FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - No. 23 Mississippi State's seventh-inning rally fell short on Sunday as the Bulldogs dropped a 7-6 decision to Arkansas in the rubber game of the two teams' Southeastern Conference series at Lady'Back Yard in Fayetteville.
The loss moves MSU to the seventh seed for next week's Southeastern Conference Tournament in Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs will meet second-seeded Alabama Thursday at 5 p.m.
Errors proved costly as State (40-19, 13-14 SEC) committed a season-high five in Sunday's series finale, which also served as the final game in Lady'Back Yard.
"You can't commit five errors and expect to win any game, much less one in this league," MState head coach Jay Miller said. "We gave away some opportunities to score, especially in the fifth inning. Nakita (Boyce) and Chelsea (Bramlett) did a good job getting on base, but we didn't do a good enough job converting those chances to runs. We gave (Arkansas) too many second chances and they took advantage of them. We dug ourselves a hole and weren't able to get out of it."
Boyce and Bramlett both reached in MSU's four-run seventh, which came after Arkansas (36-27, 8-20) plated four runs in the sixth to break open a 3-2 game. Boyce capped a 3-for-3, two-run day with a lead-off single and Bramlett followed with a walk. Freshman Ali Bainbridge cleared the bases with a double to the wall in right-center.
Bramlett added her second multiple-hit game of the weekend as she went 2-for-3 with a pair of runs. Bainbridge went 2-for-2 and drove in three runs while scoring once.
Senior Courtney Bures, who collected a pair of hits and contributed two RBI, added another double to the same spot in right-center, scoringBainbridge to cut the Lady'Back lead to 7-5 and chase starter Katy Henry from the game.
Layne McGuirt walked senior Hayle Guess before giving way to Miranda Dixon. Sammie Jo Bailey advanced Bures and Guess with a sacrifice bunt, and Jessie Spain scored Bures with a ground-out to first base. With Guess at third, Dixon struck out Brittany Bell to preserve UA's first series victory over the Dogs since 2003.
Dixon picked up her second save of the season in relief of Henry, who moved to 19-12 on the season after picking up her second win of the weekend. Henry allowed six runs on 11 hits in six innings of work.
For MSU, Elizabeth Woolven suffered the loss to fall to 4-2 as she gave up a run on two hits in an inning of relief work. Freshman Misty Flesher started the game and gave up a pair of runs (one earned) on seven hits over three innings. Kelsey Nurnberg allowed the four sixth-inning runs (none earned) on three hits over two innings.
After honoring its senior players and the history of Lady'Back Yard, UA jumped on Flesher for a run in both the first and second innings. State fought back, plating two runs in the third to knot the game. With one out in the inning, Jessie Bailey drove a single up the middle and Boyce reached on a bunt single down the line at third.
After Bramlett reached on a fielder's choice that retired Bailey at third, Bainbridge hit a slow liner up the middle that scored Boyce from second. Bures tied the game as she lined a base hit up the middle to score Bramlett.
After Arkansas broke the tie on Kayla Johnson's fourth-inning double to the corner in right field, State got singles from Boyce and Bramlett. Bures was intentionally walked to load the bases, but the Lady'Backs got a pair of pop-outs to leave the bases loaded.
UA capitalized in the bottom of the sixth. Following one-out hits from Jessica Bachkora and Johnson, Whitney Cloer reached on an error by Bailey at third. Sandra Smith lined-out to short, but Bures' throw on the double play attempt at second sailed into right field, allowing Bachkora to score. Dixon then capped the inning with a three-run shot over the wall in left, her 12th of the season.