With winds blowing consistently out to left field at 19 mph, No. 12 LSU hit four home runs in the first five innings in a 9-2 defeat of Mississippi State softball. With the series win Sunday afternoon at the MSU Softball Stadium, the Tigers improved to 19-5 in 2013 (2-1 SEC), while the host Bulldogs dropped to 16-6 overall (1-2 SEC).
"LSU has gone to the Women's College World Series, and that is what we are working toward," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We grew up a whole bunch this weekend. Our fight is amazing."
LSU right-hander Rachele Fico went the distance to win the rematch from Friday's classic 14-inning pitchers' duel, picking up her 12th win of the season (12-3) with two runs allowed (one earned) on six hits and three walks in the circle. Mississippi State righty Alison Owen suffered the loss in 5.0 innings of work, falling to 9-3 after giving up eight runs on seven hits. Bulldog senior southpaw Kylie Vry pitched the final two frames, surrendering a run on two hits and a walk.
The top two spots in the order for MSU finished 4-for-7 (.571) with an RBI, while the rest of the lineup went 2-for-19 (.105). Leadoff hitter Jessica Offutt was 2-for-4 at the dish with two infield singles, while two-hole hitter Heidi Shape went 2-for-3 with an RBI sacrifice fly. Freshman Loryn NIchols (1-for-3, run) and sophomore Ashley Phillips (0-for-2, walk, run) were responsible for the two runs scored by the Maroon and White.
Roaring out of the gates courtesy of wind that gusted up to 30 mph, cleanup hitter Bianka Bell put LSU on the scoreboard first with a three-run homer in the top of the first. The Tigers doubled their lead in the fourth when LSU's Sandra Simmons and Tammy Wray connected on back-to-back home runs, extending the lead to 6-0 in favor of the Purple and Gold.
After LSU three-hole hitter Allison Falcon hit the fourth and final home run of the day to left field on a two-run shot, the Bulldogs countered with two runs of their own. Following a leadoff infield single by Nichols and a full count walk by Phillips in the bottom of the fifth, Offutt chopped a base hit to the shortstop. The late throw by Bell to first sailed high, allowing Nichols to score on the throwing error. With Phillips moving to third on the miscue by the visitors, Shape drove in the Water Valley, Miss., native with a sacrifice fly to the warning track in left field.
"I really loved our fight in the latter half of the game," Stuedeman said. "This is a Super Regional in our league every weekend."
LSU tacked on the final run of the game in the seventh with an RBI single by Jacee Blades up the middle, scoring Simone Heyward.
Starkville's team takes to the road Tuesday for a four-game spring-break road trip. The Bulldogs travel to Jacksonville State for a 6 p.m. contest on Tuesday, March 12, before playing a doubleheader at College of Charleston starting at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 14. The four-game roadstand concludes Friday, March 15, as the Maroon and White play Charleston Southern at noon.
For live in-game updates of MSU's spring break road trip, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB and visit the team's Instagram account at MStateSB. For pregame and postgame video, check out MSU's official YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HailState.
In its second match against a top 10 opponent this weekend, the No. 11 Mississippi State men's tennis squad (12-4, 2-2 SEC) fell to the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs (10-4, 2-1 SEC) 4-1 at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre Sunday.
Play began with singles due to the threat of inclement weather possibly entering the area within hours of the match's start. Georgia got on the board early with a victory on court one, with MSU freshman Romain Bogaerts retiring midway through the second set, giving No. 11 KU Singh a 6-2, 4-0(ret.) win.
With Georgia taking the early lead, State battled back, putting up fights in the first sets on all remaining courts, including claiming the first on courts two, five and six. On court four, MSU junior Zach White fought relentlessly with UGA's Austin Smith, but fell 7-5, 6-4, giving Georgia a 2-0 advantage.
In another furious battle, State freshman Jordan Angus and Georgia sophomore No. 42 Nathan Pasha went back-and-forth in the first set on court three. However, Pasha would steal the first and then take the second to win 7-5, 6-2.
With State down 3-0, they would need to capture the remaining three matches to force a deciding doubles point. After taking the first set, MSU freshman Pedro Dumont dropped his second set with UGA's Garrett Brasseaux, forcing a deciding third on court six. However, Dumont would not be rattled, instead battling Brasseaux and pulling out a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory to put the Maroon and White on the board.
Play then came down to courts two and five, where MSU had taken the first sets on both. However, on court five UGA fought back to force a final set between MSU's Stefan Vinti and Georgia's No. 72 Hernus Pieters. On court two, No. 59 Malte Stropp battled back from down 4-2 to take the first set from UGA's No. 95 Ben Wagland in a tiebreaker 7-6(3). The MSU junior found himself down a break 2-0 early in the second set, but again fought back, eventually going up 5-2.
But on court five, UGA's Pieters would defeat MSU's Vinti 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 to clinch the match for Georgia, suspending the match on court two, with Stropp leading 7-6(3), 5-2.
The Maroon and White will return to action next weekend for another round of SEC East opponents at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre. The Bulldogs will host No. 19 Vanderbilt on Friday, March 15, at 2 p.m. CT, and No. 5 Kentucky on Sunday, March 17, at 1 p.m.
For more information on Mississippi State men's tennis, follow the Bulldogs on Twitter (www.twitter.com/mstatemt) and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/mstatemt).
Mississippi State Lady Bulldog tennis fell in a 7-0 decision in the team's road match against the No. 9 ranked Lady Bulldogs of Georgia Sunday afternoon.
Doubles play proved to be tough for the Lady Bulldogs (5-6, 0-4 SEC). MSU's pair of Sarai Flores and Lien Van Geel was the first to complete play, falling 8-0 to the Georgia duo of Makenzie Craft and Mia King at the No. 3 position. Georgia took the doubles point with an 8-2 victory for Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase against MSU's Petra Ferancova and Georgiana Patrasc at the No. 2 spot.
Alexandra Perper and Naomi Tran battled on court 1 in attempts to pull out a Lady Bulldog victory, tying the match against No. 9 ranked Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia at 7-7 before falling 8-6 in the deciding tiebreaker.
Georgia (9-1, 3-0 SEC) continued its winning streak into singles play, taking the first sets at all six positions. UGA's No. 97 ranked Garcia posted the first victory with a 6-3, 6-2 win against MSU's Tran on court 3. Georgia extended its lead to 3-0 with a 6-1, 6-2 triumph for No. 116 ranked Fuller at the No. 4 position against MSU's Ferancova.
UGA clinched the win with a victory for Makenzie Craft at the No. 6 position, as Craft took down MSU freshman Sarai Flores in a 6-1, 6-2 decision to take the match.
Georgia's King stretched her team's lead to 5-0, posting a 6-2, 6-3 victory against MSU freshman Van Geel. MSU's Patrasc fell 6-0, 6-1 on court 1 against No. 9 ranked Herring of UGA, furthering the Georgia lead to 6-0.
The MSU junior Perper competed against No. 15 ranked Kowase of Georgia in the final match to finish, falling 6-3, 6-1 at the No. 2 position.
"Perper and Tran proved once again they can compete with the top teams in the country narrowly losing to the No. 9 ranked pair," said head coach Daryl Greenan. "Other than that, it was a tough day and we really didn't have any answers for a very strong Georgia team."
MSU Lady Bulldog Tennis will continue the week of road play with a Wednesday match against Middle Tennessee at 1 p.m. CT. Updates for this match will be available through Twitter @mstateWT and through live stats at hailstate.com.
A final-round 5-over-par 293 vaulted the Mississippi State women's golf team to a second-place finish in the JMU/Eagle Landing Invitational at the Eagle Landing Golf Club in Jacksonville. Sophomore standout Ally McDonald also tied for second individually.
"I am thrilled with our final round today," third-year MSU coach Ginger Brown-Lemm said. "In our team meeting, we discussed how many times we have seen a team behind by as many as 10 shots come back and shock the field with a great round, moving way up the leaderboard. I told them we could be that team. We were eight back of second and that was the goal."
Entering Sunday's final round, the Lady Bulldogs were in sixth-place and eight strokes behind second-place Elon. Behind the team's 11-birdie performance, MSU climbed the leaderboard and recorded its best tournament finish since claiming second a year ago in the John/Kirk Panther Intercollegiate.
"The conditions were actually the toughest of the three days and we were focused on our game," Brown-Lemm added. "We struggled on the front as a team and played the back very well. When we made the turn at five-over, I knew we had a great opportunity to tear up the back. We played the back even par. It was a great feeling for our young team to come back in the final round and finish well."
Over the three rounds, State played the front nine at 23-over but managed to dominate the back nine at only 4-over.
The runner-up finish improves MSU's overall record to 59-28-1 on the year, which is the most wins for a Lady Bulldog squad since the 2006 NCAA postseason-qualifier team posted 79 wins. The 2013 Dogs still have four events remaining.
The 293 ties for the ninth-lowest round in MSU history, while State's three-round 891 ties for fifth-best all-time and second-best in the Brown-Lemm era.
McDonald turned in par for the final round and earned a share of second-place individually. She took control of the golf course during the first round with a 3-under-par 69 before carding a 74 for the second. The Fulton, Miss., native claimed her third Top 3 finish this season and fourth of her career.
Fellow sophomore Rica Tse reclaimed her groove with a final-round 1-under-par 71. Her three-round 6-over-par 222 earned the New Zealand native a share of 13th-place, her fourth Top 25 card of the season.
Junior Mary Langdon Gallagher posted a tournament personal-best 2-over-par 74 on Sunday to tally 228 for the tournament, narrowly missing a Top 25 finish.
Freshman Gabi Oubre' and sophomore Elena Warren rounded out the Lady Bulldog leaderboard with a 231 and 233, respectively.
Freshman Logan Chaney also competed in the tournament as an individual and turned in a 24-over-par 240.
No. 36 Campbell claimed the JMU/Eagle Landing Invitational title with a 6-over-par 870, while East Carolina finished just behind MSU in third-place with a 33-over-par 897.
F. Gustafsson Spang garnered the individual crown with a 4-under-par 212. She matched McDonald's opening-round 69 and secured her spot atop the leaderboard with a second-round 2-under-par 70.
The Lady Bulldogs return to action Friday, March 15, in Gainesville for the SunTrust Gator Women's Invitational.
Until then, fans can follow the women's golf program on Twitter, @mstateWG, and on Facebook at facebook.com/mstateWG.