- The sun shined down on a stadium packed full of maroon and white, and the Mississippi State softball team shined bright, as the Bulldogs swept Southern Miss Saturday afternoon at MSU Softball Field in their final two games of the fall exhibition season.
The Bulldogs won the first game, 4-0, in their second shutout of the fall, while winning 3-2 in walk-off fashion in a second game that went only five innings. Head coach Vann Stuedeman finished her inaugural fall campaign with a perfect 6-0 record.
"What an absolutely incredible turnout from the hometown fans in Starkville," Stuedeman said. "They capped off an amazing fall season for us, and we look forward to working hard for them this winter as we prepare for the 2012 season."
In game one, State wasted no time taking the lead, as Heidi Shape led off the bottom of the first with a single to shallow right. The sophomore advanced to second on a grounder to the right side by sophomore Jessica Offutt. With one down, sophomore Sam Lenahandrilled a single to right, as Shape dove under the tag at the dish to make the score 1-0 in favor of the Maroon and White.
Following the run, both teams played scoreless ball until the bottom of the third, when Lenahan doubled off the wall in left. Senior Brittany Gates pinch ran for Lenahan and scored on senior Ka'ili Smith's first-pitch single up the middle.
With the Dawgs leading 2-0, the Golden Eagles threatened in the top of the fifth with a leadoff single, followed by a double and a walk to load the bases. With the bases juiced and no outs, starting pitcher Stephanie Becker dug deep inside and struck out three-straight batters to escape the fifth unscathed.
Momentum for the Dawgs continued in the bottom of the frame, starting with the Bulldogs' third infield single of the day by Offutt. After stealing second, Lenahan walked, setting the stage for Smith. The Hawaiian Hammer launched a fly ball to the top of the wall in left, but the backspin spun the ball back into the playing field. The damage was done though, as both Offutt and Lenahan crossed home, giving MSU a four-run lead that it would never relinquish.
Just like Friday, Becker earned the win, striking out 10 Golden Eagles over 5.2 innings, giving up zero runs on three hits. Sophomore Shana Sherrod pitched the final 1.1 innings, striking out a batter and failing to surrender a run.
Game two began just as game one did, with MSU scoring in the first. Junior Shelby Fisher singled up the middle, and Lenahan picked up where she left off with a walk. After being forced out at second on a fielder's choice by Smith, freshman Swayze Hollenhead walked to load the bases. Working with a keen eye, sophomore Briana Bell worked the count and drew a base on balls, plating Fisher for the first run of the second game.
In the bottom of the second, Shape beat out an infield single to third base and stole second. Fisher walked to put two on with two outs, and Lenahan once again came through with a single to left, knocking in Shape.
Trailing by two yet again, Southern Miss tied it in the top of the fourth with two runs, and the game remained tied until the bottom of the final inning. In the bottom of the fifth, Smith put some bark in her bat with a one-out base hit up the middle. After Offutt entered the game to pinch run, she advanced to second when Hollenhead reached on a throwing error by the pitcher. With two on and one down, Offutt and Hollenhead stole second and third to put both Dawgs in scoring position. Bell then stepped to the dish with a chance to win it, and win it she did.
After starting the count 0-2 and then taking a ball, Bell hit a grounder to shortstop, as Offutt broke for home. Just like the suicide squeeze the night before which won the game, 3-2, Offutt dove in safe under the tag, giving the Dawgs the same 3-2 victory that they enjoyed in Birmingham Friday.
Becker picked up the victory again, pitching a scoreless top of the fifth. Senior Kylie Vry started the second contest, going two innings without yielding a run. Fellow seniors Lindsey Dunlap and Misty Flesher pitched the third and fourth inning respectively, with each pitcher giving up one earned run.
State's doubleheader sweep over the Golden Eagles concluded the fall season for the Bulldogs, who open up their 2012 schedule Feb. 9 at South Alabama. The Maroon and White make their home debut Feb. 17 at the annual Bulldog Round Robin. Fans are encouraged to follow the team via Facebook and Twitter for more information regarding more information on the spring schedule.