Mobile, Ala. - Junior left fielder Shelby Fisher exploded for a career-high four RBIs and junior left-handed pitcher Kylie Vry pitched her second-straight complete game as the Mississippi State softball team (3-0) defeated Jacksonville State (0-2) by a score of 8-1 Saturday at Jaguar Field. Head coach Vann Stuedeman has now won her first three games as the leader of the Bulldog softball program, becoming the first MSU softball coach to accomplish the feat.
"I was extremely impressed by how our players came out with a focused mindset despite the early start time," Stuedeman said. "Shelby Fisher and Jessica Offutt were awesome at the plate today and were responsible for six of our eight runs. I'm really proud of the fighting spirit we're bringing to each game."
In a rematch from their 3-2 exhibition triumph this past fall, the Bulldogs' offense exploded for eight runs on nine hits, including nine base on balls. The nine walks tied for the seventh-most in a single game in school history and were the most since taking 10 free bases vs. Ole Miss on April 7, 2007.
Individually, Fisher led the team with four RBIs on a career-best tying two hits, including her first-career triple in the top of the third inning. Offutt's day ended with career highs in hits (3) and runs (2), while tying her career mark with two runs batted in. Both Fisher (1) and Offutt (2) tied their collegiate bests in stolen bases as well. Also picking up hits were senior designated player Brittany Bell, sophomore second baseman Heidi Shape and freshman outfielder Ashley Phillips. Shape's single was her first base knock of the season, while Phillips' infield single was her first collegiate hit.
Going up against a team that has made four-straight NCAA Tournaments, Vry gave up one run on six hits with six strikeouts. For the first time in her career, the 5-foot-10 lefty pitched her second-straight complete game, becoming the first MSU pitcher with two-straight complete-game victories on consecutive days since senior teammate Lindsey Dunlap did so April 8-9, 2009. In her first two outings of 2012, opponents are hitting .184, including a microscopic 0.77 (1-for-13) with runners on base. In her six appearances dating back to last year, Vry owns a 1.57 earned run average.
A first-inning solo home run by Jacksonville State's Shelby Holley was the only mistake Vry made Saturday. Trailing 1-0 after one, the Bulldogs immediately bounced back. Bell and juniors Erin Nesbit and Jessica Cooley walked in successive order to load the bases for Offutt. Playing in her home state, the sophomore center fielder connected on a first-pitch single to left to give State a lead it would never relinquish. With runners at the corners, senior first baseman Ka'ili Smith walked on four pitches to load the bases for Fisher. After JSU brought in new pitcher Hilary Phillips, Fisher picked up her first two RBIs of the morning with a single through the right side of the infield and advanced to second on the right fielder's throw home. Two batters later, Smith arrived at the dish courtesy of a passed ball, concluding the scoring in State's five-run second inning.
With Vry retiring the side in the bottom half of the second frame, Bully's bats went at it again with a three-run third inning. Cooley started it off by walking on a full count and advanced to second on an infield single by the speedy Offutt. Following Smith's only strikeout of 2012, Fisher tripled down the line in right, plating both Cooley and Offutt. Two Bulldogs later, Shape stepped up and notched her first RBI of the year to give MSU its final seven-run margin.
Starkville's team wraps up its opening weekend at the 2012 Mardi Gras Invitational Sunday with a 10 a.m. first pitch against 2011 NCAA Tournament squad Memphis. Fans can visit HailState.com for live stats and follow along at Twitter.com/MStateSB for live in-game updates.
MOBILE, Ala. - Despite going 4-18 a year ago when trailing after the fifth inning, the Mississippi State softball team improved to 2-0 in that category this year with a 9-6 win over 2011 NCAA Tournament squad Memphis Sunday Morning at Jaguar Field. The Bulldogs finished their season-opening weekend at the Mardi Gras Invitational with a flawless 4-0 record under first-year head coach Vann Stuedeman.
"We learned a little bit about ourselves this weekend," Stuedeman said. "In this marathon of a season, we've only played four games out of 56, so we have 52 left to play. We're fortunate to be off to a good start, but we play in less than 48 hours and have a lot of work to do to prepare."
Senior left-handed pitcher and Alabama native Lindsey Dunlap (1-0) picked up her first victory of 2012, while Kylie Vry recorded her first save of the new season. Junior lefty Stephanie Becker started the game, giving up just one earned run (four total) over 4.1 innings. Memphis starter Carly Hummel (0-2) took the loss after 139 pitches.
The Maroon and White found different ways to get on base, tallying seven hits, eight walks and six hit by pitches. Sophomore catcher Sam Lenahan rebounded from a 0-for-4 performance Saturday by going 2-for-3 with an RBI, run and a 14-pitch walk in the sixth inning that completely changed the momentum of the game. Senior catcher Ka'ili Smith (1-for-3) and junior first baseman Shelby Fisher (1-for-2) went a combined go 2-for-5 atop of the lineup with four walks and three runs. Sophomore center fielder Jessica Offutt (1-for-3) built off her 3-for-4 performance the day before with a two-RBI single, while freshman third baseman Swayze Hollenhead registered her first career hit. Junior infielder Chrissie Rovtar was clutch once again, connecting on a three-RBI double in her only at bat of the day.
Memphis was the first to put the scoreboard operator to work with a three-run third inning. Third baseman Jami Miller singled to left and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by center fielder Kamri Chester. Becker then struck out her third batter of the morning for the second out, but the inning was extended when right fielder Ijiah Hargrove reached on a fielding error. With Chester advancing to third on the miscue and Hargrove stealing second on the next pitch, Tigers' first baseman Jessica Phillips walked to load the bases. That set the stage for cleanup hitter Morgan Mosby, who pinched it to right between first and second to give Memphis its first two runs of the game. With Phillips now on third thanks to the single, Memphis catcher Amber Lindahl blooped a 0-1 offering just over the head of MSU junior shortstop Erin Nesbit, plating Phillips for a 3-0 Memphis lead.
State scored their first run in the top of the fifth, which started with Smith singling through the left side of the infield. For her third-consecutive at bat, Fisher walked on a full count, and was then pinch ran for by senior Brittany Gates. Lenahan then copied Smith with a single between second and third, making the bases loaded. Sophomore second baseman Heidi Shape stepped into the box and quickly stepped out of it, knocking in Smith as a result of getting plunked on the first pitch.
The Tigers earned the run right back in the bottom half of the frame when Hargrove singled, stole second and scored on a single by Mosby. With the Blue and White advancing their lead to 4-1, Dunlap replaced Becker and made her 2012 debut in style, getting Memphis to pop out and strike out to keep the deficit within striking distance.
Batting around for the first time this year, the Maroon and White scored eight runs on four hits in the sixth. Following the first out, Offutt drew a full-count base on balls, advancing to second when Smith was hit by a pitch in the next at bat. For the third time up to that point, Fisher loaded the bases with a single to center field. With nine batters left on base prior to the sixth, Lenahan stepped up to the plate determined to awaken the lineup. After starting 2-2 off Hummel, Lenahan fouled off eight of the next nine pitches to stay alive. On the 14th pitch of the at bat, facing a full count yet again, Lenahan altered the energy of the contest by taking ball four high to knock in Offutt.
"It was a really important at bat in the game," Lenahan said. "All of my teammates were on the rail in the dugout telling me to keep battling, and that's how I was able to pass it down. Before the inning started, Coach Stuedeman told us to find some energy from somewhere. If she didn't talk to us at that point in the game, we wouldn't have won."
Now down just 4-2 with the bases juiced and Memphis having just picked up its second out, State continued to rally. Up next was senior right fielder Brittany Bell, who tied the school record by getting hit by a pitch for the 33rd time in her career. The HBP knocked in Smith, kept the bases loaded and trimmed the lead to one as the Tigers replaced Hummel in the circle with Jordan Richwood. The righty's first opponent was Rovtar, who gave MSU its first lead of the day with a three-run pinch-hit double to center. Nesbit reentered the game for Rovtar at second and was put on third by Hollenhead's single. With runners on the corners and two outs, junior left fielder Jessica Cooley walked on four pitches to load the bases yet again.
To the dish stepped Offutt, who plated Nesbit and Hollenhead on a base hit to right field. On a quirky throw home, the right fielder's throw hit Offutt's bat near the first-base line and rattled off toward the Memphis dugout, allowing Cooley to score as well. The oddity gave the Bulldogs a 9-4 advantage, but Memphis charged back immediately in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run pinch hit home run by Kassy Dunn. Vry then replaced Dunlap, striking out half of the eight batters she faced over the final two scoreless innings.
Starkville's team returns home Monday for a 3:30 p.m. open practice, before hitting the road Tuesday for a 6 p.m. Valentine's Day contest against Samford University at Bulldog Field in Birmingham, Ala. The game marks a homecoming for Stuedeman, assistant coaches Alan Reach and Beth Mullins, as well as Cooley, Dunlap and sophomore pitcher Shana Sherrod. In addition to MSU's ties to Birmingham, all three of Samford's coaches played under Stuedeman at the University of Alabama over the course of the last decade. Fans can visit HailState.com for live stats and follow along at Twitter.com/MStateSB for live in-game updates.
"Samford is coached by three very good friends of mine," Stuedeman said. "I look for them to be prepared for us since they know me so well, so we will definitely have our hands full on the road Tuesday."
ORLANDO, Fla. - Temperatures dipped into the low 30's and only topped out in the 50's on Sunday in Orlando as the Mississippi State women's golf team completed it's first round on the spring schedule at the UCF Challenge with a 308.
As frigid conditions wreaked havoc on the field in the Sunshine State, the Lady Bulldogs struggled to string together multiple pars in a row.
Baylor is currently atop the tournament leaderboard after turning in 284 behind Haley Davis' 4-under-par 68. She is tied with second-ranked Auburn's Victoria Trapani for first-place.
Ally McDonald paced the Lady Bulldogs with a 2-over-par 74. After bogeying her first two holes, the freshman regained her composure and carded 12-straight pars. McDonald sits just outside the Top 25 and three strokes back of a Top 10 finish.
Following McDonald was sophomore Mary Langdon Gallagher with a 4-over-par 76. She managed to par eight of the last nine holes to stay within three strokes of a Top 25 finish.
Rica Tse followed Gallagher by two strokes with a 76, and Perry Katherine Furr and Elena Warren chased Tse with 80's.
Second-round action begins at 8:30 CST Monday, and live stats will be available through HailState.com.
Don't forget to stay connected through the Lady Bulldogs' Facebook and Twitter pages at facebook.com/mstateWG and @mstateWG.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - In the first action of the spring, the Mississippi State men's golf team posted a ninth-place finish in the SunTrust Gator Invitational, the team's best finish in the event since 2008.
Chad Ramey, Alex Rowland and John Darden posted Top 25 finishes individually, which is the second time the Bulldogs have accomplished that feat this season.
With a 298 in Sunday's final round, MSU tallied an 885 for the tournament, finishing just two strokes behind No. 12 North Florida. Second-ranked Auburn claimed a dominating 16-stroke victory with an 8-over-par 848.
Ramey paced the Maroon and White with a 6-over-par 216. He entered the week with the 14th-best scoring clip in the SEC but is likely to climb into the Top 10 after this weekend's performance.
Rowland and Darden each turned in a 220 for the event. This is Rowland team-best fourth Top 25 of the season in only five events. Darden saw his first action of the year in the Sunshine State and took full advantage turning in the second Top 25 of his career.
Tyler Smith and Mike Genovese rounded out the Bulldogs leaderboard with a 230 and 234, respectively.
Dominic Bozzelli of Auburn was tops individually for the tournament with an 8-under-par 202, propelled by his 6-under-par 64 in the second round.
"We got off to a slow start today," MSU coach Clay Homan said. "We did, however, play our last few holes pretty well. I was proud of the way Alex finished today with two birdies on the last few holes. Every team that beat us this week was ranked in top 30 in the country, so we're getting closer to where we need to be. We know what aspects of our game we need improve on before our next event in Mobile."
The Bulldogs return to action Feb. 20 in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate hosted by South Alabama at Magnolia Grove in Mobile, Ala.
Fans can follow Mississippi State Golf on Twitter @mstateMG and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mstateMG.