STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State softball team closes its 2009 road schedule this weekend, traveling to Lexington for a three-game Southeastern Conference series with Kentucky. The series begins Friday with a 3 p.m. CDT doubleheader. Saturday's final game is scheduled for an 11 a.m. CDT first pitch.
State improved to 24-23 overall and 6-16 in SEC play after splitting a doubleheader with Auburn Wednesday night at the MSU Softball Field. Kentucky defeated in-state foe Eastern Kentucky Wednesday to improve to 26-18 and 8-13 in the league.
Head coach Jay Miller's Bulldogs have dominated the series, taking 23 wins to just eight losses in the 31 meetings. State swept the two-game series last season 1-0 and 8-0 to run its win streak in the series to 11 games. MSU is 11-4 all-time in Lexington.
Mississippi State junior Chelsea Bramlett broke the school single-season stolen base record against the Tigers, swiping her SEC-leading 47th of the year in the nightcap. Bramlett enters the Kentucky series with 139 career steals, a mark which sits just two shy of the school record held by Iyhia McMichael.
Bramlett, who tops the nation with 1.00 steals per game, paces the .277-hitting Bulldogs with an SEC-best .483 average. Bramlett has hit six doubles and two triples while driving in 11 runs and scoring a team-high 43 times.
Sophomore Ali Bainbridge follows with a .314 tally. The Vestavia Hills, Ala., native has driven in a team-leading 29 runs this season behind seven doubles, a pair of triples and four home runs which tie junior Jessie Bailey for the team lead.
Freshman Lindsey Dunlap picked up the win in State's thrilling 2-1, 10-inning win Wednesday night. The Hueytown, Ala., native picked up her fourth victory in five starts to improve to 15-13 overall. Dunlap has a 2.96 ERA, giving up 85 runs (79 earned) on 169 hits with a team-leading 143 strikeouts.
Kelsey Nurnberg took the loss in game two to fall to 9-8 this season. Nurnberg has allowed 82 runs (60 earned) on 134 hits with 68 strikeouts.
The Bulldog pitchers will face a UK batting order that returns to conference action hitting .262 overall and .252 in league play. Molly Johnson paces the Wildcats at the plate, hitting .421 and tying for the team lead in home runs (7) and RBI (27). Meagan Aull has hit .315 this year, belting a team-best 10 doubles while driving in 22 runs.
Freshman Chanda Bell has paced Kentucky in the circle this season, compiling a 16-8 record and 2.64 ERA. Bell set the school's single-season school record with 198 strikeouts, but she has not entered the circle since April 4 against Ole Miss.
Amber Matousek has tallied an 8-6 mark in the circle. She has been struck for a 3.68 ERA, giving up 75 runs (50 earned) this season. Matousek has struck out 58, but she has issued 60 walks on the year. Rachel Riley picked up the win Wednesday night to move to 2-4. She has a 3.73 ERA and has struck out 20 with 13 walks.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Mississippi State will shuffle its pitching deck this weekend when the Bulldogs (21-21, 6-12 SEC) open a three-game Southeastern Conference series Friday against the Vanderbilt Commodores (24-17, 7-10 SEC).
Sophomore lefty Forrest Moore (2-0, 4.38) has been tabbed to make his first weekend-opening SEC start of the campaign and his fourth league start of the year in Friday's 6 p.m. series-opening at Charles Hawkins Field. Vanderbilt will counter with junior lefty Mike Minor (3-3, 3.15). Minor and State's scheduled Saturday starter, freshman Nick Routt, begin the weekend tied for fifth among SEC pitchers with 65 strikeouts. Junior lefty Tyler Whitney (2-3, 4.29), after a brief season-first relief appearance against Tuesday night against MTSU, will draw game-opening duty in Sunday's series finale at Vanderbilt.
Friday's stint will be Moore's first since drawing a Sunday start two weeks ago at Tennessee. He notched two wins and a save in his first four appearances of the season. The southpaw from Baton Rouge, La., worked two innings of scoreless relief in last year's series finale against Vanderbilt at Dudy Noble Field.
The Bulldogs have compiled a 61-31 lead in their baseball rivalry with Vanderbilt and are meeting the Commodores in Nashville for the first time since 2004. Vandy claimed all three games in that series (7-2, 5-1, 5-4) as well as last year's three-game set in Starkville (15-8, 16-0, 4-3).
MSU evened its record at 21-21 and earned a split of a midweek two-game set with visiting Middle Tennessee State Wednesday night with a 9-8 win at Dudy Noble Field. Sophomore outfielder Ryan Collins notched the first five-hit game by a Bulldogs since 2007 (Jeffrey Rea vs. Florida). His fifth hit of the night proved to be the game-winner, a two-run blast that broke a 7-7 deadlock and made a winner of freshman Caleb Reed.
Bulldog senior Chad Crosswhite, making his third start of the year and his 77th career appearance, turned in a season-longest seven-inning mound performance. Freshman second baseman Frank Rawdow registered his first three-hit game as a Bulldog and junior third baseman smacked his eighth home run, a three-run, third-inning shot that gave State an early 5-0 lead.
Bulldog senior outfielder Grant Hogue enters the Vanderbilt series leading the Southeastern Conference with 27 stolen bases and 15 HBPs. Hogue registered back-to-back three-pilfer games to tie Mike Kelley (1979) for the third-most stolen bases in a season at State. His 52 stolen-base total ranks fifth among State's career leaders.
Mississippi State continues to lead the Southeastern Conference in hit batsmen (59), sacrifice bunts (39) and double plays (45). MSU turned a pair of twin-killings in Wednesday's win over Middle Tennessee, the last a clutch game-ending unassisted defensive gem by sophomore shortstop Ryan Powers.
Junior third baseman Russ Sneed belted two home runs and drove in five runs in the two midweek games, raising his team-leading batting average to .357. Ryan Collins' career-best 5-for-5 plate performance capped a 7-for-9 week for the sophomore outfielder. With four stolen bases in his last three games, Collins has raised his season total to 10. Junior first baseman Connor Powers (.300) leads the club with a career-best 13 home runs and 46 RBI.
The Bulldogs meet the Commodores in a 1 p.m. (CDT) game Saturday before concluding the series and their April schedule with a 1 p.m. game Sunday.
Track & Field
PHILADELPHIA, Penn. - Mississippi State's Wendy Copeland started Day 1 of the Penn Relays by placing fourth in the college women's long jump championship.
Copeland recorded her second regional qualifying mark with a distance of 19 feet, 8.75 inches.
Marrissa Harris and Priscilla Gaines both continued their successful seasons at the Penn Relays in the college women's long jump. Harris jumped a personal best of 19-6.25 to earn fourth place, while Gaines had a distance of 19-4.75 to finish seventh.
In the Olympic development men's 5,000-meter run, sophomore Matthew Cameron ran a fourth-place time of 14 minutes, 20.67 seconds.
MSU continues its stay at the Penn Relays Friday with Gaines competing in the college women's triple jump for the Lady Bulldogs at 11 a.m.