Starter Kasey Whitehead (4-2) surrendered four earned runs and 10 hits in 4.2 innings of work to take the loss for Mississippi State. Jessica Holaway (2-1) worked a seven-inning complete, allowing eight hits and a pair of runs, to notch the victory for the Golden Eagles.
Although drawing first blood on an RBI single by Blaire Brown in the first inning, the Bulldogs were quickly put back on their heels moments later when the Eagles knotted the score on an Auriel Jenkins' single up the middle. Heather Bell's solo homer in the third gave Southern Miss its first lead of the game. The Eagles added a pair of runs in the fourth on a defensive miscue and an RBI single to take a 4-1 lead into the fifth.
Following a leadoff triple by Melanie Hymel in the sixth, Channika Gant extended the lead to 5-1 with one out in the sixth with an RBI single through the right side. Southern added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh, before Wilkerson's solo blast in the last frame.
In the early game, Mississippi State turned in a pair of multi-run innings and used standout pitching by a trio of its pitchers to hand Southern Illinois its first defeat of the season with a 5-3 defeat of the Salukis.
Kellie Wilkerson (2-for-3, R) collected a pair of hits to pace the Mississippi State bats, with six other Bulldogs collecting base hits. Faith Robinson (1-for-3) added a pair of RBIs on a single in the third inning.
Melissa Massey came on in relief of Jennifer Nelson with the score even in the third and allowed three hits and one run in 2.2 innings of work to collect her first collegiate victory. Wilkerson struck out five over the final 2.1 innings to collect her third save of the campaign.
Despite seeing their first two batters go down in order, Southern Illinois took a 2-0 lead into the second on a two-run shot by Katie Jordan (1-for-2, 2 RBI, R). State answered in the bottom half of the frame, using four hits, including a one-out triple by McMichael, to plate a pair of runs and even the score at two apiece.
A pair of errors, coupled with Robinson's clutch hit with two in scoring position, helped plate a trio of runners and give the Bulldogs a 5-2 lead after three. Adie Viefhaus' fourth-inning RBI single up the middle brought the Salukis to within two, but Wilkerson's strong relief performance closed the door on the visitors.
Mississippi State will return to action on Friday when the Bulldogs travel to Columbus, Ga., for the NFCA Leadoff Classic. The Bulldogs will face a pair of nationally-ranked opponents in Arizona State and Michigan on Friday, before closing out round-robin play against Connecticut on Saturday.