MSU Loses to 4th Ranked Arizona State

LAFAYETTE, La. - The fourth-ranked and second-seeded Arizona State softball team (41-18) rallied for four runs with two outs in the bottom of the second, then rode the shoulders of standout pitching from ace Erica Beach to defeat Mississippi State (35-30), 4-1, Thursday afternoon at NCAA Regional 3 in Lafayette, La.

Jennifer Nelson turned in a 2-for-3 performance at the plate with a sacrifice hit to pace the Bulldog hitting, with teammate Kasey Whitehead adding an RBI on a 1-for-3 tally. Kristen Farber (2-for-3) and Jennifer Forner (2-for-3) added multi-hit performances for Arizona State, with Missy Hixon plating a pair of RBIs on a 1-for-2 (BB) hitting tally.

The Maroon and White starter Whitehead (20-14) allowed four earned runs on five ASU hits in one and two-thirds innings of work to take the loss for MSU, with Melissa Massey getting the no decision despite allowing just two hits the rest of the way out. Arizona State starter Erica Beach (28-13) scattered six hits and struck out five over a complete game for the Sun Devils.

After nothing doing for either team in the first, Mississippi State got something going in the second, putting a pair of runners on with two outs before Whitehead's double off the wall plated Lindsay Nelson with the 1-0 lead.

Arizona State got a leadoff single off the glove of MSU third baseman Tanelda McDonald in the bottom of the second inning before Whitehead induced Beach to hit into a 1-6-3 double play. However, the Sun Devils used a walk and a pair of singles, respectively, to load the bases with its next three batters to set the table for Forner's two-run single to shallow centerfield, then got a two-run double from Hixon to take a 4-1 lead into the third.

State put something together again in the fourth, getting a pair of runners into scoring position via a bunt single from Kate Jaspers and a fielding error from ASU shortstop Kara Brun, but Beach got Jennifer Jessup on a ground out to second base to escape the threat. The Bulldogs, again, rallied in the fifth, getting its first two runners aboard courtesy of a muffed throw by first baseman Erin Wardein and an infield single from Jennifer Nelson, but Beach struck out Kellie Wilkerson for the third time in the contest and then used baserunning confusion for a double play that got ASU out of the inning.

Mississippi State will return to action later this evening when the Bulldogs return to Lady Cajun Park for a loser's bracket game against sixth-seeded Northwestern State (45-24), who dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to LSU in 10 innings earlier this afternoon. First pitch of tonight's elimination game is set for 8:30 p.m.

#4 Arizona State 4, Mississippi State 1
Mississippi State 010 000 0 - 1 6 1
Arizona State 040 000 x - 4 7 3
Whitehead, Massey (2) and Brown; Beach and Garcia. W - Beach (28-13). L - Whitehead (20-14). Save - None. 2B - Miss. State, Whitehead, Tillman; Ariz. State, Hixon.

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