MSU Softball Defeats No. 3/2 Alabama 4-2

A Mississippi State-record crowd of 1,577 watched as the Bulldogs used a two-run single from freshman Caroline Seitz in the bottom of the fifth to defeat No. 3/2 Alabama 4-2. It is the first home victory in program history against a top-five opponent.

With the win, Mississippi State matched its victory total against ranked teams from the 2013 season with four. The win is MSU's first against a squad ranked third or higher since topping No. 3 Florida 6-5 on April 7, 2013.

The Bulldogs improved to 31-14, good for the second-best 45-game record in program history, just one win behind the 2008 team's 32-13 mark.

"I'm so proud of the girls for the way they fought," head coach Vann Stuedeman. "We've had some tough situations this year. We could have folded when Alabama took the lead, but we didn't. It was guts, grit, heart and fight on display. I know it feels so good for the girls."

In addition to Seitz, the Bulldogs' bottom of the lineup provided a spark as sophomores Kayla Winkfield and Loryn Nichols combined to go three-for-four with two runs scored. Senior Heidi Shape also chipped in with a walk, sacrifice bunt, single and run scored.

Senior Alison Owen (16-8) earned the victory by yielding two runs, one earned, with one walk and the 12 whiffs. She allowed just two hits, a home run and single. Leslie Jury (13-4) took the loss for the Crimson Tide, throwing five-and-a-third innings and allowing four runs on seven hits and five free passes. She struck out one. Sydney Littlejohn recorded the final two outs and walked two.

Mississippi State got a one-out single from Shape in the bottom of the first, but a fielder's choice and pop out ended the threat.

The Bulldogs had another one-out base runner in the second inning as freshman Mackenzie Toler drew a walk. A fly out and Toler caught stealing closed the inning.

In the bottom of the third, MSU broke through with a run to go ahead 1-0. Winkfield and Nichols started the frame with consecutive singles. Senior Jessica Offutt moved both runners up a base with a groundout. A squeeze bunt from Shape scored Winkfield for the run. A fly out stranded Nichols.

Owen had a perfect game through the first three-and-two-thirds until Kaila Hunt hit a home run in the top of the fourth to even the score at 1-1.

MSU had a chance to regain the lead in the bottom of the frame by loading the bases, but was held off the scoreboard. With one out, Seitz singled to right field and stole second base. Toler walked and was replaced at first by redshirt freshman pinch runner Olivia Golden. A second free pass of the inning, this one to junior Julia Echols, loaded the bases with one out. Winkfield hit into a fielder's choice that forced Seitz out at the plate. Freshman Katie Anne Bailey entered to pinch hit and fouled out to a diving left fielder Kallie Case to leave the bases full.

The Crimson Tide (37-6, 15-2 SEC) took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth. Leona Lafaele was hit by the first pitch of the inning and was replaced at first by pinch runner Chandler Dare. After a pop out on a bunt attempt, Peyton Grantham reached on an error that allowed Dare to be safe at second. Following a strikeout, Case delivered with a single through the left side that plated Dare. Left fielder Offutt picked up the ball and threw to home, but senior catcher Sam Lenahan was called for interference, allowing Dare to score the go-ahead run. Haylie McCleney was walked on four pitches to load the bases, but pinch hitter Danielle Richard struck out, allowing Owen to escape without further damage.

In the bottom of the frame, MSU answered with two runs and went ahead 3-2. After a leadoff groundout, Shape walked and Lenahan singled to put runners on first and second. Senior Logan Foulks followed with a grounder that second baseman Hunt booted, loading the bases. Junior Ashley Phillips pinch ran for Lenahan at second. Seitz hit the first pitch of the at-bat into left for a two-run single. Seitz moved to second on the throw to the plate and Foulks advanced to third. A groundout and strikeout ended the inning.

"I was looking for the inside pitch," Seitz said. "I saw it coming and it felt so good for the team to get the hit down."

Owen struck out the side in the top of the sixth and the Bulldogs added an insurance run in the bottom of the frame to go ahead 4-2. Winkfield walked and Nichols singled to open the frame. An Offutt groundout moved the pair up a base and chased Jury. Littlejohn entered and retired Shape on a foul out. A walk to Lenahan loaded the bases and Foulks followed with another free pass to force in the fourth run. A groundout left the bases full.

Alabama went down in order in the seventh to seal the victory.

The teams complete the series with a 1 p.m. CT Sunday contest. FSN will offer a live television broadcast of the game with Dave Neal on the play-by-play and Barb Jordan as the color analyst. ESPN3 will also offer a live stream of the contest.

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