STARKVILLE, Miss. - Fourteen players, including current National Pro Fastpitch star Iyhia McMichael and national team member Kellie Wilkerson, will make a return to Starkville this weekend as the Mississippi State softball team welcomes back its past players for the first annual alumni game Friday evening at the MSU Softball Field.
MState breezed through four contests in its opening weekend of Fall action, Sept. 18-19, outscoring its opponents by a combined 27-11 count. Among the standouts of the opening weekend was sophomore righthander Ragan Blake, who fanned 25 in three appearances (14.0 IP). Six players, including senior Michelle Kinney (.667; 8-for-12, RBI), are hitting better than .400 through four outings of the offseason to help pace a .368 team batting clip.
"We did some good things and some bad things in our opening weekend," said Mississippi State head coach Jay Miller. "I was really impressed with the way Ragan Blake threw the ball. She has really stepped up her game from where she was last year and I was pleased to see her step up to that level. Offensively, I thought we got some good production throughout the lineup. Obviously, we have some young kids that need to learn the ropes a little bit and get accustomed to some things. But, overall, I was very pleased."
The Maroon and White may get its most pungent test of the fall though this weekend with the abundance of talent making their way back into Starkville. Wilkerson was most recently selected to her second USA national team stint, while McMichael, the 2004 NPF Player of the Year, recently completed her second season with the league champion Akron Racers and finished among the top 3 league leaders in batting for the second-straight year having won the NPF batting title as a rookie.
However, the Alumni squad boasts more than just the all-American duo. Two players, Jennifer Nelson (.314) and Kate Jaspers (.304), rank in MState's top 10 for career batting average, while righthander Melissa Massey is the Bulldogs' all-time winningest pitcher. The personnel of the alumni squad should give the current squad a gauge of its progress thus far.
"Obviously, when you have national team players and professional players coming back, that's a very strong lineup to face," Miller said. "I think it will be a fun evening not only for our team, but for the alumni to come back and renew some old friendships. We've got some folks coming back that played in the early 80s so it will be enjoyable to get acquainted with those players as well."
Following Friday evening's alumni matchup, the 2005 Mississippi State softball team will wrap up fall competition on Sunday when it welcomes a pair of Mississippi junior colleges to the MSU Softball Field. The Maroon and White will battle Copiah-Lincoln CC in a 1 p.m. contest before lacing up to take on Jones County JC at 3. Admission to both games is free.
MISSISSIPPI STATE ALUMNI SQUAD
OF Aimee (Juedemann) Barrett (1997-98)--.196 career batting avg., 9 RBI, 25 Runs
OF Julia Ingram (1982-84)--.227 career batting avg., 2 RBI, 13 Runs Scored
INF/OF Kate Jaspers (2001-04)--.304 career batting avg., 3 HR, 100 RBI
RHP Melissa Massey (2002-05)--55-41 career record, 3.75 ERA, 580.2 IP, 341 SO
INF Tanelda McDonald (2002-05)--.273 career batting avg., 3 HR, 59 RBI--Currently playing with Harlem Diamonds professional team
OF Iyhia McMichael (2001-04)--Three-time all-American (2002-04)--Two-time SEC Softball Athlete of the Year--.382 career batting avg., 37 HR, 182 RBI, 141-157 SBA--Currently playing with NPF's Akron Racers
OF/RHP Jennifer Nelson (2000-03)--.314 career batting avg., 1 HR, 47 RBI, 105 Runs--19-14 career record, 4.26 ERA, 234.1 IP, 84 SO
INF Lindsay Nelson (2001-04)--.270 career batting avg., 3 HR, 58 RBI
INF Brooke (Best) O'Hair (2000-03)--.200 career batting avg., 8 HR, 51 RBI
OF Meagan O'Nan (2003-04)--.359 career batting average, 11 RBI, 53 Runs
RHP Janice (Denomie) Skinner (1982-84)--3-2 career record, 6.31 ERA, 25.2 IP, 6 SO--.275 career batting avg., 3 RBI
C/1B Jennifer Waterman (2001-04)--.288 career batting avg., 7 HR, 120 RBI
OF/INF Brandi Watkins (2004)--.297 career batting avg., 2 HR, 14 RBI
Roger Whitlock--Asst. Coach for 1982-83 Squads
OF Kellie Wilkerson (1999-02)--Four-time all-American (1999-02)--.429 career batting avg., 44 HR, 175 RBI--22-11 career record, 2.08 ERA, 32 Saves (NCAA Record)--Currently playing with USA National Team