A key stolen base from junior Julia Echols and a critical fielding error by Memphis allowed Mississippi State to come away with a 2-1 victory at Memphis on Tuesday evening. With two outs in the top of the seventh and the score tied 1-1, Echols walked, stole second and scored on a fielding error by Tiger shortstop Brittany Vaughn to account for the game-winning run.
With the victory, Mississippi State improves to 22-8. The team is off to the third-best 30-game start by an MSU club, just one win behind the 2006 and 2000 squads' program-best 23-7 mark.
In the circle, it was a total team effort for Mississippi State as four Bulldogs pitched. Sophomore Jacey Punches tossed the first two innings and yielded a run on two hits and a walk. She fanned three. Senior Shana Sherrod entered for the third inning and retired the Tigers in order. Freshman Alexis Silkwood threw two-and-a-third innings, allowing just a double. Senior Alison Owen earned the win to improve to 11-6 as she retired all five Memphis batters she faced. Memphis' Christian Novak started and went three-and-a-third innings, giving up a run on three hits and a trio of walks. She fanned four. Ellen Roberts (7-6) took the loss after pitching three-and-two-thirds innings, giving up an unearned run with two hits, two walks and three strikeouts.
After retiring the Bulldogs in order in the top of the first, Memphis (13-13) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the frame. Lindsay Crowdus led off with a double and, after a foul out and strikeout, scored on a single to right from Calli Irvin. After a walk, Punches ended the inning with a strikeout looking.
MSU mounted its first scoring threat in the top of the third but could not convert. Senior Sam Lenahan led off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from sophomore Kayla Winkfield, but a strikeout and pop out stranded Lenahan at second.
Sherrod entered in the bottom of the third and retired the Tigers in order. Following the quick inning, Mississippi State tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth. Freshman Caroline Seitz led off with her Southeastern Conference-leading 12th double of the year. After a foul out, senior Logan Foulks walked to put runners on first and second. Freshman Katie Anne Bailey doubled to center to plate Seitz and move Foulks to third. A walk to senior Heidi Shape loaded the bases, but consecutive strikeouts ended the threat.
Mississippi State had a chance to take the lead in the fifth inning, but stranded two runners. After a pop out started the frame, Echols walked and Seitz singled through the right side. A passed ball moved the pair to second and third, but a strikeout and pop out left them there.
In the bottom of the sixth, Memphis had an opportunity to go ahead, but Owen entered and shut the door. With one out, Vaughn doubled to center field to snap a string of 12-straight Tigers retired. Owen entered for Silkwood and recorded a pop out and strikeout to close the inning.
The Bulldogs scored the winning run in the top of the seventh for the 2-1 victory. Winkfield started the inning with a single, but a double play on a line drive erased her. Echols walked on four pitches, swiped second and scored on the Vaughn error on a ball hit up the middle by Seitz.
Owen sent down all three Tiger hitters in the seventh to earn the victory.
Mississippi State plays the final three of nine-straight road games this weekend at Auburn. The series begins Friday with a 6 p.m. CT first pitch while Saturday's and Sunday's games both begin at 1 p.m.
After turning in two Top-5 cards last week, senior Chad Ramey earned Southeastern Conference Player of the Week honors.
Ramey has earned SEC Player of the Week honors twice in his career. The first time came last season after the Fulton, Miss., native won the 2013 Tiger Invitational. At this year's event Ramey finished runner up.
"Chad has had a great year and deserves a lot credit, " Bulldog coach Clay Homan said. "Week in and week out he puts himself in contention to win. He is a great teammate and leads by example."
Ramey turned in 9-under-par 207 in Opelika and a 3-under-par 213 in Tallahassee to finish out last week's spring break trip. After the runner-up finish at the Tiger Invitational and Saturday's tie for third, Ramey now has 16 Top-10 cards as a Bulldog.
The Bulldogs will return to action on March 27, with a quick showdown against Delta State at the Old Waverly Golf Club. The following week will see MSU host the second-annual Old Waverly Collegiate Championship on April 7-8.
A day after Mississippi State was selected to host the opening round of the WNIT, junior Martha Alwal earned another accolade as she was named first team All-SEC by the Associated Press.
The honor comes two weeks after the Worthington, Minn., native garnered first team All-SEC laurels from league coaches as well as co-defensive player of the year and all-defensive team honors.
"I am overwhelmed and honored to be selected as a first team All-SEC from the Associated Press," Alwal said. "I have to share this award with my teammates and coaches because they have been so supportive of me and are always pushing me to get better every day. There are some great players in this league, so to be voted to the first team is a tremendous honor."
Since earning All-SEC accolades from league coaches March 4, Alwal became the 20th Mississippi State player to record 1,000-career points (1,015).
Joining the 1,000-point club was another milestone in a banner offensive season that has seen her average a career-best 15.3 points and shoot an SEC third-best 50.3 percent from the field.
The Worthington, Minn., native also continued her defensive dominance, recording a personal-best 83 blocks that ranks second in MSU season annals. Alwal enters Thursday's WNIT contest second in the SEC with 2.6 blocks per game. She finished the 16-game league slate first with 2.8 per contest.
Alwal smashed MSU's career blocks record with 243 swats, the most among active SEC players and sixth among current NCAA Division I players. She needs six swats to tie for 10th in SEC history.
"I'm very proud of Martha for receiving this prestigious honor. To see where she was two years ago averaging five points a game in the biggest, baddest conference in the country to where she is today, this award is a reward for her hard work," head coach Vic Schaefer said. "She has had a great season, and we have leaned on her a lot. I'm really proud of her growth, and I'm proud of our coaching staff, especially Coach (Johnnie) Harris, for helping her develop into a great player. This is a very deserving honor for Martha."
The junior center also vaulted up State's career rebounding chart, claiming 785 after finishing the regular season third in the SEC with an 8.7 average.
Her stellar board work helped her register 10 double-doubles this season and 29 for her career, most among active league players.
Alwal averaged 16.0 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks the final seven games of the season to help Mississippi State to a 19-13 record, its best since 2009-10, and the program's first postseason berth since that campaign.
Part of that run for the two-time SEC Player of the Week was MSU's first 20-point, 20-rebound game since 1988 and the SEC's first since 2008 when she scored 25 points and grabbed a career-high 23 rebounds against in-state rival Ole Miss. The 23 boards top the SEC this season, giving her the SEC's highest single-game rebounding total for the third-straight year.
Alwal and the Bulldogs host Tulane Thursday at 7 p.m. in the WNIT opening round. Tickets for the contest cost $6 for adults and $4 for students and can be purchased online at www.hailstate.com/tickets or by calling 1-888-GO-DAWGS.