Post-Game Comments

Post-Game Comments

Mississippi State softball players Jessica Cooley and Kai'li Smith and head coach Vann Stuedeman talk about their 5-2 loss to Alabama in the SEC Tournament.


Head Coach Vann Stuedeman

Opening Statement
"First, I would like to say thank you to the University of Alabama for putting on a fantastic SEC Tournament. This tournament is first-class. I am extremely proud of Alabama for their three-peat and I wish them the best of luck in the post-season.

"I am incredibly proud of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. My heart swells for them tonight. We fought hard and played great on national television. I am very proud of our girls tonight."

The atmosphere at the SEC Tournament was outstanding. This atmosphere should help you prepare for the NCAA post-season tournament, shouldn't it?
"The SEC is extremely strong. They have to consider all eight of us and probably nine of us. Arkansas is a dangerous team that didn't make this tournament. This atmosphere (here) is a great precursor for our girls. It definitely gave us some needed experience. And it will help with our preparation for the NCAA."

You had to take your starting pitcher Stephanie Becker out of the game due to an injury. What can you tell us about her injury?
"We think there might be something in her hand that affects her grip. We are going to wait it out and see what happens. She's a warrior and will do anything she needs to do to be out there and pitch. She said she was ready to go but we told her no. But she's a fighter who always wants the ball."

Talk about your two-run rally in the 6th that made the score a little closer.
"It's something that we have done all year. We have really put an emphasis on finishing strong. We don't go away, we battle. That shows the will, the desire, the fight that our girls have. They are super impressive young ladies who have fought from the day I first got on campus to right now. They are fighters."

Talk about reliever Lindsey Dunlap's performance.
"She has struggled through some injuries during her career. She is so talented. She won three state championships in the state of Alabama. I am so happy for her, for finishing her senior year so strong. It's like she flipped a switch starting April 1st and it has been lights out ever since."

This was obviously an emotional game for you. Talk about the emotions that you felt during the game.
"I came to the tournament early to scout the Georgia-Kentucky game and all the fans told me that they missed me and that I have done a great job (at Mississippi State). It felt nice but like (Alabama head) Coach (Nick) Saban said, it's always conditional. But it felt nice to be welcomed back by such great folks. I know that the Alabama fans will be cheering for us in the NCAA. They weren't cheering for us tonight but I believe they will be cheering for us against any other opponent. It was fun to be here and their fans were gracious."


Jessica Cooley

What was it like to play in an atmosphere like it was tonight?
"It was awesome. Like Vann said, it helped us out a lot preparing for the NCAA Tournament. We are very excited (to play again) and take this momentum with us."

Obviously, you feel like you belong in the NCAA Tournament. How about stating your case for being in the tournament.
"Our team has come a long way. We fight for everything, every single pitch. This team is really coming together. We are all a family and want this so much. We are so excited to be playing for our State and grinding for our state."

Did you see anything different from Alabama since you played them during the season>
"They are a great team and really came out fighting. They really brought it today, they brought their A-game."


Kai'li Smith

Obviously, you feel like you belong in the NCAA Tournament. How about stating your case for being in the tournament.
"We accomplished so much. Starting April 1st we set a school record of most wins in April. We are a team that continues to fight and never gives up."

You faced a really good pitcher in Alabama's Jackie Traina. Talk a little about her performance.
"The combinations that she threw, the off-speed then back to outside which I believe is her screwball was very good. She's a great pitcher. Seeing her this first game will set us up for next week when we get our (NCAA Tournament) bid."


Bulldogs Grind Until Very End In 5-2 Loss To Alabama

[MSU Athletics Media Relations] TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -For two hours and 47 minutes Thursday night, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (33-22) fought, battled and grinded, but it was not enough, falling 5-2 to No. 3/3 Alabama (48-7) at Rhoads Stadium in the first round of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament.

"My heart swells for the Mississippi State Bulldogs tonight," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We fought hard and played great on national television. I am very proud of our team."

Junior left-handed pitcher Stephanie Becker started the game for the Maroon and White and tossed a scoreless first frame. Fellow junior lefty Kylie Vry replaced Becker to start the bottom of the second and suffered the loss, falling to 9-8 on the year after surrendering three runs (two earned) on four hits in an inning of work. Senior southpaw Lindsey Dunlap closed out the game for State, giving up two runs on two hits in the final four frames. In front of an SEC opening-day record crowd of 2,691, Dunlap struck out six Alabama batters.

Sophomore third baseman Sam Lenahan finished 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run and junior left fielder Jessica Cooley tallied an RBI single and a walk. Senior designated player Brittany Bell reached twice thanks to a single and her 51st-career hit by pitch (tied for second in SEC history), while sophomores Heidi Shape and Jessica Offutt also knocked out singles. Alabama's Jackie Traina improved to 32-2 on the season after a complete-game performance.

Deadlocked in a scoreless tie, host Alabama put a dent in the scoreboard with a three-run third. Leadoff hitter Kayla Braud reached on a fielding error by MSU junior first baseman Shelby Fisher and advanced to third on a single by center fielder Jennifer Fenton. Fenton put two in scoring position before designated player Amanda Locke drove in Braud on an infield base hit. With runners on the corners, Alabama's Keima Davis pinch-ran for Locke and immediately swiped second on Vry's first pitch to cleanup hitter Kaila Hunt. Two more runs were added when Hunt cleared the bases by depositing a 1-1 Vry pitch up the middle for a two-run single.

Hunt was pushed over to second when Traina drew a base on balls. Dunlap replaced Vry following the free pass, but loaded the bases when Cassie Reilly-Boccia reached on a fielder's choice. Crimson Tide right fielder Jazlyn Lunceford then popped up to Fisher and second baseman Danae Hays struck out for out number two. Dunlap rang up Courtney Conley on a 2-2 pitch to get out of the bases-loaded jam.

Alabama manufactured two more runs in the bottom of the fourth, which started when Braud executed a picture-perfect bunt. Fenton knocked Braud over to third by slicing a single to right field, advancing to second herself when MSU right fielder Brittany Gates threw to the corner in an attempt to throw Braud out. Hunt extended the lead to four runs by sailing a 2-2 offering to left field for a sacrifice fly, allowing Fenton to tap the dish. Following another walk to Traina, Reilly-Boccia pulled an 0-1 Dunlap pitch to the line in right for an RBI-single and a 5-0 Alabama lead.

Continuing to grind for their state, the Bulldogs barked back when Shape led off the sixth stanza with her second-career triple (March 7 vs. Florida). Lenahan drove in her childhood best friend by ripping a 3-2 double to the wall in left and advanced to third on a groundout by Bell. The Georgia native scored on a suicide squeeze when Cooley dropped a bunt down. Cooley raced to second after a throwing error by Traina, giving MSU a chance to bite into the three-run deficit with one swing of the bat. The potential round-tripper never materialized however, as Traina escaped with an Erin Nesbit lineout and a Fisher groundout.

Starkville's Team will learn its NCAA Tournament fate Sunday night at 9 p.m. CT on ESPNU when the field of 64 teams is announced. For more information on the MSU softball program, follow the team on Twitter at @MStateSB and like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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