'Dogs Advance in the SEC Softball Tournament

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The seventh-seeded Mississippi State softball team (35-28) put together a five-run rally with two outs in the fifth then rallied behind an outstanding pitching performance from Melissa Massey to defeat sixth-seeded Arkansas (38-26-1) and oust the Lady Razorbacks from the 2002 SEC Tournament Friday afternoon at Jim Frost Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Kellie Wilkerson's 3-for-4 day paced eight Bulldogs with at least one hit in the contest, with Iyhia McMichael adding a pair of walks and an RBI on a 1-for-2 showing. Kate Jaspers (2-for-3, RBI, R) and Jennifer Jessup (2-for-3) also turned in multi-hit performances for the Maroon and White. Five different players recorded base hits for the Lady 'Backs.

Massey (8-12) scattered five hits and struck out a pair of Arkansas batters and needed just 86 pitches to ground the Lady 'Backs and stave off elimination for the Bulldogs. Arkansas starter Rachel Talley (13-9) allowed five earned runs on 10 Mississippi State hits to take the loss. Lady 'Back reliever Valanna Lyons worked the final two innings of the ballgame, walking one and allowing two hits.

The win put an end to a three-game losing streak to the Lady Razorbacks, as well as a three-game losing streak at the SEC Tournament for Mississippi State. It also marked the first time in three meetings at the SEC Tournament that the Bulldogs defeated Arkansas. The Lady 'Backs eliminated the Maroon and White from last year's tournament.

The Bulldogs got a baserunner in each of the first three innings, putting a runner into scoring position in the second frame on Lindsay Nelson's one-out sac bunt that moved Jaspers to second base. However, the Maroon and White stranded the runners on groundouts to the second baseman Julie Young all three innings.

Jaspers reached second base in the fourth, this time with two outs showing on the centerfield scoreboard, but for the fourth consecutive inning, Talley induced a groundout to extinguish the scoring threat. State got a pair of baserunnes in the fifth via a one-out fielder's choice by Krystal Tillman and a two-out single by Brooke Best. This time, however, the Bulldogs came through, rallying for five consecutive RBI singles with two outs to take a 5-0 lead and chase Talley from the pitching circle. Arkansas put together a two-out rally of its own in the bottom of the inning, getting a pair of runners aboard via singles, but Massey induced Blaire Woodward to ground out to third and end the inning.

Arkansas utilized a hit and an error in the bottom of the seventh to spoil Massey's shutout, but never realistically affected the outcome of the game. It was the sixth complete game of the season for the Fayetteville, Tenn., native.

Mississippi State will face the loser of Friday night's contest between top-seeded LSU (50-9) and fourth-seeded Georgia (54-13). First pitch of Saturday's elimination contest is 12 p.m. EDT and can be followed live over the internet at the official site of Southeastern Conference sports, SECSports.com.

Mississippi State 5, Arkansas 1
#7 Mississippi State 000 050 0 - 5 12 3
#6 Arkansas 000 000 1 - 1 5 0
Massey and Brown; Talley and White. W - Massey (8-12). L - Talley (13-9). Save - None. SH - MSU, L. Nelson.

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