By Miss. State Media Relations
STARKVILLE – Senior Courtney Nesbit homered and drove in five runs, and sophomore Kylie Vry tossed four scoreless innings in relief as Mississippi State defeated in-state rival Ole Miss 9-3 Sunday afternoon to clinch the three-game Southeastern Conference softball series at the MSU Softball Field.
Nesbit, who went 3-for-4 and finished a triple shy of the cycle, belted her team-leading eighth home run of the year. The Acworth, Ga., native’s five RBI matched her career high that she set against Southern Illinois on Feb. 19.
“I was trying to see the ball and hit it hard, and I got some hits to fall,” Nesbit said. “I went with what she had been throwing me and I got some big hits to help us get a big series win against our rival.”
Freshman Sam Lenahan smashed her sixth home run this season in the third inning, and junior Ka’ili Smith went 2-for-3 and scored three times as Mississippi State improved to 19-18 overall and 7-6 in SEC play.
Mississippi State pounded out 10 hits, including six for extra bases, in support of Vry, who held Ole Miss to a hit and struck out two in four innings of relief to improve her record to 7-7.
“Ole Miss scored in the first, and we answered with four runs. They scored a couple more runs in the top of the fourth and we answered again. That’s a good sign for our ballclub that we answered when they made a run,” Miller said. “I thought Kylie did a really good job shutting them down today.”
Sunday’s win not only clinched the series victory over the in-state rival, but it gave Bulldog head coach Jay Miller his 999th career win heading into Wednesday’s M&F Bank Fastpitch Classic against Southern Mississippi. First pitch for that game is set for 6:30 p.m. at Liberty Park in Madison.
Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead in the first on a Brittany Barnhill base hit off MSU starter Stephanie Becker, but the Bulldogs answered with the deciding runs in a four-run opening frame.
Becker, who picked up the win on Saturday, went the opening three innings and was touched for three runs (two earned) on five hits.
Senior Ali Bainbridge was hit by a pitch to open the bottom of the first, and she proceeded to steal second, one of four stolen bases in the game for the Vestavia Hills, Ala., native. The four swipes tie for the second-most in school history, one back of the record set by former all-American Chelsea Bramlett in 2009.
Ka’ili Smith followed with a walk, and the two runners advanced into scoring position on a double steal. Nesbit then gave the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead as she lined a double to left field. Lenahan followed with a walk, and after an illegal pitch by UM starter Kendall Bruning advanced the runners, Jessica Cooley lined a bases-clearing shot to left that gave State a 4-1 lead.
Bruning fell to 2-12 as she failed to get past the opening inning.
UM reliever Lindsey Perry, who allowed five runs and hit hits over 5.1 innings, retired the Bulldogs in the second, but Lenahan opened the third by crushing the first pitch of the inning over the scoreboard in left field to put State in front 5-1.
Ole Miss collected three-straight singles in the fourth to bring Vry to the circle. Natalie Nimmo greeted her with a two-run single to right that cut the MSU lead to 5-3 and put the tying run at second base. The Des Moines, Iowa, native avoided any further damage, however, as she got an infield fly ball, a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning.
Vry retired the final 12 Rebel batters she faced while her teammates extended the lead with two runs in the fourth and two more in the sixth.
Bainbridge opened the fourth with a walk, and after stealing second and third, she came home on a Smith double to the gap in left-center to push the Bulldog lead to 7-3.
Smith again reached in the bottom of the sixth, and Nesbit put an exclamation point on the series win as she lined a 1-0 pitch into the trees beyond the left-field wall.