News from MSU Media Relations--Apr. 12

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

Softball
ITTA BENA, Miss. - Senior Jessica Cooley tripled as part of a two-hit afternoon, and Stephanie Becker tossed 3.1 innings of perfect relief as Mississippi State defeated Mississippi Valley State 5-1 Tuesday afternoon in Itta Bena, Miss.

Cooley drove in the tying run in the top of the fourth before coming home with the winning run later that inning. She also singled in the top of the seventh as Mississippi State improved to 21-21 on the season.

Senior Courtney Nesbit and junior Ka'ili Smith also collected two hits apiece. Smith also added an RBI for the Dawgs.

Becker retired the final 10 MVSU batters to earn the win and run her record to 6-3. The Aurora, Ill., native relieved starter Misty Flesher, who was touched for a run and three hits through the opening 3.2 innings.

Mississippi State put at least one runner on base in each of the first three innings, but the Dawgs were unable to come through with the clutch hit. State stranded 11 runners in the contest.

"We left a lot of runners on base. We had a runner reach in every inning, and we have to do a better job of driving them in, especially on the road," MSU head coach Jay Miller said. "Thankfully we came back and put some runs up late, but we didn't do a good job adjusting at the plate.

"Stephanie came in and shut the door on them," Miller said. "Misty threw well, but she got tired and started to walk some batters. We decided to come in with Steph, and she did a nice job shutting them down."

Mississippi Valley State took a 1-0 lead off Flesher in the bottom of the third. Hanako Kilburn hit a one-out double, and pinch-runner Trenicea Cameron scored as the Bulldogs threw out Brianna Holmes trying to steal second.

MSU answered in the top of the fourth, though, as freshman Jessica Offutt singled and scored the tying run on Cooley's triple to right. Senor Ali Bainbridge drew the first of two walks and stole second before sophomore Shelby Fisher hit a soft liner to short that MVSU's Diana Parada dropped, allowing Cooley to score the lead run.

The Delta Devilettes drew three two-out walks off Flesher in the home half of the frame, but Becker got a Kilburn groundout to end the inning and preserve State's 2-1 lead.

With Becker blanking the MVSU bats, State extended the lead to 3-1 in the top of the fifth. Freshman Sam Lenahan ripped a one-out single through the left side, and she took third as MVSU first baseman Shana Ladner's throw to first on a Heidi Shape bunt sailed away.

Raines brought Lenahan home with a sacrifice fly to right field.

The Bulldogs opened the sixth with back-to-back walks by Cooley and Bainbridge, and the pair advanced on a Fisher sacrifice bunt. Cooley got caught in a rundown between third and home, but she managed to score on an errant throw to put MSU up 4-1.

Smith brought home State's final run with a single to right that scored Bainbridge.

Mississippi State stays on the road this weekend, traveling to Tuscaloosa for a three-game SEC series against No. 3/5 Alabama.


Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss - Mississippi State's men's tennis team, following a weekend that saw the Bulldogs down #21 Auburn 5-2 Friday on the Plains and oust #42 Alabama by the same score in Tuscaloosa Sunday, has jumped four more spots to 21st nationally in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association Rankings released Tuesday.

State, 12-7 overall and 7-3 in the Southeastern Conference, has claimed the SEC Western Division title outright with one regular season match to play - a home showdown with 30th-ranked arch rival Ole Miss set for this Saturday, April 16, at 1 p.m. CT.

The Bulldogs have won seven of their last nine matches, with the only losses coming in 4-3 nailbiters against top 20 foes Florida and Georgia, and that stretch includes a 6-1 upset of fourth-ranked Tennessee.

"Our guys are continuing to play well, but we will need to remain very focused if we are to win this weekend," MSU head coach Per Nilsson said. "It's always tough against Ole Miss. We must be well-prepared. We can't stress enough how much we need everyone to come out and support our team in this very important match."

In addition to state bragging rights, a top four seeding at next week's SEC Championship in Gainesville, Fla., is on the line for the Bulldogs Saturday. If State defeats the Rebels, it would secure at least the #4 seed and a first-round bye in the tournament, which runs April 21-24 at the University of Florida.

Saturday's 1 p.m. affair will be play at MSU's A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre and admission is free.

The new individual rankings were also released Tuesday and four Bulldogs are now among the nation's top 100 players. State's George Coupland climbed to 55th nationally in singles, Artem Ilyushin moved up to 66th and Louis Cant is up a spot to 76th. Making his debut in the rankings was rookie Malte Stropp, who came in at 89th. Cant and Stropp have each won nine straight matches.

In doubles, Coupland and Ilyushin are now the nation's 36th-ranked tandem. Cant and Stropp moved up to 53rd as a duo.


Baseball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's Bulldogs have some unfinished business in Birmingham, Ala., this week. Rain forced suspension of the March 9 MSU-UAB baseball game, and Wednesday evening the Bulldogs (21-11) and the Blazers (19-13) return to Young Memorial Stadium to complete that game. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. and the radio broadcast of the game will be carried locally by WFCA-FM (107.9) and on the internet (www.MStateAthletics.com/m2mlive) to subscribers of MSU's Maroon to the Max.

Play resumes Wednesday with UAB holding a 4-3 lead and MSU at bat in the top of the sixth inning with no outs and two runners (Ryan Collins and Jonathan Ogden) on base. The Blazers had plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth and claimed a 4-3 lead on Patrick Palmeiro's RBI single. State scored its three runs in the third inning on a bases-clearing double by Jarrod Parks.

The Diamond Dogs, who upended No. 4 Florida 7-5 in Friday's series-opener, dropped the closely-contested Sunday rubber match of last weekend's three-game home series 3-1 to the defending SEC champions.

Coach Brian Shoop's UAB Blazers registered their 14th win in 16 home games Tuesday night with a 5-3 win over Kennesaw State.

Mississippi State continues SEC play in Fayetteville, Ark., this weekend with a three-game series against the 13th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks (24-8/6-6 SEC). Friday's series-opener at Baum Stadium will be televised by SportSouth. Both the 6:35 p.m. Saturday contest and the 1:05 p.m. Sunday series finale will be televised by Cox Sports.


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