CLEARWATER, Fla. - Thirteen proved to be the ultimate unlucky number Friday night at the Eddie C. Moore Softball Complex as Mississippi State pitcher Stephanie Becker threw the 13th no-hitter in school history, but suffered the loss in a 1-0 defeat to South Florida in the Bulldogs' second game of the NFCA Leadoff Classic. State dropped to 7-3 on the year, while the host Bulls improved to 8-1.
"This is a game of inches and we could not buy an inch tonight," head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "I'd like to credit opposing pitcher Sara Nevins and the South Florida Bulls. It's bittersweet as Stephanie Becker delivers her first-career no-hitter. We will keep grinding to find a way to scratch out some runs."
Becker pitched a masterpiece from start to finish, failing to yield a hit in her third complete game of the season. The junior struck out six and walked three in 95 pitches. The no-no was the first by a Bulldog since fellow junior Kylie Vry accomplished the feat on Feb. 14, 2010, vs. Stephen F. Austin, and was the 24th no-hitter by a Stuedeman-coached player. Nevins improved to 2-1 in 2012 after giving up six hits and striking out seven in a complete-game triumph.
Senior right fielder Brittany Gates recorded multiple hits (2-for-3) for the first time since Feb. 23, 2011, while fellow senior Brittany Bell went 1-for-2 and broke the school record with her 34th-career hit by pitch. Also picking up hits for the Bulldogs were senior catcher Ka'ili Smith (1-for-4), sophomore center fielder Jessica Offutt (1-for-3) and sophomore second baseman Heidi Shape (1-for-3).
The only run of the game came in the top of the third, when USF leadoff hitter Kaitlyn Santo walked on a 3-1 count. Pinch running for Santo, Ilaura Reeves stole second on the first pitch to Alexis Nowell, who popped up to MSU first baseman Shelby Fisher. Gina Kafalas dribbled her first pitch to MSU sophomore third baseman Sam Lenahan, who threw the ball into Kafalas' back at first for the throwing error. The ball ricocheted to right field, causing Reeves to come all the way around from second to score the winning run.
State came close to responding in the bottom of the third when Gates and Offutt opened up the bottom half of the frame with infield singles. After Smith struck out, the speedy duo advanced to second and third respectively on a double steal. Fisher popped up to the second baseman for the second out. Bell then stepped to the plate and was plunked to load the bases, allowing Lenahan to arrive at the dish with a chance to give the Maroon and White the lead. After falling behind 0-2 and then taking a ball, Lenahan battled valiantly with three foul balls before succumbing to a swinging third strike.
The last chance for MSU came in the bottom of the seventh, when Shape singled to third base to start the inning. Sophomore Shana Sherrod pinch ran for Shape and sprinted to second on an infield single by Gates. Following an out by Offutt, Smith stepped into the box with two on and two outs. On a 2-2 offering, Smith roped a liner to USF third baseman Jessica Mouse, who in the blink of an eye doubled up Sherrod at second for the game-ending double play.
Mississippi State will look to even up its record this weekend when it plays Georgia Tech (2:30 p.m. CT) and DePaul (5 p.m. CT) Saturday on day two of the NFCA Leadoff Classic. Fans can follow live in-game updates via Twitter.com/MStateSB.
- Stephanie Becker's first-career no-hitter was the first by a Bulldog since fellow junior Kylie Vry accomplished the feat on Feb. 14, 2010, vs. Stephen F. Austin.
- The no-no was the 24th no-hitter by a Vann Stuedeman-coached player.
- Becker became the first pitcher in the Southeastern Conference to throw a no-hitter in 2012.
- Becker's five-pitch fourth inning was the quickest inning by a MSU pitcher all season.
- Brittany Bell set the school record with her 34th career hit by pitch in the third inning.
- Ten games into the 2012 season, the MSU pitching staff is already halfway to its season total of 12 complete games from a year ago.
- Brittany Gates has now hit in a career-long tying three-straight games, recording two hits for the first time since Feb. 23, 2011.
- Ka'ili Smith and Bell reached base safely for the 10th-consecutive game.