STARKVILLE, Miss. - Looking to get off to its best start since 2009, the Mississippi State softball team led by Head Coach Vann Stuedeman will head north to Southaven, Miss., for four weekend games in the Blues City Classic. The event, being hosted by the University of Memphis, will take place at the Greenbrook Softball Complex, located at 800 Stowewood in Southaven.
"It's a unique opportunity to play four games in our state and see all of our great fans in DeSoto County," Stuedeman said. "We appreciate and respect the opportunity Memphis Head Coach Natalie Poole has provided us to compete in such a competitive event. We hope all the Bulldog fans in the Memphis and Southaven area come out and wrap the Blues City Classic in Maroon and White."
The Bulldogs (6-3) will kick things off Saturday with a battle against Belmont (5-3) at 11 a.m., followed by their first-ever meeting against Wichita State (3-6) at 4 p.m. Stuedeman's squad closes out the event Sunday with a doubleheader at 9 a.m. against Southeast Missouri State (2-3) and SIU-Edwardsville (4-3).
State is a combined 10-2 all-time against the foursome they're competing against in the Blues City Classic. In the Bulldogs' last 24 non-conference games, MSU has come out victorious 19 times (79.2 percent). Should Starkville's Team win all four games in Southaven, the program will tie for the fourth-best record through 13 games (10-3) in school history and the best mark since the 2009 NCAA Tournament squad started 11-2.
Speed has been the key to State's success nine games in, as the Bulldogs currently rank third in the Southeastern Conference with 31 stolen bases. Compared to last season, the 2012 team swiped just 12 bases through its first nine games. Sophomore outfielder Ashley Phillips' team-high seven successful swipes are tied for fourth in the SEC heading into the weekend.
Phillips, a native of Water Valley, Miss., is one of the most improved players in the SEC, going from five hits (.217 average) in 43 games as a freshman last year to nine hits in her first nine games of 2013 (.321). The outfielder has reached base safely in every game this season.
In the circle, MSU junior right-hander Alison Owen has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the league so far in 2013 and is coming off the best week of her career. Owen was named MVP of the Bulldog Battle Feb. 15-17 after going 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA, 17 strikeouts and zero walks. The opposition hit a microscopic .065 against her in three games. On the year, the Newnan, Ga., native leads the SEC in opponent batting average (.081) and is tied for the league lead in fewest runs (four) and walks (zero) allowed. She is the only pitcher in the conference with 25-plus strikeouts and zero walks.
For live in-game updates of MSU's games in the Blues City Classic, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures from the Classic, 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.