By MSU Media Relations
OXFORD – Cranking out its most hits in Southeastern Conference play this season, Mississippi State completed its three-game series sweep vs. in-state rival Ole Miss (16-24, 3-14 SEC) with a 10-3 triumph against the Rebels at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. Sunday afternoon’s win was first-year head coach Vann Stuedeman’s 25th triumph of the 2012 campaign, surpassing last year’s win total of 24 in 56 games played.
“The team has to feel really good about getting 14 hits in seven innings,” Stuedeman said. “I am glad to see them turn it on in the sixth and seventh and tie our season high for runs scored in an SEC game.”
Redshirt senior Brittany Bell (2-for-4), fellow senior Ka’ili Smith (3-for-4) and sophomore Heidi Shape (2-for-3) each drove in two runs, while senior Brittany Gates finished her weekend with a 2-for-4 performance in the eight spot. In addition, sophomore Sam Lenahan tied a career high with three hits as MSU won for the seventh time in its last nine tries in Oxford.
Junior left-handed pitcher Stephanie Becker was the winner in the circle for the second time in as many games, starting and finishing the contest with one run allowed in 4.0 innings. Fellow junior lefty Kylie Vry threw a scoreless second inning, while senior southpaw Lindsey Dunlap tossed two innings in the middle of the win, recording four strikeouts and giving up two runs (one earned).
Just like Friday, the visitors broke the ice with two runs in the top of the first. Junior left fielder Jessica Cooley was MSU’s first baserunner of the day after a groundball to third was mishandled by the Ole Miss defense. Cooley stole her ninth base of 2012 to put a runner in scoring position for Smith. After falling behind 0-2, Smith battled back to a full count before shooting a hard-hit grounder to first. The first baseman unsuccessfully backhanded it for the error and the ball drifted away from first as Cooley scored all the way from second. That brought up Lenahan, who on a full count of her own doubled to left-center field. With two in scoring position, Shape hit a one-out RBI sacrifice fly to deep left field, allowing Smith to score the second run of the day for the Maroon and White.
The pair of Smith and Lenahan came back up in the third and added an insurance run for Stuedeman’s squad. With two outs, the Hawaiian deposited an 0-2 offering down the left-field line for a standup double. Standing on second, Smith crossed home for the third MSU run when Lenahan drilled a 2-2 pitch on the ground to the Ole Miss third baseman. The ball took a bad hop, went off the fielder’s glove and skipped over to the FOX Sports South camera in foul territory.
After Ole Miss scored its first run in nine innings with one in the bottom of the third frame, State answered with a run of its own in the fourth. Falling behind 0-2, redshirt sophomore shortstop Erin Nesbit fought back to hit a 3-2 worm burner up the middle for a base hit. That brought Kendall Bruning into the circle for Ole Miss, who threw a wild pitch with her first offering. Nesbit stood on second and advanced to third on a passed ball to Gates, before sprinting 60 feet home on a Gates single that gave the visitors a 4-1 lead.
Rebel catcher Marina Parra began the bottom of the fourth by hitting her first-career home run just over the wall in left. The round-tripper cut the Rebel deficit to 4-2 halfway through the contest.
Putting it away for good in the sixth stanza, MSU tallied four runs on six hits and an error. The frame started with a leadoff walk to Nesbit, who was then pinch ran for by freshman Ashley Phillips. The first-year player made it to the second bag on an infield single by Gates. With two Mississippi natives on the squares, sophomore center fielder Jessica Offutt blooped a single to shallow left to load the bases. Bell stepped into the box with two grand slams under her belt in 2012, but knocked a Texas Leaguer to right for another RBI single. The Ole Miss right fielder misplayed the ball once she picked it up, allowing Gates to also score. Smith then singled up the middle with one out and runners on the corners to drive in Offutt and put two on for Lenahan, who unloaded with a barrel single through the left side of the infield to fill the bases once again. On the first pitch to Shape, the sophomore second baseman sent a screamer past the pitcher’s right ear for an RBI base knock up the middle.
The final two runs of the game came in the seventh, when Offutt was hit by a pitch for the first time this year. With one gone, the speedy outfielder stole her team-best 16th base of the season, eventually scoring on a double to the gap by Bell. Coming full circle two batters later, Bell scored the last Bulldog run when Smith singled up the middle on a 1-1 count.