Itta Bena, Miss. - Softball had an international flavor Wednesday night, as
Mississippi State (19-15) defeated host Mississippi Valley State (17-16) by a
4-3 margin on international tiebreaker rules in the eighth inning at the MVSU
Softball Complex. The extra-inning win was the first for the Maroon and White
since a 9-8 triumph against Florida State in eight frames on March 11, 2011.
"It was a lot of poise, patience, discipline and maturity," head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We will definitely grow from this experience because we know we can come through in the end. We just have to keep staying patient and know it is going to happen. Brittany Bell has been coming through for us all year long, and tonight was no exception."
The Bulldogs would have never played in extras if it was not for Bell, whose only hit of the contest was a game-tying two-run home run with MSU down to its last five outs. Sophomore third baseman Sam Lenahan went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI single, while fellow sophomore Heidi Shape registered the game-winning RBI in the eighth inning.
Senior right-handed pitcher Misty Flesher nabbed her third win of the season (3-1), pitching 2.1 clutch innings to end the game with just one hit allowed. Starting the game in the circle was junior lefty Stephanie Becker, who kept State in the game by striking out six Devilettes in as many innings of work. The Chicago native gave up three runs, but just one of them was earned.
The home team jumped on the board first in the second inning, which started with a leadoff single by second baseman Kishti Kamaka. She moved to second on a groundout and eventually scored on a single through the right side by shortstop Jessika Sandoval.
Both teams played a scoreless third frame before the Bulldogs barked back with a run in the top of the fourth. Sophomore Jessica Offutt started the inning with an infield single to second base. The speedy center fielder stole second and tapped the dish when Lenahan ripped a pitch hard and low up the middle for an RBI single.
Deadlocked at one in the bottom of the fifth, the Delta Devilettes took the lead with a two-run home run by catcher Nicole Burr. With one out, designated player Xiomara Perez singled up the middle on a 2-2 pitch. Following an out by Becker, Burr stepped up to bat. On a full count, the three-hole hitter popped up to MSU senior catcher Ka'ili Smith. The Hawaiian dropped the ball a few feet behind home, giving Burr a second chance. The second chance was all she needed, as she crushed the next pitch over the center field wall for a home run and a 3-1 lead in favor of the Red and Green.
Down to its last five outs, State responded with a two-run four bagger of its own to tie the game in the top of the six. Lenahan drew a one-out free pass, and after freshman Ashley Phillips pinch ran for the sophomore, Bell blasted a no-doubt barrel shot deep into the Delta night for the game-tying home run.
Both teams played scoreless softball in the seventh to force extra innings, leading to international tiebreaker rules in the eighth. The two squads led off each half of their frame with the last out from the previous inning on second base, but it was State that capitalized on the situation. With Offutt starting on second in the top half of the eighth, Lenahan grounded out to the shortstop. Bell came up next and was intentionally walked as a result of her sixth-inning dinger. The duo then advanced to second and third respectively on a wild pitch. Shape strutted to the plate next, and on the first pitch sliced a groundball to the MVSU shortstop. The Devilette threw home to catch Offutt, but was not in time as the eventual winning run crossed the dish.
With a rabid crowd increasing in number as the sun went down on the Delta, MVSU made it interesting in the bottom of the eighth. Left fielder Brianna Holmes was placed on second and was immediately joined on the bases when State intentionally walked Burr, who hit the go-ahead round-tripper in the fifth. Flesher then forced third baseman Alex Robertson to hit a comebacker to the crafty veteran in the circle, as MSU notched its first out. Both runners advanced on the play, putting the game-winning run on second. On an 0-2 pitch, Kamaka lined it to MSU shortstop Erin Nesbit, who caught it and flipped it to Shape at second to double up Burr for the game-ending double play.
Starkville's team now returns home for a three-game SEC weekend series against No. 2 Alabama at the MSU Softball Stadium. Live video and audio streaming of the game will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive). First pitch is 7 p.m. on Friday, where the first 150 in attendance will receive a free MSU Rally Rag. The first 250 rabid Bulldog fans at Saturday's 1 p.m. game receive free "HailState" sunglasses. The "White OUT the TIDE" promotion concludes Sunday with the series finale at 1 p.m. As always, admission is free to all home games. For more information regarding MSU softball, follow the team on Twitter at @MStateSB and like the team at Facebook.com/MStateSB.
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