Deadlocked in a 3-3 tie in the seventh inning, South Carolina (30-20, 7-14) used a pair of solo home runs to pull away from Mississippi State (31-19, 7-14 SEC) for a 5-4 victory Sunday afternoon at the MSU Softball Stadium. With the sweep, the Bulldogs head into the final weekend of SEC play tied with the Gamecocks and Auburn (7-14 SEC) for the 10th and final spot in the 2013 SEC Softball Tournament.
On an 0-2 count in a tie ballgame, MSU right-hander Alison Owen (15-10) surrendered a go-ahead home run to three-hole hitter Dana Hathorn to lead off the seventh. Two batters later, Ashlyn Masters recorded a solo shot of her own off Owen to make it 5-3 in what eventually ended up becoming the game-winning run for the Gamecocks.
Making her first start in three weeks, MSU redshirt junior shortstop Erin Nesbit hit a two-out long ball in the bottom of the seventh to give MSU hope down one, but USC reliever Katie Marks (7-7) struck out the next MSU batter to spoil the Bulldogs' Senior Day and end the game.
State quickly erased a 2-0 lead after the first frame with a three-run second. After junior left fielder Jessica Offutt was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, fellow junior Heidi Shape continued her impressive weekend with a two-out double up the middle to give MSU its first lead of the weekend. Carolina's Samie Garcia tied it up in the fourth with an RBI double, giving way to the seventh-inning dramatics.
Shape finished the series 4-for-8 with four RBIs, including a 1-for-2 performance Sunday. Also driving in runs for MSU were Offutt (1-for-3) and Nesbit (1-for-2). Leading the way offensively for State in her last game ever at the MSU Softball Field was Shelby Fisher, who went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Junior catcher Sam Lenahan (0-for-2, two walks) and freshman Loryn NIchols (1-for-4) likewise scored runs for the home team.
In her final home contest, senior left-hander Stephanie Becker earned the starting assignment in the circle. The MSU all-time career strikeouts leader struck out one batter in 3.2 innings of work, giving up three runs on five hits and three walks.
With its home schedule done for 2013, Starkville's Team will now head west for a season-defining three-game series at No. 15 Texas A&M May 3-5, and close the 2013 regular season with a non-conference clash at Houston on May 6. For live in-game updates of the Texas 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.