STARKVILLE, Miss. - The 24th-ranked Mississippi State softball team scored seven unanswered runs over the final four innings to rally from a 4-0 deficit and claim a 7-4 victory over No. 21 Georgia in Sunday's rubber game at the MSU Softball Field.
The win moves the Bulldogs to 37-16 overall and 11-11 in league play. It also puts State ahead of UGA (37-19, 10-12 SEC) and Auburn for the fourth seed in the Southeastern Conference Tournament with two weekends remaining.
A day after becoming the school's career RBI leader, senior Courtney Bures put together another solid day at the plate, going 2-for-2 with an RBI. On the weekend, the Haymarket, Va., native hit .750 (6-for-8) with a home run, a double, four RBI and two runs scored.
Freshman Brittany Bell added a pair or hits, drove in a run and scored another as she concluded the weekend by hitting .625 with her first career home run, a double, three RBI and four runs scored.
The Bulldogs added another record during Sunday's game as Nakita Boyce's third-inning stolen base gave the team the MSU single-season stolen base record with 117 over 53 games.
That third inning proved to be the turning point for State as it found its rhythm offensively after Georgia put together a run in the first and three more in the second. Megan Bateman, who drew her first three career SEC starts behind the plate this weekend, led off the inning with a walk and advanced to second on a passed ball. She moved to third on Bell's infield single and scored on Boyce's single through the right side that chased UGA starter Christie Hamilton from the game.
Boyce stole second and, following an Ali Bainbridge walk, Bell cut the UGA lead to 4-2 as she scored on Bures' single to second base off Sarah McCloud, who suffered the loss to fall to 13-5 on the season. State cut Georgia's lead to a single run as Boyce came home on Hayle Guess' pop-fly that was snagged in shallow right field by second baseman Sojourner Moody.
The inning sparked State starter Misty Flesher, as she held Georgia to one hit the rest of the way. Flesher picked up her second victory of the weekend, and fourth in a six-game span, to move to 17-7 on the year. The Lone Grove, Okla., native allowed four runs on five hits, struck out one and walked two in the complete-game effort.
"We had another great pitching performance from Misty today," MState head coach Jay Miller said. "We didn't make some plays defensively over the first couple of innings, but Misty really settled in and made great pitches when she needed to. It gave our offense the opportunity to battle back, and I was really pleased with our patience and fight at the plate. Today showed what this team is made of. We had great leadership from our seniors, and our younger players really made some big plays for us this weekend."
State's offense gave Flesher the lead she wouldn't relinquish with another three-run burst in the fourth to take a 6-4 lead. Sammie Jo Bailey led off with a single, and after moving to second on a Bateman sacrifice bunt, scored the tying run on Bell's line dive up the middle. Bell stole second, advanced to third on a Boyce ground-out and gave MSU the lead as she came home on Bainbridge's single to right. Guess put the Bulldogs up by a pair as she lined a single to right-center that scored Bainbridge.
The three-run fourth brought Hamilton back into the circle for UGA in the fifth, but State managed to add its final run as Lindsay Hunley, who pinch-ran for Courtney Nesbit following a lead-off double, moved to third on a Sammie Jo Bailey sacrifice bunt and scored on pinch-hitter Jessie Spain's sacrifice fly to left field.
Mississippi State plays its final non-conference game of the season on Wednesday, hosting Southern Mississippi in a 6:30 p.m. contest at the MSU Softball Field. The Bulldogs close out the 2008 regular season home slate next weekend, welcoming the Tennessee Lady Vols for a three-game series.
LOUDON, Tenn. - Mississippi State's women's golf squad fired a 315 in the final round of the SEC Championship Sunday to finish 11th in the tournament held at the Tennessee National Golf Club in Loudon, Tenn. The Lady Bulldogs finished the three-day event with a 952 team score.
Freshman Erika Thornton fired a 74 in the final round to finish with a 233 and tie for 27th in the individual standings. Senior Julia Huh finished tied for 33rd with a 236 after a round of 77 on Sunday. Freshman Mallory Batson and sophomore Suzanne Stanley both finished tied for 49th with a 242. Sophomore Gina Sharp closed out MSU scoring with a 251 to finish in 57th.
Florida retained its second round lead to claim the team championship with an 874. The Gators shot a 284 in the final round which was a field-best on Sunday. Stacey Lewis of Arkansas shot an even-par 72 in the final round to hold off Florida's Hannah Yun by a stroke and win the individual crown.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. - The Mississippi State men's golf team accomplished their best finish in the SEC Championship since 2000, by finishing fifth. The Bulldogs notched rounds of 293-292-293 for a team score of 878 and 14-over-par at the par 72 Fredrica Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga. The 878 posted by the Maroon and White is the fourth lowest all-time by an MSU team at the SEC Championship.
"I was very happy with our play this week," said Coach Clay Homan. "We finished well on the back nine every day and that was a huge plus for us."
Senior Josh Oller finished in the top 10 with consistent rounds of 73-71-72 for even-par and a tie for seventh. Oller also led the Bulldogs on the final day with five birdies, four of which came from his final six holes. Junior Carlos Sainz, Jr. who was MSU's leader last year at the SEC Championship, finished tied for 15th, and tallied a 218 through three rounds, with his only under-par round coming on the final day with a 71, which included all four of his birdies coming from the back nine. Junior Matt Fast finished in a tie for 25th after his 5-over-par showing, but posted a team-high 12 birdies through the three-day event. Junior Noah Goldman was 1-under-par after day one, but followed it up with rounds of 75 and 77 to finish at 7-over-par and a tie for 34th. Junior Josh Bevell shot increasing rounds of 74-76-77 and tied for 56th.
"The guys showed a lot of heart and got the job done this weekend," said Homan. "We finished behind some quality competition and there is no shame there."
The Bulldogs were in a tie for fifth place after day one, dropped into sixth place on day two and worked their way back up to a fifth place finish. MSU finished 25 strokes behind the SEC Champions, Alabama, who notched 11-under-par through three days. The Gamecocks of South Carolina finished second with a 3-under-par showing, followed by the Georgia Bulldogs 2-under-par score. MState trailed the fourth place Florida Gators by 6 strokes at the end of the tournament, and outplayed last years' champions, the Volunteers of Tennessee by three strokes as they finished sixth. Mississippi finished seventh, while LSU and Auburn tied for eighth, followed by Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Arkansas.
MSU will await to hear what region they will compete in postseason competition, with the announcement to be made by the NCAA on May 5th.
"I believe we have done all the right things to make a regional, there is no mystery there," said Homan. "Our goal is to be one of the final 30 teams competing at the NCAA Championship, so that is what we will be preparing for."