Softball Wins Tournament Championship Game

TAMPA, Fla. - Mississippi State scored four unanswered runs to erase a 2-0 deficit in three innings of play and the Bulldogs completed a perfect run through the Best Western Invitational with a 4-2 victory over Tournament host South Florida in the Championship game on Sunday afternoon.

Sophomore all-American Courtney Bures drove in a fifth-inning run to highlight a 3-for-3 hitting line and Nikita Boyce drove in a run and scored twice on the shoulders of a 2-for-3 day at the plate to pace the Bulldogs (5-0) who won their first tournament title away from home since taking top honors at the 2002 Florida State Sunshine Classic. Jo-Jo Medina hit a solo homer in the 3rd inning to lead the USF (2-3) offense.

Less than a day after establishing a career-best seven strikeouts against USF in Saturday's round-robin match-up, M-State starter Ragan Blake (3-0) matched the superlative by fanning seven Bulls en route to her third-straight victory. Blake also scattered three hits across her third complete game of the campaign, surrendering a lone earned run and allowing one walk. Cristi Ecks (1-2) saddled the loss for USF after a allowing three runs on six hits in five innings of work.

"I thought it was a good start for us," said Mississippi State head coach Jay Miller. "We got great pitching from Ragan and Stephanie all weekend and they gave us a chance to win every game. We made some defensive mistakes, but I was pleased with the way we swung the bats."

USF benefited from a pair of MSU miscues in the first inning, scoring a run on a two-out single from Tiffany Stewart that managed to find a landing spot in shallow left field. After a pair of quiet innings the Bulls stretched their advantage out to 2-0, on a 1-out solo homer from Medina.

State finally got something going in the bottom of the forth, getting consecutive singles in the one-out walk to load the bases with its first four at-bats and set the table for Callye Williams' sac fly to left field that cut the Maroon and White decifit in half, (2-1). State continued the scoring in the fifth, however, using a pair of two-out hits, coupled with a dropped ball on a play at the plate, to tie the game at two apiece. Bures' single to center field moments later plated Boyce with a go-ahead score.

MSU would add an insurance run in sixth when Sammie Jo Bailey singled and moved into scoring position on an error by USF second-baseman Katrina Dowd. After a perfectly laid sac bunt by Williams moved Bailey to third, the run would come across the plate following a wild pitch by Bulls reliever Danielle Urbanik to provide the final.

Mississippi State will return to action this weekend when the Bulldogs open their 2006 home schedule by hosting the four-team Bulldog Round-Robin. M-State will open its portion of tournament play on Friday afternoon by taking on East Tennessee State at 2 p.m., before remaining in uniform for a 4 p.m. tilt with Southern Illinois. Admission to all 2006 MSU softball home games is free.

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