STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 24th-ranked Mississippi State softball team faces the world's best Thursday night as it travels to Ridgeland, Miss., to take on the United States Olympic Team at 6:30 p.m. as part of the "Bound 4 Beijing" Tour.
Thursday night's game at Freedom Ridge Park, the only stop for Team USA in the state of Mississippi, will be broadcast live on WMSV 91.1 and online at www.wmsv.msstate.edu. Tickets for the game can be purchased at the gate for $15. For more information on the game, contact the Ridgeland Parks and Recreation Department at (601) 325-2011.
The Bulldogs head into the exhibition game with the three-time Olympic gold medalist with a 35-15 record after sweeping a three-game Southeastern Conference series from South Carolina in Columbia last weekend.
State was led at the plate by during the sweep by sophomore Chelsea Bramlett. Bramlett has also paced MSU offensively this season, hitting a team-leading .451 with two doubles, three triples, two home runs, 43 runs scored, 23 RBI and 41 stolen bases. The Cordova, Tenn., native, who extended her hit streak to a career-long 13 games at USC, moved into a tie for second on the school single-season stolen base chart, while her 87 career stolen bases place her third in Bulldog softball history.
Senior Courtney Bures, who is hitting .376 on the year, has driven in a team-best 33 runs and hit 11 doubles. Fellow senior Hayle Guess paces the team in triples (4) and home runs (5) while hitting .311 with 29 RBI and 32 runs scored.
Freshman Misty Flesher earned Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week honors after picking up two of MSU's three victories against the Gamecocks. Flesher moved to 15-7 on the year, the second-most victories by a newcomer in program history, as she allowed a run on 13 hits with 15 strikeouts and two walks over 16 and two-thirds innings. On the year, the Lone Grove, Okla., native has compiled a 1.88 ERA with 99 strikeouts and 22 walks over a team second-most 126 and two-thirds innings.
Junior Kelsey Nurnberg earned a win at South Carolina over the weekend to move to 16-7 on the year. Nurnberg, who has compiled a 1.97 ERA, has struck out 86 over a team-best 152 and two-thirds innings. Freshman Elizabeth Woolven has thrown 49 and two-thirds innings, compiling a team-best four saves in her inaugural campaign.
The Bulldogs, who are hitting .302 as a team, meet a Team USA squad that has compiled a 23-1 record through the first portion of the tour, which is a warm-up for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
The Red, White and Blue got a combined no-hitter from Monica Abbott, Jennie Finch and Cat Osterman Tuesday night in a 7-0 victory over Alabama in Birmingham. The pitching staff, which also includes Lisa Fernandez and Alicia Hollowell, has allowed nine runs on 39 hits for a 0.41 ERA. They have also struck out 295 while walking 21.
On offense, Jenny Topping has hit a team-best .516 for an American contingent that posted a .420 batting average. Crystl Bustos leads the squad with 11 home runs while Andrea Duran has added 10. The pair has driven in 34 runs each along with Jessica Mendoza, who has a .481 average, a team-leading 10 doubles and eight home runs.
Following Thursday night's exhibition, MState returns to SEC action by hosting a three-game series with Georgia beginning Saturday at the MSU Softball Field. Saturday's doubleheader and Sunday's series finale each begin at 1 p.m.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 72nd-ranked Mississippi State Lady Bulldog tennis squad will open play in the 2008 Southeastern Conference Championship Thursday in Auburn, Ala. The Lady Bulldogs, seeded 12th, will compete against fifth-seeded and 24th-ranked Tennessee in Thursday's first round at 2 p.m. CT.
MSU (7-12, 0-11 SEC) closed out the season at home last weekend against in-state rival Mississippi in a 5-2 loss to the Lady Rebs. This season marks the first time the Bulldogs have finished the regular season ranked since the 2005-06 season in which they finished the regular season rated 27th.
Tennessee (13-8, 6-5) enters this weekend after closing out the regular season by suffering a 5-2 loss to No. 8 Georgia this past weekend. UT's tandem of Caitlin Whoriskey and Zsofia Zubor enter the contest with a national ranking of 13th in doubles to lead the Lady Vols.
"Tennessee is a great matchup for us," said head coach Tracy Lane. "We played them close during the regular season and I am excited to get to play them again in the tournament."
In the prior match this season, played March 2 in Starkville, UT took a 5-2 decision from MSU. State took the doubles point and Elna de Villiers captured the other point for the Lady Bulldogs at the No. 5 singles position.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 11th-seeded Mississippi State men's tennis team will open up play in the first round of the SEC Championship Thursday morning in Fayetteville, Ark., taking on six-seeded and 18th-ranked LSU. Match time is set for 8:30 a.m. at Arkansas' George M. Billingsley Tennis Center.
"Our guys are excited about playing in the SEC Championship," said MSU head coach Per Nilsson. "We will face a good LSU team in the first round and we will have to play very well to have a chance in the match."
The Bulldogs, (8-11, 2-9 Southeastern Conference) are coming off a close 4-3 loss at #7 Mississippi this past weekend on the road. It was the fifth loss this season by a 4-3 margin. Having won four straight singles matches, MSU senior Ivan Bjelica moved up to 16th in this week's Intercollegiate Tennis Association's poll. The Belgrade, Serbia native has won 16 matches this spring and holds an 8-2 mark in SEC play at the #1 position. Senior Philippe Frayssinoux has captured back-to-back SEC wins at the #2 spot. He leads the team with 24 singles wins and has won eight of his last 10 matches. The duo of Bjelica and Frayssinoux made its debut at 39th in this week's ITA doubles poll. The pair has won eight dual matches and has posted four SEC wins.
LSU (13-7, 6-5 SEC) enters Thursday's contest having won four of their last five matches. The Tigers are led by 39th-ranked Michael Venus and 110th-ranked Jan Zelezny. Venus has captured 13 victories this season, including five in SEC play. Zelezny has won 20 matches in which eight came at the #2 spot. The Tiger tandem of Venus and James Cluskey is ranked 26th-nationally in the doubles poll.
In the one previous meeting this season in Starkville, LSU defeated MSU 5-2. The Bulldogs are 20-17 overall in SEC Championship matches since the tournament's current format went into effect in 1990. State has won four straight first-round matches dating back to the 2003 tournament including a first-round upset victory over LSU in the 2006 tournament.
Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State men's track and field team is ranked 16th in the latest USTFCCA Division I national rankings heading into the busy weekend, as released by the national organization on Wednesday.
State joins LSU (#2), Tennessee (#4), Florida (#6), Auburn (#8), Alabama (#12), Kentucky (#17), Georgia (#20) and South Carolina (#22) as the Southeastern Conference representatives in the 25-team poll. Kentucky and South Carolina joined the ranks after not being in the top 25 in last week's poll.
The Bulldogs earned six NCAA regional qualifying marks at the Ole Miss Invitational to maintain their ranking after being ranked 10th in the first poll of the season.
Sophomore Kendall May (Northport, Ala.) ran a personal-best 10.39 seconds in the 100-meter dash to notch his regional qualifying mark. Senior Jamil Hubbard (Atlanta, Ga.) pulled double duty earning regional qualifying standards in both the 200- and 400-meter dashes. Hubbard took third in the 200 with a time of 21.06 and second in the 400 with a personal-best time of 46.96.
Senior Golden Coachman (Birmingham, Ala.) won the 800-meter run, carding a time of 1:49.23 to gain his second regional qualifying mark of the season. Freshman Emanuel Mayers (Lakewood, N.J.) also earned his second regional qualifying standard with his second-place time of 52.32 in the 400-meter hurdles.
MState grabbed their last mark of the weekend with a 3:08.47 first-place finish in the 4x400-meter relay. This was the first time the Bulldogs used the combination of Hubbard, senior Chris Woods (Atlanta, Ga.), Coachman and Mayers.
Although not ranked this week, sophomore Bridgett Rose (Leeds, Ala.) also earned a regional qualifying mark in the 100-meter hurdles with a personal-best time of 13.68.
The Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs will split time this weekend with some of the athletes competing at the Mt. SAC Invitational in Walnut Grove, Calif. on April 18, while the others will take part in the Georgia Invitational in Athens, Ga. on April 19.