JACKSONVILLE, Ala. - Mississippi State senior left-hander Stephanie Becker showed why she leads the Southeastern Conference in strikeouts per seven innings, fanning 11 batters in a 7-2 victory at Jacksonville State Tuesday night. The Bulldogs improved to 17-6 and won their 10th-consecutive non-conference game, while the host Gamecocks dropped to 13-10 on the year.
"I was pleased with the way our offense came out and tallied double-digit hits," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We need to continue this momentum as we head east to Charleston (S.C.) and maintain our focus on this spring break road trip."
Becker earned her 10th starting assignment on the year at University Field, moving to 5-1 on her senior campaign with masterful performance inside the circle. The lefty struck out 11, walked two and surrendered only two base hits. Jacksonville State starter Hilary Phillips, who entered the game 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA, took her first loss of the season with four runs allowed on six hits and four walks in 1.2 innings of work.
Just like Sunday vs. No. 12 LSU, both leadoff hitter Jessica Offutt and two-hole hitter Heidi Shape recorded multiple hits. Offutt set the table with two base knocks and a run scored, while Shape went 2-for-3 with two runs and a walk. Junior Sam Lenahan also had multiple barrels, finishing 2-for-3 at the dish with a double, RBI and a walk.
State wasted no time scoring in the top of the first, which started when Offutt slapped an infield base hit. After stealing second on the first pitch to Shape, Offutt moved to third on a perfect bunt single which died right in front of the JSU catcher. The two runners advanced one base each on an error by the Gamecocks' third baseman, allowing junior Logan Foulks to take first and load the bases. On a full count, Lenahan roped a single up the middle to score Offutt. Following the first out of the game, Shape sprinted home on a passed ball by Phillips, sliding safely under the tag to make it 2-0 in favor of the Maroon and White.
The Bulldogs plated two more in the second thanks to a two-out rally, doubling their lead to four runs. With two gone, Shape singled up the middle on a 2-0 count and entered scoring position on a Foulks single between second base and shortstop. With a pair on the base paths, Lenahan worked a full count for the second-straight at-bat and then walked. The bases were juiced for senior Jessica Cooley, who drove in the third run of the game on a base on balls. Redshirt junior Erin Nesbit followed it up with a bases-loaded walk of her own to end the scoring in the second.
Freshman Loryn Nichols added one more run for the visitors in the top of the fifth. The California native went opposite way on the 10th pitch of her at-bat and immediately stole second for her eighth stolen base of the season. Offutt put her on the hot corner with a groundout to third, before Nichols tapped the dish on a passed ball thrown to Shape.
Jacksonville State plated its only two runs in the bottom of the fifth frame thanks to a Bulldog error and a wild pitch.
Stuedeman's squad tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth courtesy of a trio of doubles by Lenahan, Nesbit and sophomore Briana Bell.
Starkville's Team travels next to beautiful Charleston, S.C., for the conclusion of its four-game spring break road trip. The Bulldogs play a doubleheader at the College of Charleston starting at 3 p.m. CT on Thursday, March 14, before wrapping up the roadstand Friday, March 15, as the Maroon and White play at Charleston Southern at 12 p.m. CT.
For live in-game updates of MSU's games in Charleston, 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.