With temperatures dipping into the 30s, the ending was even colder for the Mississippi State softball team, who fell 5-4 at No. 21 Kentucky via a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 10th Friday night. The extra-inning heartbreaker at the UK Softball Complex dropped MSU to 20-7 overall and 1-3 in the Southeastern Conference, while snapping its school-record 12-game winning streak on the road.
"Give credit to Kentucky freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "She pitched like a senior tonight."
The Bulldogs scored four runs in the first inning, but went scoreless the rest of the game, stranding 11 on base, with an additional three runners being throw out on the base paths.
Senior Shelby Fisher tallied a career-high four hits in five at-bats, with all four base knocks coming with two strikes in the count. Fellow senior Jessica Cooley finished 1-for-5 with a two-run home run, while junior slugger Sam Lenahan also hit a two-run bleacher blast to go along with two walks.
After starter Alison Owen surrendered four runs on seven hits in the first four frames, senior left-hander Stephanie Becker relieved her teammate and gave up zero runs in the five innings before allowing the game-winning long ball in the final frame. The southpaw struck out seven and walked one in the hard-luck loss, dropping to 6-2 on her senior campaign. Kentucky righty Kelsey Nunley pitched 9.0 shutout innings in relief to move to 13-3 on the year with the win.
State wasted no time getting started offensively, scoring first for the first time for the 24th time in 27 games. Junior Jessica Offutt slapped a liner to left and moved to second base when the Wildcats' left fielder dropped the ball near the left-field line. Following a groundout by junior Heidi Shape, Lenahan launched a towering home run well over the fence in left for an early two-run lead. Just like Offutt, junior Logan Foulks reached base on an error and was driven in when Cooley cracked her first home run since Feb. 16.
Kentucky (21-8, 3-4 SEC) responded in the bottom half of the opening inning with three-consecutive singles that cut MSU's lead in half at 4-2. Starting a two-out rally, three-hole hitter Griffin Joiner hit a Bluegrass blooper over shortstop Erin Nesbit's head to reach first. Griffin was joined on the bags when cleanup batter Alice O'Brien sliced a 1-2 offering to the Bermuda Triangle down the left-field line. With two in scoring position, UK left fielder Ginny Carroll singled to left field, knocking in her two teammates.
The Wildcats tied up the game in the bottom of the third, which started with a leadoff walk by UK shortstop Christian Stokes. Following a sacrifice bunt that saw Stokes sprint to third, O'Brien hit a two-run home run to right center to make it a 4-4 tie at the UK Softball Complex.
After playing scoreless softball for six-straight innings, it was O'Brien that came through again for the Blue and White. Facing a 1-1 count to start the bottom of the 10th inning, O'Brien went yard again, walking off for the Wildcats to end the game in State's second-straight extra-inning Friday night game in conference play.
For live in-game updates of MSU's Saturday and Sunday games at 1 p.m. ET (12 p.m. CT), 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.
Behind a dominating performance in singles play, the No. 12 Mississippi State men's tennis squad (13-6, 3-4 SEC) overcame dropping the doubles point to defeat No. 54 Arkansas (12-9, 0-6 SEC) 4-1 at the Dills Indoor Tennis Complex Friday afternoon.
With the win, State has won its last five matches against the Razorbacks and improves to 24-7 all-time against the SEC West foes.
Arkansas grabbed an early lead by taking the doubles point with wins on courts one and two. UA's Gregoire Lehmann and Mike Ward took down MSU's Zach White and Ethan Wilkinson 8-4 on court two. However, State evened the playing field with an 8-6 win on court three from the freshmen duo of Romain Bogaerts and Pedro Dumont against UA's Hall Fess and Santiago Munoz, leaving it all up to court one.
MSU's No. 14 duo of Jordan Angus and Malte Stropp held a 7-6 lead late on court one, but Arkansas' No. 60 tandem of Manfred Jeske and Mike Nott rallied to down the MSU duo 9-7 and take the doubles point for the Razorbacks.
Singles would prove to be a different story for the Bulldogs. State came out firing on all courts, taking all six first sets.
MSU freshman Dumont started off the singles victories with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against UA's Victor Hoang on court five to even the team score at 1-1. On court four, State's White followed suit with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against the Razorbacks' Ward to put the Bulldogs ahead. White's doubles partner, MSU's Wilkinson would then earn a 6-3, 6-4 victory against UA's Christian Lee in his 2013 dual match debut match.
The clinching point came on court one, as No. 18 Bogaerts of MSU defeated UA's Lehmann 6-3, 6-2, giving the Bulldogs their third SEC win of the season.
Play on courts two and three was suspended once the match was clinched. On three, MSU's Angus was leading UA's Nott 6-4, 4-5, while State's No. 59 Stropp was tied with UA's Jeske 6-0, 4-6, 1-1 on court two.
"Arkansas came at us early, but the team did a good job of keeping their composure," head coach Per Nilsson said. "I am very proud of Ethan (Wilkinson) to win a big match for us today."
The Bulldogs will return to action Sunday as they face No. 48 LSU in Baton Rouge, La., at 1 p.m. CT. The Tigers were hosting No. 7 Ole Miss late Friday afternoon. Following Sunday's match, MSU will return home Friday, March 29, as they host seventh-ranked, in-state rival Ole Miss at 2 p.m., at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
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 (6-9, 0-7 SEC) fell 4-0 to the No. 51 ranked Lady Razorbacks of Arkansas (9-10, 2-6) in the team'S Friday match.
MSU will continue its weekend of SEC play with a Sunday match against No. 54 ranked LSU at 1 p.m. at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
Forced to move indoors because of rain, the match began with singles competition. Alexandra Perper of the Lady Bulldogs was the first to complete play, falling 6-4, 6-4 on court 2 to No. 93 ranked Claudine Paulson of Arkansas.
Arkansas extended its lead to 2-0 with a grueling battle on court 1 between MSU's Georgiana Patrasc and No. 68 ranked Yang Pang of Arkansas. Pang took the first set 6-3, but Patrasc battled back notching an early 5-0 to take the second set 6-1. Patrasc began the final set with a 2-0 lead, but couldn't hold back Pang falling 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 in the match.
On court 3, Lady Bulldog Naomi Tran was defeated by Arkansas sophomore Sarah McLean in a 6-3, 6-2 decision, stretching the Lady Razorback lead to 3-0.
Petra Ferancova of MSU competed against Kimberly-Ann Surin at the No. 4 position. Ferancova dropped the match 6-1, 6-2 clinching the Lady Razorbacks ninth win of the season.
MSU's Roseline Dion was trailing 4-1 in the first set on court 5 against Arkansas's Brittany Huxley when play was suspended.
"We continue to compete well at the top of our lineup," said head coach Daryl Greenan. "All of our girls are fighting hard and if we keep that up the wins will come."
Updates for this match will be available through Twitter @mstateWT and through live stats at hailstate.com.
Track and Field
To kick off day one of the Conference Challenge at the Carl Maddox Track Facility, the men's and women's hammer throw allowed for the Southeastern Conference women to post 30 points, while the non-SEC men led the way with 18 points.
Representing Mississippi State, Megan Rayford threw the hammer 43.51 meters to collect six points for the Lady Bulldogs and land a third-place finish. Maureen Gross added to the SEC's total by placing fifth and picking up two points as she threw for 34.49 meters.
While the Bulldogs did not see action in the men's hammer throw, other SEC competitors captured 13 points to place the conference just behind the opposing teams.
The meet will resume tomorrow at 10 a.m. with the women's javelin. All running events will begin at noon, starting with the women's 3000-meter steeplechase.
For more information regarding this weekend's action and MSU track and field, follow the Bulldogs on Twitter (@msutracksarah).