News from MSU Media Relations--Apr. 8

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

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State head coach Jay Miller claimed his 1,000th career win as freshman Heidi Shape hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to rally the Bulldog softball team to a 4-3 win against No. 22 Auburn Friday night at the MSU Softball Field.

The win puts Miller at 1,000-655 in his 29th season as a head coach. MSU's all-time wins leader, Miller becomes the 13th Division I head coach and 18th among all divisions to reach the milestone.

"This group of kids have really worked hard since last August, so you want to see them be rewarded for that hard work. They did a great job coming out to start the series against Auburn. It was a big win against a ranked team," Miller said. "That's the kind of win we need to get us going, and hopefully we can build on it this weekend."

Entering the sixth, Mississippi State (20-19, 8-6 SEC) had managed just one hit off Auburn starter Jenee Loree, but junior Ka'ili Smith sparked the rally with a single to shortstop. Senior Courtney Nesbit moved to her second with a groundout, and freshman Sam Lenahan walked to bring Shape to the plate with the go-ahead run.

A double steal put the tying run in scoring position, but Shape instead gave the Dawgs the win as she lined a 2-0 pitch off the scoreboard in left field.

"That was a big home run by Heidi, but before that she made a great play at home plate to allow us to steal second and third," Miller said. "She's been swinging a good bat lately, and she just missed a pitch earlier. I'm glad she got another chance to face their pitcher today."

"I was feeling really good because I had just missed one the previous at-bat. I saw the pitch and just wanted to jump on it," Shape said. "This is a big accomplishment for Coach Miller and our team. I was just glad I could help us get the win."

Auburn (30-9, 9-6 SEC) put the leadoff runner on base in the top of the seventh off MSU reliever Kylie Vry, but Chelsea Raines made a stellar stab at third base to record a double play. The Bulldogs went to Misty Flesher to close the game, and the Lone Grove, Okla., native got a fly ball to clinch the milestone victory.

Flesher notched her team- and SEC-best fourth save, while Vry tossed 1.2 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win and run her record to 8-8. Stephanie Becker allowed three runs on six hits and struck out six over the opening five innings.

Becker retired the first seven Auburn hitters she faced, and her offense responded by giving State a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second.

Freshman Sam Lenahan lined a one-out double to center field, and after moving to third on a wild pitch, she scored on a sacrifice fly to deep right-center by senior Chelsea Raines.

The Tigers erased MSU's lead with three runs in the top of the fifth. Caitlin Stangl hit a one-out triple and came around to score on a double by Amber Harrison. Two batters later, Kyndall White capped the inning with a two-out double of her own.

State rallied to clinch the win and improve to 16-2 at home this season. The Dawgs also handed Loree her third loss of the season against eight wins. She allowed four runs on three hits while striking out nine.

The Bulldogs go for the series win tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. Prior to the game, Mississippi State will recognize a number of alumni in town for this weekend's Super Bulldog Weekend presented by Region's Bank.

Men's Tennis
AUBURN, Ala. - Mississippi State's men's tennis team picked up another big win Friday evening, as the 25th-ranked Bulldogs clipped 21st-ranked Auburn on the road, 5-2.

State, which had upset #4 Tennessee last Friday, improved to 11-7 overall and 6-3 in the Southeastern Conference, still atop the Western Division. The Bulldogs have won six of their last eight contests, with the only losses coming to top 20 teams in 4-3 decisions. Auburn fell to 12-8, 4-5 SEC with the setback.

The Bulldogs gained the first point of the evening with a well-earned doubles point against a favored Auburn lineup. Bulldogs Louis Cant and Malte Stropp, ranked 84th, led things off with an 8-5 upset of 28th-ranked Tigers Daniel Cochrane and Tim Puetz at the top spot. MSU's duo of George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin then followed that win an 8-5 win of their own, upending the 45th-ranked Auburn team of Alex Stamchev and Andreas Mies at No. 2. AU salvaged the final doubles match with a 9-8(5) tiebreak win at No. 3, where Lucas Lopasso and Rafael Rondino edged MSU's James Chaudry and Zach White.

Auburn evened things at 1-1 when the 15th-ranked Puetz ousted MSU's 76th-ranked Coupland 6-4, 6-2 at the No. 1 singles position. State regained the lead at 2-1 when the rookie Stropp continued his outstanding play with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over the Tigers' Cochrane at the No. 4 spot. Auburn evened the match again when Stamchev, ranked 118th nationally, downed MSU's Ilyushin, ranked 94th, 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2.

State would then get two wins almost simultaneously to clinch the team victory. Chaudry rallied back in a fury to claim a 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 win at the No. 3 position over Tiger Tim Hewitt for a 3-2 MSU lead.

With the match on his shoulders at that point, the Bulldog rookie White fought off a big second-set challenge from Rondino at No. 6 to clinch the win for the Bulldogs in a 6-2, 7-6(3) triumph.

The final match of the day would go to State's 77th-ranked Cant in a close decision. The junior won his eighth in a row as well, holding off Auburn's Mies 7-5, 6-7(3), 1-0(8) at No. 5.

"We played a very focused match today and we had to have that to pull off this win," MSU head coach Per Nilsson said. "Auburn is a very good team and tough at home. Now we need to regroup and quickly prepare for yet another tough one at Alabama Sunday."

The Bulldog tennis squad will next meet #42 Alabama on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Tuscaloosa before returning home next Saturday, April 16, to close out the regular season hosting 32nd-ranked arch rival Ole Miss at 1 p.m.

Women's Tennis
STARAKVILLE, Miss. - MSU's women's tennis team (2-13, 0-9 SEC) fell to the Tigers of Auburn (5-15, 1-8 SEC) in a tough 4-1 battle on Friday at the Pitts Tennis Centre.

"I was really proud of the way our girls battled today," said coach Daryl Greenan. "(Alexandra) Perper picked up a well deserved win on court 1 today and we fought hard on every other court. I hope to see everyone out at the courts on Sunday against Alabama as we honor Elizabeth (Hall) on Senior Day."

On court 3 of doubles, Auburn defaulted the point due to a last minute injury giving MSU the early 1-0 lead in doubles. However, the Tiger pair of Jacqueline Kasler and Plamena Kurteva took down Lady Bulldogs Alexandra Perper and Olesya Tsigvintseva in the top spot, 8-4.

Clinching the match for Auburn was the duo of Caroline Thornton and Paulina Schippers as they ousted MSU's pair Vivian Pietraroia and Danielle Terpko 8-4 in the second position.

Carrying their momentum into singles, the Tigers took an early point on court 5 as Pietraroia defaulted the match to Auburn's Taylor Cohen 5-0 (def.). In the second position, MSU's Mariia Ryzhova fell 6-3, 6-2 to Schippers of Auburn.

However, the Lady Bulldogs would keep battling as Perper took down Thornton in a two-setter 6-1, 6-4 to put the match at 3-1 overall.

Courts 3, 4 and 6 all went into third sets while battling for the match clincher. Dion took the first set 7-5 in the sixth position but lost in the second set to Auburn's Taylor Cohen 6-3, sending the match to a third set. Tsigvintseva battled at the No. 4 spot for MSU where she found herself dead even at 6-2, 2-6 with Kasler going into the third set.

In the third position, Terpko took on Kurtova where they battled through a long fought match. Terpko took the first set 6-2 while Kurtova seized the second 6-2. After being down 5-1 in the third set, Terpko brought the match to 5-3 but Kurtova proved too much as she fought to take the last set 6-3 and clinch match for the Tigers, 4-1.

Both of the remaining matches were suspended at this point, early in the third set.

Mississippi State returns to action on Sunday, April 10 for Senior Day as they play host to the Crimson Tide of Alabama. Match time is slated for 1 p.m. CT at A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre where admission to all MSU home matches is free.

Track & Field
AUSTIN, Texas - After seeing limited action Thursday at the 84th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, Mississippi State went full throttle on Friday, qualifying two for the finals, setting a new school record and breaking six personal records along the way.

"Setting that many personal records on any day is great," MSU coach Steve Dudley said. "To do it on a big stage like the Texas Relays is impressive and shows that you can do anything you set your mind to. I always prefer to see my athletes on the track rather than watching in the stands, so getting people qualified for the finals is important. We came here to compete, and you have to have people in the finals if you want to do that."

Leading the way for the Bulldogs was Ed Wesela with his big win in the shot put, throwing 57-11 ¾ to claim victory and set a new personal best.

D'Angelo Cherry placed second in the 100m dash prelim (10.15) to earn a place in Saturday's finals, as did the 4x100m relay team of Kendall May, Cherry, Garren Hendricks and Tavaris Tate with their time of 39.72 to finish third.

Freshman Rochelle Farquharson led the way for the Lady Bulldogs as she set a school record in the triple jump. The native of Jamaica jumped 41-08 ¾ to finish third.

Jessica Merriweather of Memphis, Tenn., tied her personal record as she jumped 5-10 ¾ to finish fifth in the high jump. Also setting personal records were seniors Talisha Lee, who finished 23rd in the 100m hurdles (13.77), and Richesa McCaleb, who finished 23rd in the 100m dash (11.56) en route to finding a home at third on the MSU All-Time list.

The Lady Bulldog 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams also laced up Friday. The 4x100m squad of sophomores Brittany Covington and Jody-Ann Muir and seniors Taneisha Baker and McCaleb posted a time of 46.06 to finish 11th, while the 4x400m quartet of sophomore Keisha Wallace, Muir, Brittany and Baker ran 3:44.18 to finish 17th.

MSU was still in action as of press time Friday. Results from those events will be highlighted in Saturday's release, along with highlights and times from all of Saturday's competitions.

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