STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State softball drove in four runs on five hits with two outs in an 8-1 non-conference triumph against Memphis Wednesday night at the MSU Softball Stadium. The victory improved the Bulldogs to 15-4 in 2013, tying the 2008 squad for the best start through 19 games since the Bulldogs began 17-1 in 2006. Memphis dropped to 7-13 on the season.
"We've done a good job of starting fast and winning the late innings," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We were so glad to be back in Starkville in front of our home fans. It was a nice, solid victory tonight."
Seven of the nine Bully Bomber starters had hits on offense, with juniors Erin Nesbit (1-for-2, two runs) and Jessica Offutt (1-for-3) both driving in two. Leadoff hitter Briana Bell (1-for-3, run) and cleanup hitter Sam Lenahan (1-for-3, run) each had RBI base knocks as well, while four more Bulldogs also tapped the dish.
"We always talk about getting barrels," Offutt said. "I think we were just working the process. We were constantly having quality at-bats and buying in."
Reigning SEC and National Pitcher of the Week Alison Owen of MSU was victorious in her ninth-consecutive decision, moving to 9-1 after 4.0 innings of shutout ball in her starting assignment. The righty struck out five and walked none to improve her national-best 93-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Junior southpaw Kylie Vry picked up her first save of the season, pitching the final 3.0 innings with one hit and one unearned run allowed.
For the 17th time in 19 games this year, MSU scored first, this time in the second inning. With one down, Nesbit reached first on a fielder's choice and sprinted to second on a passed ball. Sophomore Julia Echols joined her after drawing a base on balls on a full count. Freshman Loryn Nichols then loaded the bases with her first double-digit pitch at-bat of the game. With two gone and Offutt behind on an 0-2 count, the nine-hole hitter drilled a pitch to left-center field, scoring both Nesbit and Echols for an early 2-0 Mississippi State lead.
State tacked on five more runs to put the game away in the bottom of the third, which started when junior Heidi Shape was hit by a pitch. Shape moved to second on a single by Foulks, but was forced out at third on a ground ball to the left side by Lenahan. With two on and one out, senior Jessica Cooley took first on a 3-2 walk. That allowed Nesbit on a full count of her own to drive in Foulks and Lenahan on a hard-hit ball to shallow left-center field.
Following MSU's second out of the inning, Nichols had another 10-plus pitch at-bat to load the bases with her second walk of the evening. Memphis appeared to be out of the inning when Offutt grounded to second, but the Tigers' first baseman could not scoop a ball thrown in the dirt. The error by Memphis' second baseman allowed both Cooley and Nesbit to score, increasing the lead to 6-0 in favor of the home team. The last run of the third frame came when Nichols strutted across home thanks to a double to deep left by Bell.
After Memphis scored for the first time in the top of the sixth, Stuedeman's squad finished the scoring with a Lenahan RBI double down the left-field line. The two-bagger scored Bell and gave the game its final score of 8-1
Starkville's Team now turns its attention to SEC play, which begins this Friday through Sunday as the Bulldogs battle No. 12 LSU at the Dawg Diamond. The Maroon and White play the Purple and Gold Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.
For live in-game updates of MSU's SEC-opening series, 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.
- The Bulldogs improved to 15-4, tied with the 2008 squad for the program's best start through 19 games since the 2006 team began a school-record 17-1.
- Head Coach Vann Stuedeman has won 28 of her last 34 non-conference games.
- Mississippi State improved to 3-0 all-time vs. Memphis, with all three victories coming under Stuedeman.
- State has won nine-consecutive games, tied for the seventh-longest winning streak in school history.
- Junior right-hander Alison Owen has won nine-straight decisions after suffering a loss to South Alabama in the season opener (9-1).
- Mississippi State has outscored opponents, 29-4, in two-out RBIs this season.
- The Bulldogs are hitting .471 with the bases loaded this season (8-for-17).
- Heidi Shape's career-long 10-game hitting streak came to an end, but the junior extended her career-best streak of reaching base safely to 11 games.
- Logan Foulks extended her hitting streak to six games, tying her career high set at North Carolina.
- Jessica Cooley (14) and Sam Lenahan (13) reached base safely, extending their career-long streaks.