News from MSU Media Relations--Feb. 11

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Baseball, Softball, Women's Golf and Women's Basketball.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - An opportunity to meet the 2012 Mississippi State baseball team and hear Major League and former MSU All-American pitcher Paul Maholm awaits fans of the Diamond Dogs Saturday evening at the 15th annual First Pitch/Meet the Team Baseball Celebration.

This year's event begins at 5 p.m. with an informal family-style barbeque meal in the Griffis Boardroom, with the program, including a formal introduction of the 2012 Mississippi State University baseball team and staff by fourth-year MSU head baseball coach John Cohen, to follow in the Palmeiro Center. An autograph session will be held at the conclusion of the program.

"First Pitch" tickets are priced at $12 per person and are on sale through the MSU Athletics Ticket Office (662-325-2600) in the Bryan Athletics Administration Building and at the door.

A native of Holly Springs, Miss., and a graduate of Germantown (Tenn.) High School, Maholm earned All-America and All-Southeastern Conference honors in 2002 and 2003, concluding his MSU three-year career with a 27-10 record, a 3.55 earned run average and 273 strikeouts, third-most at Mississippi State.

The Pittsburgh Pirates made Maholm the eighth player selected in the 2003 MLB, and in 2005 he made his Major League debut with the Pirates. In six-plus seasons with the National League club he has compiled a 53-73 record with a 4.36 ERA in 185 career start. Maholm, 29, who makes his off-season home in Hattiesburg, Miss., signed a free agent contract with the Cubs on January 10. This spring he stands to become the fourth Mississippi State player overall and first since 1988 (Rafael Palmeiro) to play for Chicago.

Maholm joins a list of past guest "First Pitch" speakers that reads like a who's who of Mississippi State baseball. Maholm joins a group that includes former MSU baseball standouts Jeff Brantley, Will Clark, head coach John Cohen, Dave "Boo" Ferriss, Dave Klipstein, Alex Grammas, Burke Masters, Joel Matthews, Mitch Moreland, Jonathan Papelbon, Jay Powell, Jim Robinson, Nat Showalter, Bobby Thigpen and Dan Van Cleve. Best-selling author and MSU alumnus John Grisham and Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, the longtime manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, have also spoken at previous "First Pitch" events.

Mississippi State raises the curtains on its 122nd season of baseball and the fourth year of the John Cohen coaching era at MSU Feb. 17 when the Bulldogs open a three-game series against first-time foe Washington State at Dudy Noble Field.

MOBILE, Ala. - Dominant pitching by junior left-hander Kylie Vry and a clutch two-run home run by junior right fielder Jessica Cooley gave the Mississippi State softball team (2-0) a 3-1 victory over Lipscomb (1-1) Friday afternoon on the second day of the 2012 Mardi Gras Invitational at Jaguar Field.

"Kylie Vry sent a statement early in the game and had us in and out of the dugout real fast today," head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "Kylie shut the door from there and had a great outing. We had stellar defense with 10 ground ball outs in the infield. I was proud of how we came back today after an emotional victory Thursday."

Much like her fellow junior left-handed teammate Stephanie Becker Thursday, Vry (1-0) went the distance to record her first win of the 2012 campaign. The seven-inning outing by Vry marked the first time since 2006 that the Bulldogs have opened the season with back-to-back complete games. The Iowa native retired 20 of the 23 batters she faced (.130 Opp. BA), giving up one run and striking out six (all swinging) on just 89 pitches. Vry failed to yield a hit with runners on base (0-for-6), and now owns a 1.83 ERA over her last five appearances dating back to last season.

At the dish, the dynamic duo of senior Brittany Bell and junior Jessica Cooley continued their scorching start to the season. Bell went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored, while Cooley ended her day 1-for-2 with a two-run home run and a walk. Sophomore catcher Sam Lenahan hit her first home run of the season to finish 1-for-2 with an RBI, while junior left fielder Shelby Fisher finished 1-for-3 for the second-consecutive game.

In the bottom of the first inning, the Maroon and White picked up right where they left off Thursday, with Lenahan connecting on a 2-0 pitch down the middle for a home run to right-center field. The two teams remained scoreless until the fifth inning, when Bell started off the bottom half of the frame with a sharp double down the line in left. Following the double, Lipscomb's starting pitcher Ashley Anderson (0-1) was replaced by 2010 All-American and Mississippi native Whitney Kiihnl. The new pitcher's first at bat ended with junior shortstop Erin Nesbit advancing Bell to third after a ground out back to Kiihnl. Up next was Cooley, who sent a 3-2 offering just over the left-field fence for her second two-run homer in as many days.

Lipscomb's lone run came on a one-out Bree Thurman solo home run in the top of the sixth inning.

State returns to Jaguar Field Saturday for a 10 a.m. first pitch against Jacksonville State. In a rematch of MSU's thrilling 3-2 fall exhibition victory over the Gamecocks, Stuedeman will look to become the first coach in school history to win their first three contests. Fans can visit for live stats and follow along at for live in-game updates.

Women's Golf
STARKVILLE, Miss. - As frigid temperatures cover Mississippi on Saturday morning, the Mississippi State women's golf team prepares to tee off the 2012 spring slate in the Sunshine State at the UCF Challenge hosted at the 7,152-yard, par-72 Red Tail Golf Club in Orlando.

The 14-team tournament field pits the Lady Bulldogs against three other SEC schools, including No. 3 Auburn, No. 37 Kentucky and No. 71 South Carolina. Other teams are Augusta State, No. 22 Baylor, Coastal Carolina, Georgia State, Kansas, Kennesaw State, Memphis, Miami, Minnesota, South Florida, No. 15 Texas, Tulane, host-UCF and UTSA.

The Lady Bulldogs will be playing for Laura Carson this weekend who passed away after a go-kart accident Jan. 1, 2012.

"We will be playing in the UCF Challenge in memory of Laura Carson," coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said. "She was a big part of our family and will live on as a best friend of my daughter."

For the fourth time in five tournaments this year, Brown-Lemm's lineup features four underclassmen and one senior. Ally McDonald and Rica Tse are appearing in their fourth-consecutive tournament to start off their career, while this is Elena Warren's third. Mary Langdon Gallagher and Perry Katherine Furr are also making the trip for the Lady Bulldogs.

McDonald wasted no time making a splash on the collegiate golf scene. Through her first four tournaments, she owns a 74.33 scoring clip, good enough for sixth-best among SEC freshmen. Her tie for fourth-place in the talent-packed Betsy Rawls Invitational was the best finish by an MSU freshman since Hannah Weathersby's fourth place finish in the 2008 Johnie Imes Invitaitonal.

Tse also ranks in the Top 10 in scoring among SEC freshmen with a 78.17 average card. The New Zealand native rose to the challenge against the toughest fields in collegiate golf at the Mercedes-Benz SEC/PAC-12 Challenge with her 13-over-par 229, placing second on the Lady Bulldog leaderboard.

Gallagher is appearing in her 15th-consecutive tournament to open her career, the longest such streak since Erika Thornton played in 37 straight tournaments from 2007-11. Her 79.08 average card is best among returnees and in the Top 20 among SEC underclassmen.

Furr is the only upperclassmen and most experienced player on the 2011-12 squad. Coming off her best tournament of her career, a 231 card in the Betsy Rawls Invitational, she looks to keep the momentum going through her last five tournaments of her career.

"We have an extremely challenging schedule for this spring," Brown-Lemm noted. "With the young squad that we have, it will push them, but that's the goal in forming such a challenge. We have to do the work at home on a daily basis, rain or shine, to be able to improve and win in our league. I expect a great deal out of them, and I look forward to helping them live up to those expectations."

Live stats will be available through

Don't forget to stay connected through the Bulldogs' Facebook and Twitter pages at and @mstateWG.

Women's Basketball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Sharon Fanning-Otis' Mississippi State women's basketball team goes for a season sweep of in-state rival Ole Miss Sunday afternoon when the two teams meet in a 2:30 p.m. tip at Humphrey Coliseum.

Sunday's tilt will be televised on SportSouth. The game can also be heard on WKBB-FM 100.9 and WXWX-FM 96.3.

Fans are encouraged to wear pink to the contest, as Mississippi State will be hosting its annual Think Pink Game presented by OCH.

The Lady Bulldogs (13-11, 3-8 SEC) have won four-straight and six of the last seven against Ole Miss following a 51-46 triumph in Oxford on Jan. 19.

Senior Diamber Johnson paced Mississippi State with 21 points in the contest. The Pontotoc, Miss., native has her sights set on a strong finish to her career against the Lady Rebels, as she has averaged 10.4 ppg in the rivalry.

Johnson returns to the Hump after joining the 1,000-point club with a 15-point effort in Thursday's 53-49 road setback to LSU. Johnson, who became the 19th player in school history to reach the milestone, rates second in the SEC in scoring (16.3 ppg) and fifth in assists (3.8 apg).

Fellow senior Porsha Porter has also had a sensational career against the Lady Rebels, averaging 11.0 ppg in three contests. The SEC leader in steals with 3.2 per game this season, Porter rates second on the squad in scoring with a 13.0 ppg average.

Junior Darriel Gaynor had a standout performance against LSU Thursday night, scoring a season-high nine points on a personal-best three three-point baskets.

In addition to Porter's league-best steals mark, freshman Martha Alwal has been a catalyst on the defensive end of the floor. The team leader with 7.6 rebounds per game, the Worthington, Minn., native tops the conference and rates 12th nationally in blocks with 3.0 per game.

State has tallied 136 blocks as a unit this season. The team's four-block performance at LSU moved it past the 2009-10 squad for second-most all-time.

Mississippi State's defense limited Ole Miss to 26.6-percent shooting in the first matchup, and it hopes for a repeat showing against a Lady Rebel team that has dropped seven-straight games to fall to 12-13 overall, 2-10 in league action.

Valencia McFarland raised her team-best scoring average to 13.2 ppg as she netted 12 in Ole Miss' 52-47 setback to Alabama on Thursday.

Nikki Byrd, who has averaged 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds this season, played six minutes against the Crimson Tide after missing the team's previous two contests.

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