STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State softball team opens postseason play Thursday, taking on second-seeded Alabama at 5 p.m. in the opening round of the SEC Tournament in Baton Rouge, La.
MSU, who enters the tournament as the seven seed, heads to Tiger Park looking to build on the 40-win season, the program's second ever, it secured with a 9-1 victory last Saturday at Arkansas. The Bulldogs stand at 40-19 and finished the year 13-14 in league play.
State's games in the tournament will be broadcast live on WMSV 91.1 and online at www.wmsv.msstate.edu. Tickets for the tournament are available online or through the LSU Athletic Ticket Office.
MState will be playing in the tournament for the 10th time in the program's 12-year history, and it will be facing Alabama, who is ranked third and fourth nationally this week, for the third time in the opening round. The Crimson Tide and Bulldogs have split their previous first-round meetings, with MSU claiming a 6-3 win in 1999 and UA taking a 5-0 victory in 2005.
The Bulldogs enter the tournament with a pair of hitters - Courtney Bures and Chelsea Bramlett - hitting over the .400 mark for the season. The duo is the first regular starters to hit .400 or better since the 2000 season. Bures improved to .406 for her senior season following a .625 week at Arkansas in which she hit her team second-best fifth home run. The Haymarket, Va., native leads the team with 14 doubles and 42 RBI, and her 39 runs rank second only to Bramlett.
Bramlett also paces the team with a .449 average. The sophomore from Cordova, Tenn., has three doubles, three triples, two home runs and a team-best 43 stolen bases which place her three behind the single-season record she set during her freshman campaign.
Playing in her final SEC Tournament, Hayle Guess tops the team with six home runs while rating third with a .322 average. She also has five doubles, a team-best four triples and 36 RBI on the year.
Freshman Misty Flesher will look to pick-up a new win streak after having her previous one snapped at six last weekend against Arkansas. Flesher has put together a team-best 1.79 ERA en route to a 19-8 mark. The Lone Grove, Okla., native also tops the team with 108 strikeouts while giving up 46 runs, 40 earned, on 132 hits over 156 and one-third innings.
Junior Kelsey Nurnberg moved to 17-9 on the season as she picked up the victory in State's 9-1 win over the Lady'Backs. Nurnberg enters the weekend with a 2.09 ERA, giving up 74 runs, 51 earned, on 157 hits with 97 strikeouts over 171 innings.
BATON ROUGE, La. - Mississippi State senior shortstop Courtney Bures, sophomore catcher Chelsea Bramlett and senior outfielder Hayle Guess have been named All-Southeastern Conference, the league announced Wednesday night prior to the start of the 2008 SEC Tournament in Baton Rouge, La. Freshman Ali Bainbridge was named first team infielder on the league's all-freshman team.
Bures and Bramlett were named to first team infield and catcher, respectively, while Guess earned second team honors in the outfield. Bures joins Kellie Wilkerson and Iyhia McMichael as the only Bulldogs to earn first team All-SEC at least three times.
"It's a great honor for these four players. It has been a great season for our team and for them individually, and it's an honor for their play on the field to be recognized by the coaches in the Southeastern Conference," MSU head coach Jay Miller said. "We are extremely proud of the seasons they've had, and we look forward to them continuing those great seasons here at the SEC Tournament and next week in the NCAA Tournament."
State's three honorees tie with tournament host LSU for the third-most all-SEC honorees. The pair of first team honorees rates just behind Alabama and Florida for the league lead.
Bures earned first team accolades for the third time in her four-year career after hitting a team-best and league third-best .453 (34-for-75) in conference games. She also paced the squad with eight doubles, which tied for fourth in the league, three home runs, 15 RBI and 19 runs scored in SEC play this season. Her .548 on-base percentage in SEC play stands second only to Tennessee's Tonya Callahan, who was named the league's player of the year.
The Haymarket, Va., native's .406 average ranks second on the squad when including non-conference games. Instrumental at the plate and in the field for the 40-19 Bulldogs, Bures has hit a team-best 14 doubles and driven in 42 runs while ranking second in home runs (5) and runs (39). Bures became the school's career leader in RBI during MSU's series victory over then-No. 23 Georgia.
Bramlett earned first team honors behind the plate this season after claiming second team accolades and SEC Freshman of the Year honors a year ago. Bramlett has hit an SEC seventh-best .405 in conference games while adding a pair of doubles and 15 runs scored. The Cordova, Tenn., native has also stolen 14 of 18 bases in league play this season, a mark which rates second in the conference.
Bramlett has stolen 43 bases in MSU's 59 games this season, placing her three behind the school-record 46 she set last season. Her overall stolen base mark rates second in the conference, as does her .449 average. The SEC leader in hits with 83 this season, Bramlett has three doubles, three triples and 23 RBI to go along with her 48 runs.
Following an outstanding senior season, Guess earned second team all-conference honors for the second straight season. The Moss Point, Miss., native, an SEC Community Service Team selection, batted at a .346 clip (27-for-78) this season as MSU accumulated a 13-14 league mark. She added a pair of doubles, a home run, 12 RBI and 11 runs in SEC action. Overall, the .322 hitter matched her season high with a team-best six home runs. She also paced the team with four triples while hitting five doubles with 36 RBI and 36 runs. Guess also stole 11 bases for an MSU squad that set the school's single-season stolen base record for the second straight year.
Bainbridge put together a .268 average during her inaugural conference season. The Vestavia Hills, Ala., native has added five doubles, 13 RBI, 13 runs and three stolen bases for the Bulldogs in league play. A .320 hitter overall this year, Bainbridge has notched nine doubles, a triple, a home run, 27 RBI and 34 runs. She has also stolen 12 bases.
The Bulldogs face Alabama Thursday at 5 p.m. in the opening round of the SEC Tournament. All of State's games on the weekend will be broadcast on WMSV 91.1 and online at www.wmsv.msstate.edu.