Back in business: Resurgent Bulldogs return to SEC Tournament

Senior Alison Owen and the MSU softball team have the second-best record in program history. (Mississippi State)

Senior Alison Owen and the MSU softball team have the second-best record in program history. (Mississippi State)

Freshman Carolyn Seitz leads the team with a .354 average. (Mississippi State)

Freshman Carolyn Seitz leads the team with a .354 average. (Mississippi State)

By Logan Lowery

Daily Journal

After missing the 2013 SEC Tournament altogether, Mississippi State hopes to stick around a while this year.

The Bulldogs are in Columbia, S.C., today as the No. 10 seed to take on seventh-seeded Kentucky in a 3 p.m. game that will be seen on ESPNU.

“We were disappointed finishing a game out last year and making it back is huge,” said MSU coach Vann Studeman. “It just feels great to be there and it’s an honor. It says that what you did all year matters and it’s a reward. I feel like the girls are excited about the opportunity to go and I’m really proud for the seniors.”

MSU is enjoying one of the best seasons in school history with a 38-18 record including a 10-14 mark in league play. It’s the second-best record through 56 games in program history.

State had series victories over No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 Tennessee and Arkansas during the month of April. The Bulldogs also had wins over No. 21 Auburn and No. 25 LSU during the campaign as well.

“Going into the tournament, I think everything is rolling for us right now,” said MSU senior pitcher Alison Owen. “Our hitters are swinging the bats well, we’re playing good defense and we’re pitching really well. I think this is one of the best streaks that we’ve gone on and having all three of those components together at the same time. I’m excited to see those three things come alive throughout the week.”

Freshman infielder Carolyn Seitz leads the team in hitting (.354) and is second in homers (8) and RBIs (36). Senior catcher Sam Lenahan leads those categories with 10 homers and 42 RBIs.

Mississippi State sports an 11-20 record all-time at the SEC Tournament but has never met the Wildcats at the event.

The Bulldogs lead the series against UK 28-21 and today will mark just the second neutral site meeting between the two.

The Wildcats (41-14, 13-11) won the series in Starkville during the SEC opening weekend shutting out State 4-0 and 5-0 in those victories. The Bulldogs lone win in the series was 2-1.

Kentucky sophomore Kelsey Nunley fired a no-hitter against Mississippi State on March 7 and the Bulldogs managed just eight hits in the series. MSU is hoping their offensive success of late carries over in the rematch.

“We’re excited to see them again,” said MSU assistant coach Tyler Bratton. “We will be ready to go. I feel like our offense is really clicking. Early on we weren’t scoring many runs a game but in the second half of the SEC we averaged 6.5 runs a game. I really like the direction our offense is going right now. Our kids have really worked hard and are putting up numbers on the scoreboard to back it up.”

The winner of today’s contest will play No. 2 seed Tennessee on Thursday at 12:30 p.m.

logan.lowery@journalinc.com