News from MSU Media Relations--Mar. 27, 2012.

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Softball and Men's Tennis.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Looking to get back to its winning ways, the Mississippi State softball team (18-15) will travel to the Delta Wednesday for a 5 p.m. contest against Mississippi Valley State (17-15) at the MVSU Softball Complex. Free live audio streaming of the game will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (

"Earlier in the year when we played Mississippi Valley State, our batters struck out 10 times, so we are working to minimize that this time around," head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "I look forward to quality at-bats, a tough crowd and another great game of college softball."

The last time the two teams met was on Feb. 19, when the Maroon and White defeated the Devilettes in Starkville by a score of 3-2 in the final game of the annual Bulldog Round-Robin. The victory pushed State's winning streak against its in-state counterpart to 13 games, improving to 21-1 overall against MVSU. In matchups taking place in Itta Bena, MSU is 3-1 all-time against the home team.

The Maroon and White's offense is currently ranked third in the SEC in hits (254), fourth in batting average (.302) and fourth in on-base percentage (.407). The OBP is helped by redshirt senior Brittany Bell, who ranks ninth in the NCAA with a .560 clip. Bell has also contributed to a league-best .385 batting average with the bases loaded in conference games.

State's leadoff hitter Ka'ili Smith is coming off a great weekend at home against No. 10/9 Tennessee, where she hit .375 (3-for-8) and tallied three stolen bases, two walks, an RBI double and a run scored. The Flyin' Hawaiian has stolen a base in four-consecutive games for the first time in her career after having swiped just four bags total in her previous 39-career contests. With Smith's help, MSU leadoff hitters are hitting .429 in conference play (36-for-84), ranking second in the SEC.

Getting on base will be no easy task against MVSU pitcher Alicia Lorenz, who is holding opponents around the Mendoza Line (.205). The junior is 9-7 with nine complete games and a 3.01 ERA. Showing command in the circle, the righty has struck out 100 batters and walked only 34 opponents on the 2012 campaign.

Offensively, the Devilettes are anchored by freshman catcher Xiomara Perez, who was named to the Bulldog Round-Robin All-Tournament Team six weeks ago in Starkville. The Orlando, Fla., native is hitting a team-best .339 in 21 games this year.

Following the midweek tilt down in the Delta, Starkville's team will return home for a three-game weekend series against No. 2 Alabama at the MSU Softball Stadium. First pitch is 7 p.m. on Friday, where the first 150 in attendance will receive a free MSU Rally Rag. The first 250 rabid Bulldog fans at Saturday's 1 p.m. game receive free "HailState" sunglasses. The "White OUT the TIDE" promotion concludes Sunday with the series finale at 1 p.m.

As always, admission is free to all home games.

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

Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Following an impressive SEC weekend sweep of Florida and South Carolina, Mississippi State's men's tennis squad broke into the top 10 (coming in at No. 10) of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings Tuesday for the first time since a No. 3 ranking in March of 1999.

Following the Bulldogs' 2011 run, during which they claimed the SEC Western Division title and a second round finish in the NCAA Championship, MSU has followed up with an impressive 14-4 start to the 2012 spring campaign and a 5-1 record in SEC play.

This past weekend's wins over the Gators and Gamecocks boosted the Bulldogs into sole leadership of the SEC West. MSU's win over Florida was the program's first since 2001 and their first in Gainesville since 1998.

A trio of seniors have contributed the team's success this season including 15th-ranked Artem Ilyushin, No. 44 Louis Cant and 46th-ranked George Coupland who have a combined 40-8 dual-match record and 14-4 in SEC play this spring. Ilyushin is now on a four-match win streak while posting a 6-0 record in SEC play thus far. With a 12-3 mark in dual-match play this spring, Ilyushin has ousted nine ranked foes, six of those coming against opponents ranked in the top-40.

Cant began the season on an impressive 11-0 run with an impressive 14-2 slate thus far. Clinching in the past two matches for the Bulldogs, Cant posted an impressive 4-0 slate in singles and doubles combined last weekend. Coupland is also on a similar pace as he has earned a 14-3 record in dual-match play this spring while clinching in two matches thus far.

67th-ranked sophomore Malte Stropp has battled steadily for the Bulldogs as he has earned a 3-3 SEC record this spring with a career 12-4 SEC slate.

In doubles, the No. 32 pair of Cant and Stropp have earned a 5-1 record in SEC play this spring, clinching in two matches thus far. For the first time this season, the duo of Coupland and Ilyushin have broken into the rankings earning a No. 43 mark in the country.

Mississippi State hosts a pair of SEC West foes in 27th-ranked LSU on Friday at 2 p.m. CT and the No. 39 Razorbacks of Arkansas at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday.

Sunday's match against the Hogs is Senior Day when MSU will honor Cant, Coupland and Ilyushin, who will be ending their stellar careers this season.

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