Starkville, Miss. - Defeating its highest-ranked opponent ever at home, the Mississippi State softball team sent shockwaves throughout the Southeastern Conference with a 5-3 win over No. 7 Georgia Friday night. The win under the lights at the MSU Softball Stadium improved the Maroon and White to 15-7 overall (1-2 SEC), while the visiting Bulldogs fell to 19-3 on the year (0-1 SEC).
Junior left-handed pitcher Stephanie Becker was stellar for MSU for the second time in three days, improving to a team-best 8-2 on the season with the win. The southpaw offset three runs (zero earned) on five hits and two walks with a career-high 10 strikeouts, going the distance for a team-high sixth time this year.
Playing against her native state, sophomore second baseman Heidi Shape tallied two hits, two runs, an RBI and a walk against the Red and Black. Reigning USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week Jessica Cooley also crossed the dish twice, finishing 1-for-3 with a walk. In the eight and nine spots, senior right fielder Brittany Gates and sophomore center fielder Jessica Offutt each went 1-for-3 with a run driven in. At the top of the order, senior catcher Ka'ili Smith tied her career high in walks with three free passes, while senior designated player Brittany Bell reached base safely for the 22nd time in as many games this season (1-for-2).
Becker made quick work of the visitors from Athens, giving up no hits and striking out two batters in each of the first four innings. The home Bulldogs jumped on the board first with a two-run fourth, which started with a single by Cooley up the middle. After Cooley stole her second base of the season, Shape knocked her in with an RBI single past the pitcher. Shape advanced to second on an error by the UGA shortstop and then sprinted to third after tagging on a flyout by redshirt sophomore Erin Nesbit. Shape crossed the dish after a perfectly-laid bunt single by Offutt to the third baseman.
Georgia responded with two runs of its own in the fifth, but State answered with three runs on three hits and two errors in the bottom half of the frame. Bell sent a shot to right field for her second-career triple to lead things off. After a popout, Cooley walked to put runners on the corners with one out. Shape came up with a chance to drive in another and did just that. The sophomore slugger dropped a 1-2 offering in left, plating Bell. Cooley would score the second run of the inning when Georgia's left fielder made an error attempting to cleanly field Shape's ball. Once she fielded it, she collected another error on the throw home, as the ball ricocheted off the catcher's mitt and allowed Shape to progress to third. With Shape on third, Gates pinched it to right to give MSU a 5-3 lead it would never relinquish.
The battle of the Bulldogs continues Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Dawg Diamond. Live video streaming of the game will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive).
Going on throughout the weekend will be the popular Bulldog Bingo and Movie Trivia events. As always, softball aficionados will have the chance to win a Vanntastic t-shirt with every extra-base hit. For more information regarding the showdown, follow the team on Twitter at @MStateSB and like the team at Facebook.com/MStateSB.
Mississippi State All-Time Home Wins Against
1. March 26, 1999: 5-2 vs. No. 10 South Carolina
2. April 5, 2000: 2-1 vs. No. 10 South Carolina
3. March 15, 2003: 2-0 vs. No. 10 Georgia
4. April 9, 2004: 8-6 vs. No. 10 Alabama
5. April 10, 2004: 10-5 vs. No. 10 Alabama
6. April 26, 2008: 2-1 vs. No. 10 Tennessee
7. March 9, 2012: 5-3 vs. No. 7 Georgia