State splits with Tennessee

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State softball team (22-16, 5-6 SEC) rallied for three runs in the third inning to erase an early deficit to visiting Tennessee (31-14-1, 6-7) and post its 10th come-from-behind victory of the season with an 8-1 thumping of the Lady Vols Friday evening at the Mississippi State Softball Field.

Centerfielder Iyhia McMichael recorded a career-high four RBIs on a 2-for-3 clip at the plate, while Quitman native Amy Mosley recorded her first hit of the campaign on a three-run double in the sixth. Five other players also recorded base hits for the Bulldogs. Carrissa Roustan paced the Orange and White on a 2-for-4 hitting night.

State starter Kasey Whitehead (12-8) moved into sole possession of fifth place on MSU's career wins list, posting her 12th victory of the season after scattering four hits and allowing no earned runs in five innings of work. Kellie Wilkerson struck out three Lady Vols in a hitless sixth and seventh to record her nation-leading eighth save of the season. Roustan (0-1) worked two and two thirds in relief of starter Nicole Borg, allowing four earned runs on seven hits, to take the loss for Tennessee.

Tennessee used a pass ball on a swinging strikeout to get Roustan on the first base bag with just one out showing in the opening frame, then got an RBI single from Blaine Teasley two batters later to take a 1-0 lead. Mississippi State got its first two batters of the third on via free passes, then loaded the bases two batters later on Jennifer Nelson's infield single. McMichael gave State its first lead of the series moments later on a three-run triple to leftfield.

State took a 4-1 lead on Wilkerson's leadoff homer in the fifth, then loaded the bases with three consecutive singles to leadoff the sixth and set the table for Mosley's monster pinch hit. McMichael plated Mosley three batters later on an RBI single up the middle.

In the series opener, Tennessee plated a pair of runs on a two-out rally in the fourth, then climbed on the back of a four-hit shutout by starter Stephanie Humphrey to slip by Mississippi State in a pitching duel, 2-0.

Four different players recorded hits for Mississippi State, with Blaire Brown turning in a 1-for-1 day on a pinch-hit at-bat in the seventh. First baseman Amber Rhinehart sparked the Lady Vols on a 2-for-3 day at the plate, with Roustan (1-for-3, R) and Teasley (1-for-2) adding RBI singles.

Mississippi State starter Melissa Massey (4-8) allowed two earned runs on five hits in five innings of work to take the loss for the Bulldogs, despite recording four strikeouts in the contest. Wilkerson struck out two in a hitless sixth and seventh. Humphrey (21-9) struck out eight and scattered four hits over a complete game to take the victory and snap Tennessee's five-game losing streak in the series.

State threatened in the bottom of the third, getting a pair of runners in scoring position with two outs, but Humphrey got Jennifer Nelson to fly out to leftfield and nix the threat. Massey retired the first two Tennessee batters in the fourth, but Rhinehart sparked a two-out rally with a single through the right side, before Roustan (RBI triple) and Teasley (RBI single) completed the damage.

State put its first two runners on in the sixth to forge a challenge to the Orange and White lead, but Humphrey sat the next three batters down in order to get out of the inning and strand the Bulldogs' fifth and sixth runners of the game.

Mississippi State and Tennessee will close out their three-game set tomorrow when the two return to the Mississippi State Softball Field to square up in the rubber match. First pitch of the series finale is set for 12 p.m. Admission to all 2002 MSU home softball games is free of charge.

Tennessee 000 200 0 - 2 5 1
Mississippi State 000 000 0 - 0 4 1
Humphrey and Wilson; Massey, Wilkerson (6) and Waterman; W - Humphrey (21-9). L - Massey (4-8). Save - None. 3B: UT - Roustan. 2B: MSU - Brown.

Tennessee 100 000 0 - 1 4 1
Mississippi State 003 014 x - 8 10 0
Borg, Roustan (3), E. Humphrey (7) and Wilson; Whitehead, Wilkerson (6) and Brown. W - Whitehead (12-8). L - Roustan (0-1). Save - Wilkerson (8). HR: MSU - Wilkerson. 3B: MSU - McMichael. 2B: MSU - Mosley.

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