News from MSU Media Relations--Mar. 20, 2012.

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Softball and Baseball.

Softball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Redshirt sophomore shortstop Erin Nesbit celebrated Twitter Tuesday by blasting a walk-off double deep into the Mississippi night, as the Bulldog softball team (@MStateSB) defeated the University of Alabama at Birmingham (@UAB_Softball), 4-3, at the MSU Softball Stadium. Starkville's team improved to 18-12 overall, while the Green and Gold fell to 16-11 on this year's campaign.

"One of the things that Erin does so great is that she is relentless," head coach Vann Stuedeman (@MSUVanntastic) said. "She stays focused on the moment and I could not be any happier for her right now. She came through with a timely hit that we have needed desperately over the past few games."

Going up against the alma mater of assistant coach Beth Mullins (@MStateMullins), Nesbit (@ErinNesbit05) collected her only hit of the night when it mattered most, finishing 1-for-4 with a run driven in. Also having nice nights at the dish were sophomore center fielder Jessica Offutt (2-for-4) and junior left fielder Jessica Cooley (@Jcool002), who finished 1-for-3 with a run scored and a walk.

Moving to double digits in the win column, junior left-handed pitcher Stephanie Becker improved to 10-5 on the year after giving up just one run on three hits in 6.1 innings of work. The Chicago southpaw fanned seven Blazer batters without issuing a free pass. UAB righty Leigh Streetman suffered the loss, falling to 6-4 in 2012 after surrendering two runs on two hits and three walks in the final 2.1 innings.

After UAB plated a run in the top of the first, the Bulldogs bounced back in the bottom half of the frame. Senior catcher Ka'ili Smith led off by reaching on a fielding error by Blazers' shortstop Catherine Crawford, and advanced to second when Offutt pinched it through the right side of the infield for a single. Following a MSU strikeout, both runners advanced a base on a passed ball by UAB starting pitcher Lannah Campbell. With two in scoring position, sophomore catcher Sam Lenahan hit a routine flyout to left field. Offutt threatened to tag from third but returned to the bag, causing UAB's Kayla Orr to throw it there in an attempt to tag out MSU's center fielder. The throw went high and rolled all the way around the backstop, allowing Offutt to tie the game at one on the throwing error.

Offutt reached again in the bottom of the third with an infield single to the hot corner at third. Redshirt senior Brittany Bell put two Bulldogs on when she singled to shortstop. Both Maroon base runners swiped a bag to put a runner on second and third, as Lenahan was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Sophomore second baseman Heidi Shape then grounded a 1-2 pitch to Crawford at short, who was late in throwing home as Offutt slid in safe to beat the potential force out. The run gave the home team a slim 2-1 advantage after three.

The Blazers jumped out to a 3-2 lead with two runs in the sixth before the Maroon and White barked back in the bottom part of the inning. Senior right fielder Brittany Gates singled with a worm burner up the middle and advanced to second and third thanks to a sacrifice bunt by Smith and a groundout to the pitcher by Offutt. With the sophomore on the corner, Bell popped up a 0-1 offering to the catcher on the first-base line. UAB catcher Mandy Lowman dropped the fly ball as it bounced into fair territory, causing Offutt to race home for the tying run as Bell sprinted to second.

Deadlocked at three heading into the bottom of the seventh, State pulled off some Bully magic that started when Cooley reached on a full-count walk. Pinch hitter Chrissie Rovtar (@CRov_44) advanced her fellow junior to second with a sacrifice bunt. That set the stage for Nesbit, who deposited a 3-2 double over the left fielder's head, causing Cooley to score and giving MSU its first walk-off win of the Stuedeman era.

Starkville's team returns to conference action Friday as it takes on the No. 12/11 Tennessee Lady Volunteers (@LadyVol_Sftball) for a three-game weekend series at the MSU Softball Stadium. First pitch is 5:30 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

For more information regarding MSU softball, follow the team on Twitter at @MStateSB and like the team at Facebook.com/MStateSB.


Baseball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Ring up another national honor for Mississippi State pitcher Chris Stratton.

The junior right-hander from Tupelo, Miss., has been honored by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association as the NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week. Earlier this week he was tabbed by Collegiate Baseball as a Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week, by the Southeastern Conference as the SEC Pitcher of the Week and by SEBaseball.com as co-SEC Pitcher of the Week.

In his first start of the campaign Stratton registered a career-best and SEC season-high 17 strikeouts over 8.2 innings on SEC opening night in Baton Rouge, La., against No. 10 LSU. Stratton held LSU to a run on four hits and a .138 batting average with two walks before leaving the game in the ninth inning. It was the highest strikeout total by a Bulldog pitcher since 1992.

Stratton (4-0, 2.12), leads Southeastern Conference pitchers with 44 strikeouts and the Mississippi State pitching staff with 29.2 innings pitched. He earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors in 2010 after tossing seven innings of three-hit, seven-strikeout ball in a season-ending win at LSU.

Mississippi State, scheduled to host Alabama A&M Wednesday night, opens its 2012 SEC home schedule this weekend, challenging No. 3 Arkansas (19-2, 3-0 SEC) at Dudy Noble Field in a three-game series. Game times are set for 6:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 12 p.m. Sunday.


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