Only the word "Classic" could describe the 1-0 defeat suffered by the Mississippi State softball team at the hands of the No. 12 LSU Tigers Friday night at the MSU Softball Stadium. Breaking the school record for longest game in school history (14 innings, 3:23), the Bulldogs dropped to 15-5 in 2013 after the loss to the Tigers (18-4). The game marked the Southeastern Conference opener for both Western Division squads.
"We have to tip our caps to LSU," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "They went to the Women's College World Series last season on games just like that, and they did it again tonight. I credit our players for throwing up punches inning after inning."
The beautiful Mississippi sun set behind the Dawg Diamond and a pitchers' duel for the ages broke out in the circle, as LSU All-American Rachele Fico improved to 11-3 on the year with 14 innings of shutout softball. The righty threw 206 pitches, gave up four hits and struck out 22 Bulldogs with three walks.
Her counterpart, reining two-time SEC Pitcher of the Week and College Sports Madness' National of the Week Alison Owen, was the hard-luck loser, falling to 9-2 after giving up a solo home run in the 14th frame. Hardly a losing pitcher with her effort Friday, the Bulldog righty sprinkled seven hits on 186 pitches over 14 innings. Owen struck out 10 and did not issue a walk, improving her NCAA-best strikeout-to-walk ratio to 103-to-2.
"Alison Owen was incredible tonight," Stuedeman said. "The defense was stellar as well. It was just that one ball that left the park."
Super heavyweight fights use to go 15 rounds, and this battle went 14, as a total of 11 hits were punched out on 392 combined pitches, with not a single batter tallying multiple hits. The lone hit that counted came in the top of the 14th, when Tigers' leadoff hitter A.J. Andrews drilled an 0-1 offering by Owen just over the wall in straightaway center for her first home run of the season.
For live in-game updates of MSU's attempt to cage the Tigers in game two, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB and visit the team's Instagram account at MStateSB. For pregame and postgame video, check out MSU's official YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HailState.
Despite a furious rally late in the match, the No. 11 Mississippi State men's tennis squad (12-3, 2-1 SEC) fell to No. 11 Tennessee (14-4, 1-1 SEC) 4-2 at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre Friday.
Tennessee jumped out early by taking the doubles point with victories on courts one and three. State No. 24 duo of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp fell to UT's Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese 8-3 on court one. Tennessee's Jarryd Chaplin and Brandon Fickey earned an 8-4 victory against MSU's Romain Bogaerts and Pedro Dumont to clinch the doubles point.
Play on court two was suspended, as MSU's Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson were in a tough battle against UT's No. 34 duo of John Collins and Edward Jones. The Volunteer tandem was leading 6-5.
State came into singles needing four victories to clinch the match and looking to take a match without winning doubles for the fourth time this season.
UT would strike first in doubles, as Chaplin defeated MSU's No. 93 James Chaudry 6-4, 6-3 on court three. The Vols would follow with a 7-5, 6-1 victory from Collins against State's Vinti on court six to push their lead to 3-0 for the overall match.
However, the Bulldogs would charge back, as the MSU junior White soundly defeated UT's Jones 6-2, 6-2 to put State on the board. The win moved the Ontario, Canada, native to 3-0 to start SEC play.
The match would come down to courts one, two and three, as MSU would be looking to take all three matches in order to win. UT took the first sets on courts one and three, with State taking the first on No. 2. Both teams would then split to send all three courts to a deciding third set.
On court three, MSU's Angus would drop his first set 6-1, but would come back strong, only dropping four total games in the last two sets to take the match 1-6, 6-1, 6-3. MSU trailed 3-2.
All eyes then shifted to courts one and two, where No. 23 Romain Bogaerts and No. 59 Malte Stropp would be State's hopes to complete an incredible comeback.
State found themselves on the brink of falling when Stropp was down 5-1 in the final set, with Tennessee's No. 33 Reese serving with triple team match point in his pocket. With the pressure on, Stropp answered the call, battling back to earn a break to stay alive. The Germany native would then storm back with three more games, and Reese's lead would sit at 5-4 with Stropp serving. The two continued to battle, as Stropp fought off three more team match points (a total of six throughout the final set). Reese finally struck back, as he clinched the match for the Volunteers on the seventh match point, ending Stropp's rally 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Play on court one would be suspended, as the thrilling battle between No. 23 Bogaerts and No. 13 Libietis stood with the UT sophomore leading 7-6(6), 4-6, 4-3.
The Maroon and White will return to action this Sunday, as they take on No. 7 Georgia in another major matchup at 1 p.m. CT at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
For more information on Mississippi State men's tennis, follow the Bulldogs on Twitter (www.twitter.com/mstatemt) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/mstatemt).
Just one tournament removed from claiming her first-career title, standout sophomore Ally McDonald again finds herself atop the leaderboard after an opening-round 3-under-par 69 in the JMU/Eagle Landing Invitational. The Mississippi State women's golf team is tied for fifth following a 12-over-par 300 performance.
"I'm pretty happy with the round I pulled out today," the Fulton, Miss., native said. "I didn't really hit it close, but I was able to take advantage of the holes I needed. I know as a team we left some shots out there, but we worked it out and are excited to make up shots tomorrow to put us in position for the last round."
McDonald has now posted a 69 five times in her career, with four of those coming this season. She last turned in a 3-under card in the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown when she claimed her first-career event title to end the fall. The 69 also ties for the second-lowest opening round in MSU history.
"Ally had a tremendous day with her 69," Brown-Lemm said. "She has nice start to her spring thus far. Going forward over the next two days, she has enough confidence in her swing to get her second win in the last three tournaments."
The Lady Bulldogs share the fifth spot with Kennesaw State and are only seven strokes back of tournament-leaders No. 36 Campbell and Elon. MSU struggled early, going 8-over-par on the first nine holes but regrouped for only a 4-over on the back nine.
"We were a bit sluggish to start the day," MSU head coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said. "We are in a good position to rebound tomorrow and have the chance to move up the leaderboard. On this golf course, we must play better over the next two rounds."
Elena Warren, Rica Tse and Gabi Oubre' all turned in 5-over-par 77's on the day, while Mary Langdon Gallagher only trailed by one shot with a 78.
Competing as an individual, freshman Logan Chaney turned in an 82.
Second-round action begins Saturday at 7 a.m. CST with the Lady Bulldogs slated to tee off along side Kennesaw State and James Madison at 7:40 a.m.
Live stats will be available through HailState.com. Fans can also follow the women's golf program on Twitter, @mstateWG, and on Facebook at facebook.com/mstateWG.