STARKVILLE, Miss. - Senior Chelsea Raines and sophomore Jessica Cooley collected two hits and drove in the tying runs in a two-run fifth, but the comeback fell short as No. 21 LSU scored twice in the sixth to escape with a 4-2 victory Friday evening in the opening game of a three-game Southeastern Conference softball series at the MSU Softball Field.
Raines and Cooley rallied the Bulldogs (23-27, 9-14 SEC) after freshman Sam Lenahan bounced a one-out single up the middle to spark the fifth. Lenahan stole second on a Heidi Shape strikeout, and Raines brought her home with a double, her 11th of the season, to left field.
Cooley then drove in Raines with the tying run as she hit a deep fly ball to right that appeared to be leaving the park before it hit off the wall for a triple.
LSU (33-15, 14-9 SEC), however, answered right with the deciding two runs the next half inning. Lauren Houston opened the inning with a single, and pinch-runner Katie Guillory took second when Morgan Russell was hit by a pitch.
Guillory scored the go-ahead run on a Simone Heyward infield hit, and Russell plated the Tigers' fourth run on a Juliana Santos sacrifice fly before Shaw was called out at second for leaving the base early.
Heyward, Anissa Young and Tiffany Shaw had two hits each to pace LSU.
State kept fighting and put the tying runs in scoring position in the bottom of the seventh. Courtney Nesbit was hit by a pitch to start the inning, and Lenahan drew a walk to chase LSU starter Brittany Mack.
Reliever Rachele Fico put Lenahan and pinch-runner Rachael Zdeb in scoring position on an illegal pitch, but MSU was unable to come through with the clutch hit.
The Bulldogs had multiple opportunities to punch across runs in the game, but head coach Jay Miller's squad left 12 on base, including eight in scoring position.
"We had opportunities with runners in scoring position in the first four innings, but we couldn't get the hit to drive them in," Miller said. "The bottom of the order did a good job coming through and generating some runs. We have to get some clutch hits, though, because leaving 12 runners out there is tough to take."
State's first missed opportunity came in the opening inning when freshman Briana Bell and junior Ka'ili Smith each lined one-out base hits. Smith finished the game with a pair of singles.
A fielder's choice put Bell out a third, and Mack got a strikeout to end the frame.
After State failed to capitalize on a Shape walk and a Cooley single in the second, the Tigers struck with a run in the third on a Santos sacrifice fly off Bulldog starter Stephanie Becker.
Becker, who went the distance for the second-straight game, fell to 7-8 as she was touched for four runs (three earned) and 10 hits.
LSU extended the lead to 2-0 in the fourth when Cassie Trosclair, who pinch ran for Russell after she was hit by a pitch, scored on a two-out ground ball that was mishandled by Raines at third.
Raines made up for the miscue in the home half of the inning as she led off the frame with a single. Three batters later, Bainbridge reached on a misplayed ball by Mack. Her throw sailed high at first base, and the pair advanced to third and second, respectively.
Bell was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Mack escaped the jam as she got Smith to hit a ground ball to short.
Mack ran her record to 14-5 as she surrendered MSU two fifth-inning runs and eight hits. She struck out 11 over six innings. Fico struck out the side in the seventh to claim her first save of the year.
Mississippi State will try to even the series Saturday at 1 p.m. Admission to the game, which is being billed as White Out the Tigers Day, is free. Everyone is encouraged to wear white to the game, but the first 100 fans will receive a free, white Bulldog t-shirt. Also, the Fan of the Game will receive a free pizza from Old Venice Pizza Company.
Track & Field
PHILADEPHIA, Pa. - Wearing Mississippi State across his chest is something Ed Wesela doesn't take for granted. Friday, he wore the uniform with even more pride.
On Day 2 of the Penn Relays at historic Franklin Field, the Slinger, Wis., junior overcame an early flat throw to win the shot put with a toss of 56-4.
It's the third time in as many weeks he's won this event, starting with the Jace LaCoste Invitational two weeks ago and continuing with the Mississippi Open last weekend.
"This is a big meet," said an elated Wesela, who also finished 9th in the discus with a throw of 160-7. "A lot of big name guys are here, and to come here and win is pretty special. It felt good to have Mississippi State across my chest today."
It was a special afternoon as well for freshman Marcus Jackson. In his first showing at the Penn Relays, the Carrolton, Miss., product won the high jump with a personal best leap of 7-1. His previous best of 7-00 came at the Texas Relays back in early April.
As for qualifying rounds, the 18th-ranked Bulldogs will also be running Saturday in the 4x100-, 4x200- and 4x400-meter relays, while Garren Hendricks advance to the finals of the 100-meter dash after crossing the finish line at 10.70.
The Lady Bulldogs had a productive day as well, turning in four Top 10 finishes.
Leading the way was the shuttle hurdle relay squad of Keisha Wallace, Racquel Farquharson, Talisha Lee and Brittany Covington, whose time of 57.94 earned the team a 6th-place finish. Also, the 4x100 team of Farquharson, McCaleb, Baker and Jody-Ann Muir ran 45.68 to finish 8th.
In addition, the 4x1500 relay team of Chloe Phillips, Renee Masterson, Haley Greenwell, Katie Huston placed 9th after posting a season-best time of 18:27.31.
Action at the 117th running of the Penn Relays concludes on Saturday. MSU's first event is slated for 12:25 p.m. with the men's 4x100m relay. The Lady Bulldogs' first event is the 4x400m relay at 4:45 p.m.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State begins the stretch run of its 2011 SEC baseball schedule this weekend when the Bulldogs (24-16/7-11 SEC) play host to longtime SEC West rival Alabama (26-18/8-10 SEC) in a three-game series at Dudy Noble Field.
With commencement exercises scheduled on the MSU campus Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m., the weekend baseball series will begin Saturday with a 2 p.m. doubleheader and conclude Sunday with a 1:30 p.m. contest. It's the first scheduled SEC Saturday doubleheader at Dudy Noble Field since 1993. The second contest of Saturday's two scheduled nine-inning games will begin approximately 30 minutes following the opening game. The April 30 (Game 28) season ticket will be honored at the Saturday doubleheader.
The opening game of Saturday's twinbill is set to be televised regionally by SportSouth, while the radio broadcast of all three games will be carried on the 18-affiliate MSU Baseball Radio Network and available online (www.MStateAthletics.com/m2mlive) to Maroon to the Max subscribers.
Mississippi State heads into the final four weekends of league competition two games out of first place in the SEC West and in the thick of a tight race for a top eight conference finish and an accompanying berth in the 2011 SEC Baseball Tournament May 25-29 in Hoover, Ala. Alabama is a game ahead of MSU and one game behind a trio of teams tied for the top spot in the SEC Western Division.
State sophomore right-hander Chris Stratton (4-5, 5.02) will be matched with Alabama senior righty Nathan Kilcrease (5-3, 2.94) in Saturday's opener while MSU junior lefty Nick Routt (0-2, 4.15) and UA junior lefty Adam Morgan (4-4, 4.28) will open on the mound in the nightcap. Neither team has declared a Sunday starter.
Bulldog senior third baseman Jarrod Parks enters the series riding a personal-best and team-leading 13-game hitting streak with a SEC-leading .409 batting average and a league-best .533 on-base percentage. The Madison, Miss., product is making a bid to become the first Mississippi State player to win the SEC batting crown since 2006 (Thomas Berkery, .383) and the first State player to eclipse the .400 mark since Travis Chapman closed out the 1999 campaign with a .403 batting average.
MSU freshman outfielder/pitcher C.T. Bradford (.308) enters the weekend's competition with 48 hits, second-most on the team and tops among freshmen in the SEC.
The Bulldogs end a run of 10 consecutive games against rugged SEC foes Tuesday with a 6 p.m. game at South Alabama. MSU closes out its league schedule with road series at Tennessee (May 6-8) and Ole Miss (May 12-14) and a Thursday-through-Saturday home series against LSU (May 19-21).
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State placed nine basketball student-athletes on the 2010-11 Southeastern Conference Winter Academic Honor Roll, the league office announced Friday.
MSU's nine honorees tie Vanderbilt for the second-most student-athletes on the list, in sports in which State competes. Mississippi State placed five men's players and four women's players on the league list.
MSU trailed only Tennessee (12) on the list, and finished ahead of Georgia (8), South Carolina (6), Auburn and Alabama (5), Florida and Ole Miss (4), Arkansas and LSU (3) and Kentucky (2) in the sports in which Mississippi State competes.