STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State softball team moved up one place to 23rd in this week's ESPN.com/USA Softball Top 25 Poll. The rise in the ranking comes on the eve of hosting Southern Mississippi Wednesday night at the MSU Softball Field in the non-conference finale for both teams. First pitch between the Bulldogs and Golden Eagles is set for 6:30 p.m., and admission to all MSU home softball games is free.
State enters the mid-week showdown with the Golden Eagles looking to inch closer to the 40-win plateau. MSU moved to 37-16 on the year and improved one spot in the poll as it claimed an SEC series victory over then-No. 21 Georgia. The series victory over UGA keeps the Bulldogs in the USA Softball ranking for the 11th straight week, the program's longest run ever in the ranking.
Senior Courtney Bures was instrumental in MSU's two victories over Georgia. The Haymarket, Va., native hit .750 with a double, a home run, four RBI and two runs scored. Bures' home run in Saturday's game two pushed her past Iyhia McMichael for the Mississippi State career RBI record.
On the year, Bures is hitting a team second-best .395 while leading the team in doubles (12) and RBI (37). Sophomore Chelsea Bramlett continues to hold the team's top batting average (.451). She also paces the squad in runs (43) and stolen bases (41).
Freshman Brittany Bell had an outstanding weekend at the plate against UGA, hitting .625 with her first career home run, a double, three RBI and four runs scored to earn SEC Freshman of the Week honors. Bell also stole two bases during the three-game set to help the Bulldogs set a new school record for single-season stolen bases. The 118 stolen bases, accumulated over 53 games, better the previous mark of 116 set by last year's contingent.
Freshman pitcher Misty Flesher pieced together another outstanding effort in the circle last weekend. A week after picking up two victories at South Carolina, the Lone Grove, Okla., native tossed a one-hit shutout in the opener before holding Georgia to one hit over the final four innings as MSU rallied for a 7-4 win in Sunday's rubber game. The two wins upped Flesher's record to 17-7 on the year. She has tallied a 1.92 ERA over 138 and two-thirds innings this year to go along with 102 strikeouts and 26 walks.
One of her 17 victories came in State's 9-0 win over USM in Hattiesburg on Mar. 18. The Golden Eagles bring a 23-24 record into Starkville Wednesday night after dropping a pair of games to C-USA foe Marshall over the weekend.
Head coach Jay Miller's squad will be aiming for its fifth straight win over the Golden Eagles and seventh in the last eight games. Dating back to the first meeting in 1983, MState has compiled a 27-10 lead in the series.
Megan Hill paces a Southern Miss squad that comes into Wednesday night's game hitting .234. Hill tops the squad in batting average (.313), home runs (four) and RBI (26), and she stands second in doubles (six) and triples (three). Samantha Davis leads the team in the circle, registering a 13-8 record and 2.46 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 142 innings.
Following the non-conference finale, MSU closes the 2008 home schedule by hosting 10th-ranked Tennessee and reigning national player of the week Tonya Callahan in a three-game Southeastern Conference series. The three-game set begins with a doubleheader on Saturday before closing with a single game on Sunday. First pitch for both days is 1 p.m. Sunday will also be Senior Day at the MSU Softball Field, as the team will honor Megan Bateman, Lindsay Hunley, Nakita Boyce, Hayle Guess and Courtney Bures prior to the first pitch.