STARKVILLE, Miss. - Valentine's Day will be an afterthought as Mississippi State travels to Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday to play Samford under the lights at 6 p.m. at Bulldog Field. The trip marks a return to the city of birth for head coach Vann Stuedeman and assistant coach Alan Reach, while assistant coach Beth Mullins comes back to the city where she played college softball at UAB from 2001-04. The game is also a homecoming for area natives Jessica Cooley (Birmingham, Ala.), Lindsey Dunlap (Hueytown, Ala.) and Shana Sherrod (Vestavia Hills, Ala.). Fans can view live stats at HailState.com
In addition, the battle of the Bulldogs will feature a matchup of first-year head coaches. Stuedeman will arrive at home plate before the game Tuesday and shake hands with Samford coach Mandy Burford, who Stuedeman coached at the University of Alabama. Samford assistant coach Ashley Holcombe-Bell also played under Stuedeman in Tuscaloosa, while fellow Samford assistant Brandon Duncan was a student manager under MSU's undefeated head coach during her coaching stint.
"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. We will definitely have our hands full on the road Tuesday."
The Maroon and White opened up the new era of Bulldog softball in style this past weekend, winning all four of its games at the Mardi Gras Invitational in Mobile, Ala. In the four wins, MSU defeated two NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago (Memphis and Jacksonville State), one team claiming a preseason conference pitcher of the year (Lipscomb) and host South Alabama. With the 4-0 start, Stuedeman became the first coach in MSU history to win their first four games of their tenure in Starkville.
The pitching, coached by Stuedeman, was the story of the weekend. Despite a school-record high 4.90 ERA in 2011, MSU ended the weekend with a 1.75 ERA, holding opponents to a .219 average. When runners did reach base against MSU, opponents were just 7-of-44 (.159) at the plate. Junior Kylie Vry dominated all three of the games she appeared in, finishing the weekend 2-0 with a save and a sparkling 0.88 ERA. In a pitchers' duel against the preseason Sun Belt Conference Pitcher of the Year (Lipscomb's Ashley Anderson), Vry pitched a complete game to pick up the win, retiring 20 of the 23 batters she faced (.130 Opp. BA), giving up one run and striking out six (all swinging) on just 89 pitches. Against Jacksonville State, who has made the NCAA Tourney the last four seasons, Vry pitched her second-straight complete game for the first time in her career, becoming the first MSU pitcher with two-straight complete-game victories on consecutive days in over three years.
Vry closed the weekend Sunday vs. 2011 NCAA Tournament squad Memphis, entering the game in the sixth and striking out half of the eight batters she faced over two scoreless innings to earn the save and preserve the come-from-behind victory. In her first three outings of 2012, opponents hit a microscopic .164 off the Iowa native, including 0.71 (1-for-14) with runners on base. In her last seven appearances dating back to 2011, Vry owns a 1.72 ERA.
In the first and last win of the invite, the triumphs came in dramatic fashion. Just 4-18 last season when trailing after five innings, the Maroon and White beat both South Alabama and Memphis despite being behind after five complete frames. Down to their last out Thursday night, redshirt senior Brittany Bell, whose season was ended early in last year's season-opening tournament, hit her first career grand slam to propel the Bulldogs to a 7-2 win. Trailing 4-1 in the sixth Sunday morning, the Bulldogs scored eight runs in an inning for the first time since 2010, beating the Tigers by a 9-6 margin.
Tuesday's opponent will feature a Samford team (2-2) that split their season-opening weekend at the Stetson Invitational in DeLand, Fla. Both losses, against Iona, came by just one run. Junior Misha Aldridge leads the red and blue with a .667 batting average (4-for-6), while also anchoring the pitching staff with a 1.05 ERA and three complete games. In 20 innings pitched, opponents are hitting .181 off the right-hander.
Following the Tuesday tilt on the road, the Maroon and White will at last open up its 2012 home campaign when they host the annual Bulldog Round-Robin Tournament. State plays its home opener Friday, Feb. 17 at 5 p.m. vs. SIU-Edwardsville, before playing a doubleheader against Mississippi Valley State and the Cougars Saturday starting at 3 p.m. The Bulldogs wrap up their home-opening weekend Sunday, Feb. 19, when they take on the Devilettes of MVSU at 1 p.m.
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ORLANDO, Fla. - By chiseling nine strokes off the team's first-round tally, the Mississippi State women's golf team posted its second-lowest round of the 2011-12 season and climbed three spots on the leaderboard during Monday's second round of the UCF Challenge.
After opening the tournament with a 308 on Sunday, the Lady Bulldogs carded a 299 to climb within 10 strokes of No. 15 Texas with 18 holes remaining. This is only MSU's second sub-300 score since the 2010 Price's Give ‘Em Five Invitational and UNCG Starmount Fall Classic when the team strung together four-consecutive sub-300 cards.
"We played much better today," MSU coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said. "I am so proud of our team, but we need to work on finishing. We cannot drop seven shots in the last three holes. We really had an opportunity to post an exceptional number today, but with the youth of our squad, building is vital. Putting ourselves in a position to shoot low team scores and finish well is a learned skill. We hope to continue to improve tomorrow in the final round."
No. 3 Auburn and No. 22 Baylor are currently tied atop the leaderboard with 7-under-par 569's.
Individually, two Lady Bulldogs posted their best rounds of the season, while another missed her best round by one stroke. Four of the five lady linksters carved strokes off of their first-round cards.
Sophomore Mary Langdon Gallagher stormed out of the gates birdying three of her first five holes. After a stumble on her third-to-last hole, she finished with a 2-over-par 74. With one round remaining, Gallagher aims for her second Top 25 finish of the season.
"I played well today," Gallagher said. "I hit the ball the best I have in a long time, and my putting was on, too. I just had one silly mistake, but other than that, I cannot complain. I'm pleased with the team's overall play, too. We are excited for tomorrow and the opportunity to improve as a team."
Sitting atop the Maroon and White leaderboard, Ally McDonald is just two strokes back of a Top 25 finish after notching a 3-over-par 75. The freshman's 149 is just ahead of Gallagher's 150.
Matching McDonald's 75 was Rica Tse and Perry Katherine Furr, who knocked three and five strokes off their first round scores, respectively.
Finishing just behind that duo was the Lady Bulldog's third freshman in the lineup, Elena Warren. Warren managed to cut four strokes off her first round total and turn in the best round of her young career.
Hayley Davis of Baylor is currently tops individually with a 5-under-par 139.
Final-round action begins at 8 CST Tuesday, 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.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Coming off a disappointing setback at home on Saturday to Georgia, Mississippi State now turns its attention toward LSU in hopes of getting back on track.
Tip at Pete Maravich Assembly Center is set for 8 p.m., and the game will be televised by ESPNU with Dari Nowkhah and Dino Gaudio handling the broadcast.
And based on the past several years, a road trip to LSU could be the perfect cure as MSU has won its last two games at the PMAC. It hasn't won three in a row since claiming five straight from 1994-98.
With a victory, Mississippi State (19-6, 6-4) will record 20 wins for the 17th time in school history. To date, coach Rick Stansbury has accounted for eight of them.
"LSU has already shown they are very difficult to beat at home," Stansbury said. "Right now, they are playing the best they've played all year. They are one of the most improved teams in the league. It's never easy when you go on the road."
Tuesday marks the second meeting between the two this season. Back in January, the Bulldogs rallied to claim a 76-71 win at Humphrey Coliseum behind the play of Arnett Moultrie, who had 28 points and 12 rebounds.
The junior from Memphis leads MSU in scoring at 16.8 points a clip an outing, while his rebounds (10.8) and 13 double-doubles are tops in the SEC.
Also key in the first outing was the play of sophomore guard Jalen Steele, who was 3 of 4 from long range and finished with a season-high 15 points. In his last six games, he's 21 of 39 beyond the arc.
"You feel like when he shoots, it's going in," Stansbury said.
LSU enters the contest 14-10 overall and 4-6 in SEC play following its win against Alabama on Saturday night.
The Tigers are led in scoring by junior forward Justin Hamilton and sophomore guard Andre Stringer at 13.7 and 10.2 points, respectively. Earlier this year at the Hump, Stringer accounted for 17 points, while Hamilton poured in 11.
After Tuesday, the Bulldogs conclude their two-game road swing with a 7 p.m. tilt at Auburn on Saturday.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - On the eve of MSU's 2012 season opener Mississippi State senior relief ace Caleb Reed has picked up a fourth preseason all-America team honor.
Reed is a second-team selection to the CollegeBaseballInsider.com 2012 Preseason All-American Team announced Monday by the internet publication entering its 11 season. The Cleveland, Miss., product earned second-team All-SEC honors last season after leading Mississippi State's pitching staff and ranking third in the SEC with 12 saves and a 1.55 earned run average.
Nine other SEC players received first or second-team recognition by CBI, including Florida catcher Mike Zunino and South Carolina lefty Michael Roth, tabbed as the publication's picks as player and pitcher of the year.
Mississippi State was picked to finish fifth in the SEC West in the 21st annual SEC preseason coaches' poll also released Monday. The league's coaches made 2011 national runner-up Florida the favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division crown and overall league title and gave Arkansas the nod as their choice to win the SEC Western Division title. The 2011 Bulldogs, sixth in the SEC West in last year's preseason poll, finished with a 38-25 overall record, a No. 15 national ranking, and a game out of first place in the SEC West.
The Bulldogs open their 2012 season and a 17-game homestand this weekend hosting Washington State in a three-game series at Dudy Noble Field. Friday's seasonal lidlifter is set for a 6 p.m. start. The MSU Athletic Ticket office reports that 2012 baseball season ticket sales have for the sixth time in program history eclipsed the 5,400 mark. With online (www.HailState.com/tickets) and in-office (662-325-2600) sales continuing, MSU has distributed 5,402 baseball season tickets. State set a season ticket sales record in 2010 with 5,632 sold.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - After inking a stellar signing class, Mississippi State soccer team added another standout player for the 2012 season as Mississippi native CJ Winship transferred to Starkville from UAB.
The Ridgeland, Miss., native can participate in the spring exhibition games, which continue Feb. 25 in Biloxi, and she will have three seasons of eligibility remaining.
"Joining Mississippi State soccer is huge for me because my parents went to school here. To be a Bulldog and to play for this team is important to me, especially with these girls and their work ethics," Winship said. "It's a good feeling to know I get pushed every day by Skylar (Rosson), who is such a great goalkeeper. I hope both of us will benefit and get a lot better."
Winship started 12 of the Blazers' 13 games in 2011 after being redshirted her first season. She piled up 69 saves and three shutouts while picking up five of the team's six wins during the fall.
Her best game on the collegiate level came in the season finale against East Carolina, when she stopped 10 shots as UAB won 3-2 in double overtime.
A C-USA Academic Medal and Commissioner's Honor Roll member in 2010, Winship will spend time in goal along with Rosson, who led the SEC with 131 saves last season.
"CJ is a disciplined athlete who works very hard and has a great attitude. She has collegiate experience, and she's a very good shot-stopper who is confident and communicates well with the back line," coach Neil Macdonald said. "We are excited to see what she will add to the goalkeeper position.
"CJ will push Skylar all the way, and that is very important for a goalkeeper," Macdonald said. "It's going to be interesting to watch the two of them battle for a starting spot."
Winship was a three-year captain and three-time all-state honoree at Ridgeland High School. She was a part of two state champion teams while at Ridgeland and a state champion while playing for the Chicago Fire Juniors team. Winship started all five years and served as captain of her state ODP squad.