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MSU Softball Opens Fall Season with a Pair of Wins

Mississipi State softball won a pair of games on Saturday afternoon at home to open their fall season. In the first of two games, MSU defeated Henderson (AR) State 7-0, led by the pitching of senior Melissa Massey and freshman Ragan Blake. Led by a pair of sophomore pitchers, Kelli Miller and Sara Hickerson, State defeated Mississippi Valley State 5-0 in the second game. MSU will play two games Sunday afternoon at home beginning at 3:00 p.m. <hr width=150">

Post-game Q & A with head coach Jay Miller

What are your thoughts about the game with Henderson State today?
"We were pretty nervous coming out, very tense and very tight, especailly those first two inninigs. Then I thought we relaxed and settled down and got the kids to start breathing a little. I thought we had good pitching. Melissa (Massey) pitched really good. Ragan (Blake) came in and threw well in sort of a tough situation. When she came in, it was a 0-0 ballgame. We hadn't been doing much offensively. I thought for her first collegiate appearance, she came in and handled herself pretty well."

What about your game with Mississippi Valley State?
"We started off really well. We scored early those first couple of innings, and then just put it on cruise control. I was disappointed that we didn't finish a little stronger. When they made a pitching change, I thought we struggled offensively. We had some younger kids in there and they need to learn. But that's what fall is for. Overall, we had two good ballgames. I was real pleased with our pitching and with our defense. We played well defensively and made some nice plays. Courtney (Bures) turned a nice double play that first game. I thought we played good tight defense both games."

What about your newcomers?
"We have 15 players that are freshmen or sophomores. They came in pretty nervous and tense, that first game especially. I thought they relaxed and settled down a little bit. It showed more at the plate than any where else. That's to be expected. Defensively, they made the plays. That's tough sometimes when they're nervous and going out for the first time. I was real pleased overall."

What are you trying to accomplish with these fall games?
"First, we want to get some idea of where people are going to fit position wise. We want to get some idea of where we're going to be strongest, both offensively and defensively. We want to get the nervousness out of the freshmen and try to get them some innings under their belts, some at bats. We want to get some situations for the pitchers where they have to come in and produce. All of those are the types of things we look for in the fall season. The last thing is to identify what we need to work on as a team and individually in the off season to get ready for the spring."

Mary Ann Swindoll is the editor of Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact her by email at maryannswindoll@genespage.com.
Game 1
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The Mississippi State softball team rallied for six insurance runs to help a fourth inning lead stand up and got a pair of phenomenal shutout pitching performances from senior Melissa Massey and rookie Ragan Blake to dispel visiting Henderson State, 7-0, in the opening game of Fall competition for the Maroon and White Saturday afternoon at the MSU Softball Field.

Freshman Lindsay Hunley and sophomore Katie Johnson drove in a pair of runs on sixth inning knocks to pace a sextet of Bulldogs with base hits in the contest, while newcomer Nakita Boyce scored twice in a pinch-running role for the Bulldogs. Second baseman Janessa Roche ripped two singles in as many trips to the plate to pace the Reddies.

Massey (1-0) surrendered just a pair of hits and struck out three in four innings of work to notch the victory before giving way to Blake after the top of the fourth. Blake, a first team high school all-American out of Fort Bend, Texas, allowed just a pair of hits and struck out four to pick up the save. Henderson State staff ace Christine Palmer allowed seven runs on six hits and as many walks to take the loss for the Reddies.

"I thought we came out a little nervous at first, but we settled down and finished them off in the sixth inning," said Mississippi State head coach Jay Miller. "I thought we got some outstanding defense and we got great pitching all day."

Freshman Courtney Bures managed State's first hit of the ballgame in the bottom of the fourth, then moved to third courtesy of a stolen base and a wild pitch to set the table for Jennifer Jessup, who laced a shot to centerfield to plate Bures with the 1-0 lead. Jessup walked to ignite a rally in the sixth that was highlighted by run-scoring knocks by Johnson and Hunley that were ultimately allowed by a clutch HSU error.

Game 2
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Freshman Courtney Bures drove in the gamewinning run in the first inning of play, then added two more RBI with a double in the second as the Mississippi State Softball team finished off its opening day of Fall competition with a 5-0 blanking of visiting Mississippi Valley State Saturday evening at the Mississippi State Softball Field.

Bures, a rookie from Haymarket, Va., finished the night 1-for-3 at the plate, but it was her RBI groundout in the bottom of the first that proved to be enough offense for the Maroon and White. Amory native Keri McFarling scored a run on a 2-for-3 showing at the plate, while fellow sophomore Hayle Guess scored twice after walking in the first and reaching on a dropped third strike in the second. Leadoff hitter Balencia Young (1-for-2, BB) mustered MVSU's only base hit of the night.

Mississippi State starter Kelli Miller (1-0) gave up just one hit and struck out six batters in four masterful innings of shutout ball, while Sara Hickerson came on in relief of Miller in the fifth, striking out one and allowing a lone hit, to pick up the save. Nicole Henderson saddled the loss for the Delta Devilettes after surrendering five runs on five hits and a trio of walks in five innings of work.

Guess drew a walk to leadoff things for MSU in the first, then moved to third on a pair of stolen bases to set things up for Bures who delivered a hard shot to the second baseman that allowed Guess to score easily from 60 feet away. After Henderson put a pair of runners on after walking Jennifer Jessup with the next MSU at-bat, Tanelda McDonald helped cushion the MSU lead out to two with a run-scoring double to the gap in leftfield.

Junior Callye Williams got things started for the Bulldogs in the second inning on a single to the same gap in leftfield, but was eliminated from the basepaths after a Blair Geddings' sac bunt went sour and ended up turning into a double play. McFarling singled and stole both second and third moments late to put a runner into scoring position for the Bulldogs, then scored on Lindsay Hunley's single to the gap in rightfield. Bures' double would score both Hunley and Guess with the game's final runs.

Mississippi State will continue Fall competition Sunday afternoon when the Bulldogs suit up for a rematch with Mississippi Valley State at 3 p.m. and follow with a contest against Copiah Lincoln Community College at 5 p.m. Both games are set to be played at the Mississippi State Softball Field and admission to all 2004-05 MSU Softball home games is free.

Source: MSU Media Relations

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