FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The No. 23 Mississippi State softball team became the second team in school history to reach the 40-win plateau as it scored eight runs over the first two innings Saturday afternoon to claim a 9-1 win and a split of a Southeastern Conference twin bill with the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks at Lady'Back Yard in Fayetteville. State dropped a 3-1 decision in the opening game of the series, helping set up a rubber match on Sunday.
State moves to 40-18 and 13-13 in SEC play with Saturday's split. The 2008 contingent joins the 44-win 2000 squad as the only two teams in MSU softball history to reach 40 wins. The milestone victory also came in head coach Jay Miller's 1,500th career game.
After being held to a run on five hits in the opening game of the twin bill, State surpassed that total in the first two innings in the nightcap. Sophomore Chelsea Bramlett led off the three-run first inning with a double down the line in right field. After stealing third, Courtney Bures brought her home with a single to center that hit the top of the wall and bounced back into the park.
Bramlett went 2-for-2 and scored two runs in the winning effort. She also added a pair of stolen bases, pulling her within three of the single-season school record (46) she set last season. Bures, a senior from Haymarket, Va., went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs as a follow-up to the opening game where she supplied MState's only run with her fifth home run of the season.
State extended the lead to 2-0 as Bures took third on a Sammie Jo Bailey base hit and scored on a wild pitch. Jessie Bailey capped the three-run first as she battled at the plate and then lined the ninth pitch of the at-bat to left-center for a double that put MSU on top 3-0 and chased Arkansas starter Miranda Dixon from the game.
Dixon was one of three pitchers in the game for Arkansas (35-27, 7-20 SEC). She allowed three earned runs on four hits in two-thirds of an inning while falling to 12-12. Kim Jones also lasted just two-thirds of an inning, giving up five runs, three earned, on three hits. Layne McGuirt went the final three and two-thirds and surrendered a run on four hits with five strikeouts.
While Arkansas struggled in the circle, MSU starter Kelsey Nurnberg made the lead hold up as she went the full five innings, giving up a run on three hits with two strikeouts to improve to 17-9 on the year.
The Bulldogs gave her some additional support with five more runs in the second inning. Jessie Spain and Nakita Boyce led off the inning with back-to-back base hits. Bramlett laid down a bunt, and all runners were safe as UA second baseman Kayla Johnson dropped the throw. Bainbridge drove in the first run of the inning as she was hit by a pitch to score Spain.
With one out in the inning, senior Hayle Guess, who went 2-for-3 in the game, hit a line drive off Jones that deflected into shallow right field and scored Bramlett and Boyce to extend the State lead to 6-0. Bainbridge scored the seventh run on a Sammie Jo Bailey bunt, and Guess, who moved to third on the play, gave the Bulldogs the eight-run cushion as she scored on a passed ball.
Arkansas broke up the shutout bid from Nurnberg with a run in the bottom of the second, but State extended the lead back out to eight runs in the fourth as Bures led off with a double and scored when Guess was put-out in a run down between first and second after reaching on a bunt.
"We didn't adjust in the first game. Misty pitched well for us, but we couldn't take advantage of the opportunities we had. Our team did a nice job of bouncing back in the second game. Putting up those early runs made a big difference after that first game," Miller said. "It was really good to see Kelsey pitch well and get the complete-game victory after struggling in league play the past few weeks. Hopefully we can come back strong and win the series."
The struggles at the plate, combined with a pair of third-inning errors, proved costly for MSU in the opener. Arkansas took advantage of the miscues and plated all three of its runs in the bottom of the third. Jocelyne Montcrief hit a one-out single down the line in left field and Jessica Bachkora reached on a ground ball that was misplayed by Bainbridge at second base. After a Johnson walk, Montcrief was thrown out at home for the second out on Dixon's fielder's choice, but Sandra Smith stepped in and delivered a single to right field that cleared the bases after the ball slipped past Brittany Bell.
State cut the lead to 3-1 in the top of the fourth as Bures hit a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left field. The Bulldogs put the tying run on base in both the sixth and seventh innings, but UA starter Katy Henry managed to work out of the jams to pick up the win and move to 18-12 on the season. Henry allowed the lone MState run on five hits with four strikeouts in the complete-game effort.
Misty Flesher had her six-game win streak snapped in the opener, falling to 19-8 on the campaign as she allowed the three runs, none earned, on five hits with a strikeout and a walk.
The two teams meet in the rubber match at 1 p.m. Sunday. In addition to honoring its seniors Arkansas will also commemorate the final game at Lady'Back Yard. The series finale can be heard on WMSV 91.1 or online at www.wmsv.msstate.edu.
Track & Field
OXFORD, Miss. - Freshman O'Neal Wilder and senior Jamil Hubbard collected four of Mississippi State's 10 NCAA regional qualifying marks at the Mississippi Open on Saturday, May 3, in Oxford, Miss. The event was held at the Ole Miss Track and Field Complex on the campus of the University of Mississippi.
Wilder and Hubbard went head-to-head in the 200- and 400-meter dashes and both came out with regional marks. In the 200-meter dash, Hubbard captured second place with a time of 20.97 seconds, while Wilder took fifth place with a time of 21.23. The sprint duo snatched first and second place from the rest of the competition in the 400-meter dash with Wilder securing the first place title with a personal-best time of 46.35 and Hubbard netting second place with a time of 46.37.
In the 100-meter dash, sophomore Kendall May rounded up his third regional mark of the season with a second-place finish in 10.40. Seniors Golden Coachman and Chris Woods finished third and fourth, respectively in the 800-meter run, running the race in 1:49.29 and 1:49.94, respectively to pick up two more regional qualifying marks.
Senior Kyle Roberts set a new season-best time and seized his second regional mark in the 400-meter hurdles, carding a time of 52.02 to take third place in the event. Freshman Emanuel Mayers finished sixth with a time of 52.70.
On the women's side, junior Priscilla Gaines leaped a personal-best 20 feet, one and a half inches, to notch third place in the long jump. With her jump, Gaines is now tied for third all-time in the long jump at MSU. Junior Marrissa Harris garnered fourth-place honors in the long jump, as well, with her jump of 19-11 en route to grabbing her regional mark.
"We had a really good day," said MSU Head Coach Al Schmidt. "Priscilla (Gaines) had a personal best in the 200 and long jump and improved her regional ranking in the long jump. O'Neal Wilder qualified in the 400 meters and won it, so that was a plus. Jamil (Hubbard) was second, but O'Neal (Wilder) qualifying was a plus. Kyle Roberts improved his time and moved up in the 400 hurdles and a key part to doing well at nationals is doing well in the 400 hurdles. It was also really, really windy so we had a tough time in the circular races. It was overall a really good day for everybody."
In addition to their 10 NCAA regional qualifying marks, both squads also combined to set 15 new personal-best marks in their respective events.
The Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs will take next week off to focus on preparing for the SEC Championships, set to take place on May 15-18 in Auburn, Ala. on the campus of Auburn University. The event will take place at the Hutsell-Rosen Track.