State Softball to Close out Fall Competition

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Fresh off its opening weekend of Fall competition that saw it go 4-0 and surrender just a single run, the Mississippi State softball team will close out its preseason competition when the Bulldogs host Delta State, Mississippi Gulf Coast CC and West Alabama this weekend at the Mississippi State Softball Field.

The Maroon and White will open the weekend against Delta State at 3 p.m. on Saturday and will remain on the field to play again when they face Mississippi Gulf Coast CC at 5 p.m. On Sunday, State will get a rematch with MGCCC at 3 p.m. before tangling with West Alabama at 5 p.m.

State opened the Fall portion of its 2004-05 schedule last weekend with a quartet of victories while surrendering just a single run. The Bulldogs kicked off the weekend with a 7-0 triumph over Henderson State, then posted its second straight shutout with a 5-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State. State closed out its opening weekend with a 6-0 victory over the Delta Devils on Sunday, then followed with a 8-1 victory over Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Seniors Tanelda McDonald and Jennifer Jessup both turned in .625 batting averages last weekend on 5-for-8 hitting lines and paced the Bulldogs to a .333 team clip in four games. Freshman Courtney Bures emerged as the clutch hitter, however, turning in a team-high seven RBI on a 7-for-15 (.467) weekend at the plate. MSU got solid outings from its entire pitching staff, with rookie Ragan Blake leading the way in the strikeout column, fanning 13 in eight innings of work. Blake nearly blew through a perfect outing against Co-Lin in Sunday's nightcap, but had her no-no spoiled with two outs in the bottom of the fifth.

"Overall, I was very pleased with how we performed last weekend," said MState head coach Jay Miller. "Obviously, with that many new faces, you had a lot of jitters out there and we struggled a little bit with consitency on the offensive side of the ball. We made good progress though. We got a lot of innings and a lot of at-bats for our young kids and we want to do the same this weekend to get them a little bit more settled and sort of see where we are going to be needing the most help this Spring."

Delta State will likely be State's toughest task of the weekend as the Lady Statesmen return five starters off of last season's 36-16 squad that advanced through to the semifinals of the Gulf South Conference tournament. Included in those five returning starters are four all-conference selections, including first teamer Alyse Hasty who hit led the team with a .393 (64-for-163) batting average that went along with five home runs and 20 RBI. DSU will also return two of three pitchers from last year's squad and, among them, are Jenna Smart and Laura Dixon who combined for a 24-10 record and a 1.66 ERA.

Having won four consecutive state championships (2000-03), Gulf Coast had their 2004 playoff run ended prematurely with an 8-4 loss to Pearl River in a play-in game in May. The Bulldogs will return eight players off of last year's squad, but have also signed an impressive crop of 10 newcomers.

West Alabama returns five starters off of last season's 11-35 squad, including first team all-Gulf South Conference selection Shannon Goggins (So., SS) who led the Tigers in hitting with a .370 (44-for-119) clip that complemented 17 extra-base hits and 28 RBI. Former Alabama infielder Casey Cockrum also returns after hitting just under the .200 plateau last season, while contributing a trio of wins in the circle for UWA. The Tigers return all four of its starting pitchers from 2004 as well.

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