STARKVILLE, Miss. - Jessica Cooley homered and Heidi Shape had two RBI in a five-run fourth inning, but No. 21 LSU scored two late runs to escape with a 7-6 victory Saturday afternoon at the MSU Softball Field.
The loss dropped State to 23-28 overall and 9-15 in SEC play. LSU improved to 34-15 overall and 15-9 in league action.
Mississippi State wraps the series and the 2011 home campaign at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Prior to the game, which will be broadcast on SportSouth, the Bulldogs will honor Nesbit, Bainbridge and fellow senior Chelsea Raines.
An MSU win or a South Carolina loss on Sunday will seal the Bulldogs a spot in the 2011 SEC Tournament that will be held in Oxford May 12-14.
Cooley's home run on Saturday was the first of the season for the Birmingham, Ala., native, and it came a day after she hit a triple as part of a two-hit effort in the series opener. Senior Courtney Nesbit also contributed a pair of RBI, including one in State's five-run fourth.
The inability to come through with the clutch hit hurt MSU for the second-straight night, as the Dawgs stranded nine runners after leaving 12 on base in Friday's series opener.
LSU scored a run in the first and another in the third to take a 2-0 advantage, but the Bulldogs cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third on a Nesbit base hit that scored senior Ali Bainbridge. Bainbridge walked to open the inning, and junior Ka'ili Smith setup Nesbit's big hit with a single to left field.
The Tigers extended the lead to 5-1 with three runs in the fourth inning. Pinch-runner Alex Boulet slid under the tag of MSU freshman catcher Sam Lenahan with the first run. Jacee Blades, who singled earlier in the frame, scored on a misplayed ball by Bainbridge, one of four miscues in the game for Mississippi State.
LSU's final run came when Anissa Young, who had two hits and a pair of RBI, landed a single in the left-center field gap.
The Dawgs fought back and plated five runs in the home half of the fourth to jump in front 6-5. Cooley sparked the inning with a towering shot that just cleared the wall in right field.
"I thought we had some great opportunities to win the game again today. We did a great job battling back in the fourth. We could have given up trailing 5-1, but we didn't, and that was a good sign," Bulldog head coach Jay Miller said. "We have to make the plays defensively and stop walking people on the mound. It's the little things that make the difference in a ballgame, and we didn't take care of those."
A Brittany Gates walk, one of nine issued by LSU pitchers in the game, chased Tiger starter Rachele Fico. Meghan Patterson entered the circle and got an infield pop-out before hitting Briana Bell and walking Smith to load the bases.
Back-to-back free passes to Nesbit and Lenahan cut LSU's lead to 5-4 and brought Brittany Mack, Friday night's winner, to the circle. Shape greeted her with a bouncer up the middle that plated Smith and Nesbit to give the Dawgs a one-run advantage.
Mack allowed two hits and struck out six over the final 3.2 innings to earn the win and improve to 15-5.
Bulldog reliever Misty Flesher and the MSU defense were unable to hold the lead, as LSU scored a run in the fifth on an error, and another in the sixth on a Tammy Wray double to left field.
Flesher was saddled with the loss to fall to 7-6 on the season. The Lone Grove, Okla., native was touched for two runs (one earned) and three hits over 1.2 innings. Stephanie Becker threw the opening four innings, allowing two earned runs (five total) and five hits. Sophomore Kylie Vry went the final 1.1 innings, surrendering a hit.
Track & Field
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Not even injuries could slow Mississippi State on Saturday at the final day of the Penn Relays. But even if that was the case, MSU coach Steve Dudley wasn't going to use that as an excuse.
In front of a raucous crowd of 48,531 at historic Franklin Field on a sun-drenched afternoon, the short-handed and 18th-ranked Bulldogs turned in two Top 5 finishes, while placing in the Top 10 in three other events.
The best finish came in the 4x400-meter relay, with the quartet of James Harris, Garren Hendricks, O'Neal Wilder and Randy Patterson placing second in the college division with a time of 3:07.46.
"We're not looking back, just ahead," Dudley said. "This was an opportunity for others to step up. Considering we had sprint guys running in the 4x400, I was very pleased with how we performed. Who knows, maybe this is going to help with our depth in the long run."
Stepping up in the 4x400 were Garren Hendricks and Randy Patterson, who filled in for the injured Emanuel Mayers (foot) and Tavaris Tate (hamstring).
Turning in the other Top 5 finish was freshman James Harris in the championship division of the high jump. He jumped 7-2.25 to place fourth.
He also anchored the 4x200-meter relay, which ran 38.77 to finish sixth. He was joined by Justin Christian, Wilder and Hendricks. In addition, Hendricks finished 8th in the 100-meter dash at 10.67.
As for women, their day consisted of just one event, the 4x400 in the championship division. Running a time of 3:41.17, the team of Jodie-Ann Muir, Brittany Covington, Talisha Lee and Taneisha Baker finished seventh.
Both teams are off next week before traveling to Athens, Ga., May 12-15 for the SEC Championships.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Three former Mississippi State football players – K.J. Wright, Pernell McPhee and Chris White – were selected in the National Football League draft on Saturday. The trio joins Derek Sherrod, who was picked in the first round on Thursday night. The four players drafted mark the most Bulldogs picked in a single year since four were selected in 2001.
Wright, who found out he was being selected while he was receiving his degree at a commencement ceremony in the Humphrey Coliseum, was chosen by the Seattle Seahawks with the second pick of the fourth round and 99th overall selection.
McPhee was chosen by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round with the 165th overall selection, while White was selected almost immediately afterward with the 169th pick by the Buffalo Bills.
The four players selected in this weekend's draft were also the team's four captains as selected by their teammates last season.
Mississippi State has now had at least one player selected in 31 of the past 34 NFL drafts and 22 of the last 24.