Senior Chelsea Raines hit two home runs and drove in four runs, and sophomore Shelby Fisher also contributed four RBI as the Mississippi State softball team swept Alcorn State 11-2 and 10-1 Tuesday afternoon at the MSU Softball Field.

Raines' pair of shots, both two-run blasts, were the fifth and sixth home runs of the season for the Ackerman, Miss., native, and they both broke open tight games as the Bulldogs improved to 17-17 overall and 13-1 at home heading into a weekend series against in-state rival Ole Miss at the MSU Softball Field.

"It was good to get a couple of quick games. We came out and put some on the board early in both games," MSU head coach Jay Miller, who notched his 996th and 997th career wins, said. "We got great pitching in both games, especially from Stephanie Becker with the one-hitter in the second game. Chelsea Raines came up with two big blows for us, and I was pleased with the way we hit the ball throughout the lineup."

The Bulldog offense, which pounded out 22 hits on the day, supported the pitchers with six runs in the fourth inning of game one and seven more in the fourth inning of the nightcap.

Becker, a sophomore, allowed a first-inning home run, Alcorn's lone hit of the game, before retiring 13 of the final 15 batters she faced to earn the win and run her record to 4-3. The Aurora, Ill., native struck out nine in the game.

Her performance followed stellar showings from Kylie Vry and Misty Flesher in the opener. Vry improved to 6-7 as she allowed two runs (one earned) and two hits. Flesher surrendered one hit over the final two innings to notch her team-leading third save of the year. Both pitchers struck out four.

Fisher collected a career-high two hits and three RBI in the opening game before closing the afternoon with another pair of hits and an RBI.

After tallying a hit in game one, freshman Sam Lenahan hit two triples, second-most in school history, and drove in three runs in the nightcap.

In Tuesday's opener, MSU sprinted to a 5-0 lead with two runs in the first inning and three more scores in the second inning.

Junior Ka'ili Smith opened the scoring with an RBI triple in the first that plated senior Ali Bainbridge and put Mississippi State. Smith scored State's second run on a sacrifice fly by Courtney Nesbit.

The Bulldogs extended the lead to 5-0 with three runs in the second. Sophomore Jessica Cooley singled and came around to score on a wild pitch. Fisher followed with a base hit that plated Bainbridge after she drew her second of three walks in the game. Fisher touched home with the Dawgs' final run of the frame on a Smith single to center.

After Alcorn State (11-16) scored twice to close within 5-2, the Bulldogs removed all doubt by scoring six runs with two out in the home half of the fourth inning. Freshman Jessica Offutt reached on a one-out infield single, and Raines brought her home with her first home run of the afternoon, a towering shot over the left-center field wall off Lady Braves' starter Melissa Rubio (1-3).

Cooley put MSU up 8-0 as she tripled and scored when the throw to third sailed into the Bulldog dugout. Freshman Heidi Shape singled and Brittany Gates was hit by a pitch before Bainbridge walked to load the bases. Fisher delivered a two-run single before Bainbridge scored on a wild pitch to plate the inning's final run.

Alcorn State finished with three hits, including two hits by Jasmine Hubbard.

Hubbard capped her solid day with a two-out home run in the first inning of game two, but the lead was short-lived as Mississippi State answered with 10-straight runs to end the game in five innings.

The Bulldogs scratched the tying run across in the bottom of the first. Bainbridge walked and then stole second, one of a school second-most eight steals in the game. Two batters later, the Vestavia Hills, Ala., native swiped third and scored as the ASU catcher's throw sailed into left field.

Mississippi State took a 2-1 lead in the second as freshman Briana Bell hit a one-out single up the middle and later came home on a Chrissie Rovtar ground ball that was booted by the Lady Braves' third baseman.

Lenahan tripled to score Smith in the third before Mississippi State erupted for seven runs in the fourth.

Shape opened the frame with a bunt that scored Bell, who singled to open the inning. Gates doubled, moved to third on a Bainbridge base hit and scored on a Fisher infield single to put the Dawgs in front 5-1.

Bainbridge scored on a Courtney Nesbit fielder's choice, and Lenahan gave MSU a 7-1 advantage with a bases-clearing, two-run triple.

Raines then gave State its final runs as she lined a Kasey Duncan pitch over the wall in left-center.

Duncan fell to 3-8 as she was touched for 10 runs (eight earned) and 10 hits in the complete-game outing.

The Bulldogs and Rebels open their three-game league set at 5 p.m. Friday. The final two games of the series are set for 1 p.m. first pitches on Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the games is free, and a live audio stream will be available at www.mstateathletics.com/m2mlive.


Baseball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's all-bulldog week of baseball gets under way at 5 p.m. Wednesday when the Bulldogs take on the Alabama A&M Bulldogs at Dudy Noble Field. The game, originally scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, was moved to Wednesday in advance of anticipated inclement weather. Tuesday's game ticket (season ticket No. 20), will be honored at Wednesday's game.

Sophomore Kendall Graveman (2-0, 3.18) will lead Mississippi State's split pitching crew Wednesday while first-time MSU opponent Alabama A&M will open with senior right-hander Demarcus Stewart (0-1, 15.75). It will be Graveman's fourth start of the campaign and his first since notching a March 15 win against Eastern Illinois.

State climbed into the national rankings this week, debuting at No. 24 in the Collegiate Baseball newspaper rankings.

Mississippi State travels to Athens, Ga., for a three-game SEC weekend series against the Georgia Bulldogs (11-13, 3-3 SEC).


Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Ravern Johnson, who just completed his Mississippi State career, is one of 24 players selected to participate in the 23rd Annual State Farm College Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championship, to be held in conjunction with the 2011 Final Four in Houston, Texas.

The event will be held on Thursday, March 31 at 8 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2, with Dan Dakich, Jimmy Dykes, Brad Nessler and Holly Rowe handling the broadcast.

This past season, Johnson, a native of Lyon, Miss., who is majoring educational psychology, led the Bulldogs with 83 3-pointers. He finished his career 260, the second most in school history.

He also scored 1,460 points while wearing the Maroon & White, which ties him for the 11th most in the MSU record books.

"I was surprised when I heard the news," he said. "But I'm excited and looking forward to going to Houston."

The five judges for the Denny's Slam Dunk Championship are: Hall of Famer and second-leading scorer in NBA history Karl Malone; Hall of Famer and former Houston Rocket Calvin Murphy; 2008 first-round NBA draft pick and Houston Rocket Courtney Lee; former Kentucky standout, current Houston Rocket and 2005 College Slam Dunk participant Chuck Hayes; and two-time Pro-Bowl participant and former Defensive Rookie of the Year, Houston Texan DeMeco Ryans.


Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss - James Harris of Mississippi State was named the SEC Male Freshman of the Week on Tuesday following his outstanding performance at the SEC/Big Ten Challenge Saturday.

Fresh off being named an Indoor All-American, Harris continued his dominance in the high jump, setting a personal record (7-03 ¾) and finishing just behind the NCAA Indoor Champion Derek Drouin of Indiana on Saturday.

"It is surreal to be named SEC Freshman of the Week," Harris said. "I have always heard about it and wanted to win it. Winning it this early in the season just shows me what I am capable of, and that if I work hard I can be great."

Following his performance in the high jump, Harris was on the 4x400m relay team, starting off the race and building a one second lead in his leg to help the team on to victory and to the third fastest national relay time this year (3:05.24).

"It was really exciting competing at the SEC/Big Ten Challenge," Harris stated. "It was the first home meet in four years, so getting to compete in front of family and friends was special. Competing was all that was on my mind, because I wanted to represent well in front of them."

Harris is an all-around track and field athlete, as he has posted top times in three different events, the highest of which comes in the high jump, Harris' premiere event, where he is in a three way tie at second in the nation. The Bulldog also competes in the 200m dash, where he has posted the 11th fastest time in the nation, and as mentioned earlier Harris was a member of the 4x400m relay team that posted the third fastest national time.

"I am extremely proud of James," MSU head coach Steve Dudley commented. "There is an unbelievable number of great athletes in the SEC, so for him to be named Freshman of the Week is a big accomplishment."

Harris will get another chance to compete in front of his family and friends as MSU is at home this weekend for the Twilight Invitational on April 1.


MSU Athletics
STARKVILLE, Miss. - For the first time in 58 years, a new voice will call the action of Mississippi State athletics this fall. Veteran broadcaster Jim Ellis will take over as the play-by-play voice of the Mississippi State football and basketball teams, while continuing his responsibility as the "Voice of the Diamond Dogs." Ellis takes over the play-by-play duties from the legendary Jack Cristil, who called more than 2,000 Bulldog games. Cristil announced his retirement earlier this spring.

"I'm honored and humbled to assume the chair that Jack has occupied for so many years," Ellis said. "It's has been a great privilege to be a part of the Mississippi State broadcast and I look forward to continuing and building upon the legacy that Jack has created."

Scott Stricklin, Mississippi State director of athletics, and Don Williams, general manager for Bulldog Sports Properties, a Learfield Sports property, announced the talent lineup on Tuesday. Former Bulldog quarterback Matt Wyatt will join Ellis as color analyst for football games, while Assistant Athletic Director Bart Gregory will be added to the baseball booth.

A native of West Point, Miss., and a 1969 graduate of Mississippi State, Ellis has been a part of the football broadcast for 32 seasons. He has hosted the post-game locker room interviews and scoreboard radio shows in addition to his duties as color analyst. Perhaps most widely recognized as the play-by-play voice of the baseball team on one of the nation's largest college baseball radio networks, Ellis was named the "Outstanding Broadcaster in Mississippi" in 1999 and 2002.

"Jim is a tremendous, experienced broadcaster and has already established a recognizable presence on the airwaves with Mississippi State athletics," Stricklin said.

Ellis will continue his role as weekly call-in show host for all three sports, and will add hosting duties of weekly coaches' television shows.

"This was a no-brainer for Learfield Sports in terms of having somebody in place that is already instantly recognizable and well-liked by the fan base at Mississippi State," Williams said. "Jim is a consummate professional and will do a great job in the play-by-play role for all three sports."

While Wyatt will be a new addition to the football broadcast booth, he won't be a completely new voice. A 1999 graduate of Mississippi State, he served as host of the pre- and post-game radio shows for the past two seasons. Wyatt was a four-year letterwinner at quarterback from 1996-1999, one of the most successful stretches in school history.

"What an awesome opportunity," Wyatt said. "To be able to be a part of the broadcast team at my alma mater, and team with such an amazing broadcaster as Jim Ellis, it's a dream come true."

Ellis and Wyatt will be joined by John Correro on the sidelines. The Greenwood, Miss., native is a three-year football letterman (1959-61) at Mississippi State and has been a part of the radio broadcasts since 1979.

For the third consecutive season, Wyatt will continue to co-host the pre- and post-game shows with Bart Gregory. Gregory, an assistant athletic director for Annual Giving in the Bulldog Club, will continue to serve as the play-by-play voice of the Lady Bulldog basketball team. Gregory will also join Ellis in the baseball booth beginning next season.

"Matt and Bart are talented young voices and will bring a new energy to the radio booth," Stricklin said. "We're excited to have both of them in their new roles."

Learfield and Mississippi State officials are still finalizing details regarding a basketball color analyst, and that position will be announced at a later date.

Ellis, Wyatt and Correro will have their broadcast debut at the Maroon-White Spring Game on April 9 at 5 p.m. A final affiliate list has not been confirmed, but will be available in the coming days at MStateAthletics.com.


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