Eight out of nine starters for the Mississippi State softball team either drove in a run or scored one as the Bulldogs (26-14, 5-9 SEC) escaped with a 6-5 win against arch-rival Ole Miss (21-25, 2-15 SEC) on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon at the MSU Softball Stadium. With the series-clinching victory, the Maroon and White extended its winning streak to seven against the Rebels, while Head Coach Vann Stuedeman improved to 11-0 all-time against in-state foes.
"It is always nice to clinch a series against the rival," Stuedeman said. "We will be looking to come out and fight hard tomorrow."
Senior Jessica Cooley knocked in a pair on a 2-for-3 day, while fellow senior Shelby Fisher finished 1-for-3 with an RBI as well. The No. 2-4 spots in the order were also productive, with the junior trio of Jessica Offutt (1-for-4, two runs), Logan Foulks (1-for-3, run) and Heidi Shape (0-for-3) recording one RBI each.
Stephanie Becker earned the starting assignment in the circle for State, becoming MSU's all-time career strikeout leader in the first at-bat of the game. The senior southpaw struck out three in as many innings on the afternoon and is now 409 for her career, surpassing Autumn Anderson's mark of 406 fanned batters in the late 1990s. Becker upped her overall record to 7-6 in her final campaign, while junior righty Alison Owen picked up her SEC-leading fourth save of the season with two innings of work in relief. Freshman Jacey Punches bridged the two pitchers, tossing two innings of shutout ball.
State wasted no time scoring in the first, scoring two runs on three hits. Offutt reached base thanks to a fielder's choice, then stole second to give MSU its first runner in scoring position. The speedster from Madison, Ala., tapped the dish easily when Foulks pushed her in with a double to the gap in left. Foulks then scored thanks to a Cooley single to center field, making the score 2-0 in favor of the Maroon and White.
Ole Miss responded with a run in the top of the second, before giving up four more runs themselves in the bottom of the inning. With the bases loaded, Offutt tallied an RBI single, Shape drove in a run with a 3-2 walk, Cooley was hit by a pitch for an RBI the hard way and Fisher sliced one up the middle for an RBI base knock.
The Rebels scored twice in the fourth and again in the seventh to cut the deficit to one, but ultimately fell short in their comeback attempt.
Mississippi State will try to strike out cancer Sunday in the series finale starting at 1 p.m. The Bulldogs will wear pink and the first 100 fans will receive pink Nerf softballs to raise awareness in the fight against breast cancer.
For live in-game updates of MSU's rivalry series in Starkville, 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.
Mississippi State's Lady Bulldog tennis squad (7-13, 1-11 SEC) will complete regular season competition Sunday with their final match against the No. 51 ranked Lady Tigers of Missouri beginning at 1 p.m. at MSU's A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.
State fell 6-1 in their most recent competition against the No. 3 ranked Lady Aggies of Texas A&M on Friday, with junior Alexandra Perper pulling out the sole MSU victory on court 2. Perper notched a 6-4, 5-7, 1-0(6) triumph against A&M's Nazari Urbina, currently ranked 52nd nationally.
State's doubles team of Perper and Naomi Tran boasts MSU's only individual national ranking presently, coming in at 73rd in the country.
Missouri comes into the match with a record of 9-11, 2-10 in SEC. The Lady Tiger squad traveled to Oxford, Miss., Friday where the team fell to No. 43 ranked Ole Miss in a 4-1 decision. Madison Rhyner of Mizzou posted the Lady Tigers' only win at the No. 6 position, toppling Ole Miss' Iris Verboven 6-3, 6-0.
Cierra Gaytan-Leach of the Lady Tigers holds the No. 86 spot in the ITA singles rankings. Gaytan-Leach teams up with sophomore Elisha Gabb to form the No. 75 doubles ranking.
Following Sunday's match, State will prepare to host the 2013 SEC Women's Tennis Championship next week, April 17-21, as part of Super Bulldog Weekend. For full details on the event, visit HailState.com/SECtennis. The draw for the tournament will be released Sunday following the conclusion of all regular season matches around the league.
Updates for all Lady Bulldog tennis action is available through twitter @mstateWT and through LiveStats at hailstate.com.