KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Mississippi State sophomore Stephanie Becker had a stellar showing in the circle, but a two-run home run by Melissa Davin in the bottom of the fifth proved to be the difference as the sixth-ranked Lady Vols escaped with a 2-0 win in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference softball series at Lee Stadium in Knoxville.
The loss dropped the Dawgs to 22-25 overall and 8-12 in league play. Tennessee improved to 40-6 and 16-4 in the conference.
Becker (6-6) tossed 5.1 innings and allowed the two runs and nine hits while striking out five. Junior Misty Flesher retired the final two Lady Vols.
Courtney Nesbit, Chelsea Raines, Brittany Gates and Briana Bell had Mississippi State's four hits off UT starter Ellen Renfroe. Renfroe improved to 22-2 as she struck out nine in the complete-game shutout.
After the Bulldogs failed to put any runs across in the first, Raven Chavanne and Kelly Grieve reached for Tennessee in the home half of the inning. Becker avoided any further trouble, however, registering three-straight strikeouts to end the inning.
An inning-ending double play by Heidi Shape in the bottom of the second kept the game scoreless, and the Bulldogs opened the top of the third with back-to-back base hits by Chelsea Raines and Brittany Gates.
Briana Bell sacrificed the pair, but the Dawgs were unable to plate the game's first run as Raines was retired on an Ali Bainbridge ground ball and Jessica Cooley flew out to right field.
Becker retired the Lady Vols in order in the third and fourth before Tennessee struck with the game's only two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Madison Shipman opened the inning with a base hit, and Melissa Davin followed with a two-run home run over the wall in right field.
Bell opened the top of the sixth with a base hit up the middle. She moved to second on a wild pitch three batters later, but she was left on base as Chavanne made a running grab of a Ka'ili Smith fly ball to deep left field.
Tennessee threatened to extend the lead in the bottom of the sixth, but Flesher managed to work out of the jam.
State's Nesbit singled to open the seventh. Pinch-runner Jessica Offutt took second on a wild pitch, but she was unable to advance any further as Renfroe got a strikeout and a groundout to end the game.
Game two of the series is set for 5 p.m. on Friday and will be broadcast live on SportSouth. A free, live audio stream will be available at www.mstateathletics.com/m2mlive.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Mississippi State's 19th-ranked men's tennis team will open competition in the 2011 Southeastern Conference Championship Friday afternoon in the quarterfinal round. Seeded fourth in the tournament, State will meet fifth-seeded and 17th-ranked host Florida at 3 p.m. ET at UF's Ring Tennis Complex.
State, 13-7 overall and 8-3 in the SEC, claimed the SEC Western Division crown this season, going a perfect 5-0 in the division and registering the team's best SEC record in 13 years. MSU has won eight of its last 10 matches, including three consecutive 5-2 victories to close the regular season against Auburn, Alabama and arch rival Ole Miss.
The host Gators, which downed 12th-seeded Arkansas 4-0 in Thursday's first round, will enter Friday's matchup at 15-8 overall. UF was 7-4 in the league this spring.
The Gators edged the Bulldogs 4-3 in a fierce battle on March 26 in Starkville in the teams' only meeting this season and Friday's contest is expected to be another great matchup.
Four Bulldogs are ranked in the top 100 nationally in singles. State's George Coupland is 58th, Artem Ilyushin comes in at 59th, Louis Cant is 78th and true freshman Malte Stropp is 103rd. In doubles, Cant and Stropp are 33rd in the country, while Coupland and Ilyushin are 58th as a tandem.
Florida has three players ranked in singles in Alex Lacroix (8th), Sekou Bangoura Jr. (44th) and Nassim Slilam (93rd). Bangoura and Lacroix are the nation's No. 29 doubles tandem.
The winner of Friday's MSU-UF matchup will advance to Saturday's semifinals to take on the winner between top-seeded (second-ranked) Tennessee and the #8 seed Ole Miss/#9 seed Vanderbilt winner. UM and VU were playing late Thursday to determine VU's opposition on Friday.
Live results of the MSU-Florida affair will be available on mstateathletics.com.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State's women's tennis squad (2-16, 0-12 SEC) fell to the #19 Vanderbilt Commodores in the opening round of the SEC Tourney on Thursday in Knoxville.
"We battled very well today and almost put ourselves in a position to win the match," coach Daryl Greenan said. "We came up a little short but I have to give credit to our girls for the effort today. Alexandra (Perper) had a great win on court 1 today and Danielle (Terpko) and Mariia (Ryzhova) battled extremely tough as well."
In doubles action, Vanderbilt took a quick lead on court 2 as the Commodore pair of Chelsea Preeg and Lauren Mira took down MSU's Mariia Ryzhova and Olesya Tsigvintseva 8-2. The match clincher came in the first position where Vandy's Rachael Dillon and Jackie Wu ousted Alexandra Perper and Danielle Terpko 8-3.
Battling in the No. 3 spot for State was the pair of Elizabeth Hall and Vivian Pietraroia. Playing in her last match with the Maroon and White, Hall fought alongside Pietraroia to a close 6-5 battle until the match was suspended due to the match being clinched on court 1.
Swinging into singles action, the Lady Bulldogs dropped an early two-setter on court 6 as Dion fell to Ulery on 6-0, 6-0. However, MSU would not back down as they battled tough on the remaining four courts.
At the top spot for State was Perper where she took down a 75th ranked Commodore opponent in Leatu 6-4 in the first set. After being down 4-2 in the second set, Perper fought to win four straight games and take the match 6-4, 6-4.
Clinching the match for the Dores was Wu in the No. 3 position as she took down Tsigvintseva in a two-set decision 6-1, 6-2.
In the fourth spot for MSU was Terpko where she took the first set from Mira 6-1 but dropped in the second 6-3. After taking a 3-2 lead in the third set, the match was suspended due to the match clincher on court 4. Also, Ryzhova was behind in the No. 2 position 6-3, 5-4 against 77th Preeg of the Commodores until the match was suspended as well.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State challenges its sixth top 20 opponent in as many weeks as the Bulldogs (23-14/6-9 SEC) host No. 2 South Carolina (29-7/12-3 SEC) Friday night in the opening game of a three-game Easter Weekend series at Dudy Noble Field. First pitch is set at 7:06 p.m. for the game being televised nationally by ESPNU. It's the first visit to Dudy Noble Field for the national sports network since the Bulldogs' 2007 Super Regional win over Clemson that clinched State's eighth trip to the NCAA College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
The series continues with a 6:06 p.m. game Saturday (FOX Sports Net) and concludes Easter Sunday with a 1:30 p.m. contest.
All three games will be broadcast on the 18-station MSU Baseball Radio Network with live video (Sunday only) and audio available online to subscribers of MSU's "Maroon to the Max" (www.MStateAthletics.com/).
With wins in their last two games, the Bulldogs have matched their 2010 conference and season win totals. MSU claimed a 5-3 win in Sunday's series finale at No. 13 Arkansas for league win No. 6 and followed that up Tuesday night in Pearl, Miss., with a 6-1 Governor's Cup win over Ole Miss, victory No. 23 on the campaign for State. This season coach John Cohen's third MSU edition has registered wins over No. 1 Vanderbilt, No. 20 Auburn, No. 14 Southern Miss, No. 4 Florida and No. 13 Arkansas en route to a No. 28 RPI rating.
Sophomore right-hander Chris Stratton (4-4, 4.66 ERA) will open on the mound for the Bulldogs, who are paced at the plate by SEC hitting leader Jarrod Parks. State's senior third baseman notched his 17th multi-hit game of the year in Tuesday's win over Ole Miss, extending a team-best hitting streak to 10 games and raising his season batting average to a league-high .402.
Defending national champion and SEC-leading South Carolina will open on the mound with junior lefty Michael Roth (8-1, 1.24), who begins the weekend leading the SEC in both wins and earned run average.
The race to the 2011 SEC Baseball Tournament May 25-29 in Hoover, Ala., moves into its second half this weekend, with South Carolina holding a one-game edge in the overall and SEC Eastern Division standings. State stands fifth in the SEC West and ninth overall but just two games out of first place in a closely-contested SEC Western Division race.
Mississippi State and South Carolina have split their last two series, with the home team winning in Columbia last year (10-2, 7-8, 14-2) and in Starkville in 2009 (13-6, 10-3, 4-5). USC leads the all-time series 30-25 in a rivalry that got its start at Omaha's Rosenblatt Stadium in the 1981 NCAA College World Series. The teams met twice in NCAA regional tournament competition at Dudy Noble Field in 1984. MSU holds a 12-11 all-time series edge in games played in Starkville.
The Bulldogs are engaged in an unusual run of 10 consecutive games against Southeastern Conference opponents. MSU went 1-2 last weekend at No. 13 Arkansas and topped instate league rival Ole Miss in a non-conference Tuesday game. State will sandwich an exam week break from non-conference play between this weekend's home series against South Carolina and next weekend's three-game set against SEC West rival Alabama, giving MSU its 10-game SEC run.
Commencement exercises on campus next weekend have helped create the first scheduled SEC Saturday doubleheader at Dudy Noble Field since 1993. MSU's three-game set with Alabama (Apr. 30-May1) will open with a 2 p.m. Saturday twinbill and conclude with a 1:30 p.m. game Sunday. The SEC adopted the three-game, three-day scheduling format following the 1993 season. The doubleheader could attract the 26th crowd of 10,000-plus all-time at Dudy Noble Field.
Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State track and field coach Steve Dudley announced on Wednesday four standout athletes have signed national letters of intent to join the Bulldogs.
Anthony Bynum; Huntsville, N.C. (Hopewell HS)
Dudley on Bynum: "We are very excited about adding Anthony to our short sprint corp. Anthony will help Mississippi State continue having success in the relays."
Personal Highlights: 10.64 (100-meters), 21.34 (200-meters), 50.98 (400-meters)
Katelyn Walker; Madison Central, Miss. (Madison Central HS)
Franks on Walker: "It is always great to sign one of Mississippi's best young athletes. We believe Katelyn has a ton of potential and is going to be a great addition to our track & field/cross country program."
Personal Highlights: 5:24 (1600), Multi-time all-state in track & cross country
Chad Moore; Hattiesburg, Miss. (Oak Grove HS)
Franks on Moore: "Chad is the best male distance runner in Mississippi, and we are very excited that he chose to stay in the state and be a part of the MSU family. His talent and his toughness are going to be a great asset to our program."
Personal Highlights: 4:29 (1600m), 16:00 (5000m), cross country state champion
Sally Gale; Nyack, N.Y. (Nyack HS)
Schmidt on Gale: "Sally is a solid track and field athlete and she has been very consistent in the high jump. Being such an athlete we will have her in multi-events."
Personal Highlights: 5.7 (high jump), 61.17 (400-meters)