"The whole goal is the process," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "It was not fun to get down early, but it was nice to see us respond that way, have some experience with it and walk away from today knowing we can do it in the future."
The Bulldogs wrapped up their spring break road trip with a perfect 4-0 record, with wins against CSU, Jacksonville State and a doubleheader sweep of College of Charleston. Stuedeman's offense outscored opponents by an average of eight runs on the week (39-7), highlighted by a season-high eight-run fourth inning Friday, its most in a single frame since plating eight in the first inning against Jackson State on April 10, 2012. State finished the road trip with three-consecutive run-rule victories for the first time since winning five-straight game-shortened contests from Feb. 29-March 3, 2012. The 13-game non-conference winning streak is tied for the third-longest such streak in school history.
Redshirt sophomore designated player Briana Bell had the best day of her career, recording career highs with two home runs and five RBIs to go along with a career-best tying two hits and two runs. Redshirt junior Erin Nesbit tallied a career-high three hits, scoring once and driving in a teammate. Junior slugger Sam Lenahan started at catcher and went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs and runs thanks to a double and a triple.
"When Briana finds her barrel, it's going to be well hit," Stuedeman explained. "She is so competitive and resilient at the plate. She was on fire today."
In the circle, senior left-hander Stephanie Becker replaced starter Kylie Vry with zero outs in the first inning to earn her sixth win of the season (6-1). The southpaw gave up just one hit for the game, striking out eight in five shutout innings. In her last five appearances toeing the rubber, Becker has fanned 33 batters, gone 3-0 and registered a near-perfect 0.30 ERA.
After outscoring its opponents on spring break by a 12-0 margin in the first, the tables turned on MSU in the opening frame Friday. Charleston Southern leadoff hitter Trea Steele was hit by a pitch to start the contest, and scored thanks to a two-run home run by Stephanie Sbardella. Marci Christian followed up the long ball with one of her own, a solo shot to center field to make it 3-0 in favor of the home team. A throwing error by the Bulldogs' third baseman allowed Jana Matthews to reach first and take second, before scoring on a double to the gap in left center by Linzy Rother.
Down four runs heading to the fourth inning, the light switched turned on and the Bully Bombers started bombing balls throughout the softball complex. After senior Jessica Cooley walked, Bell detonated her first long shot of the day with a two-run bleacher blast to left. Nesbit then singled through the left side and advanced to second once senior Shelby Fisher reached on a fielder's choice when the CSU second baseman sailed a throw past shortstop trying to force Nesbit out. Freshman Loryn Nichols loaded the bases with a single through the 5-6 hole.
With the bases juiced, Offutt knocked in the third MSU run with a groundout to third, followed by a suicide squeeze by junior Heidi Shape that plated Fisher. After Shape stole second to join Nichols in scoring position, Lenahan cleared the bases with her first triple in 104 games. Cooley was then hit in her second at-bat of the inning and immediately swiped second, which in turn led to the bases being covered again thanks to a base on balls by Bell. Nesbit was then hit by a pitch to knock "Slammin'" Sam in. The eighth and final run of the fourth came when Fisher hit a laser on the ground to shortstop, allowing Cooley to tap the dish for the second time in the inning thanks to another Buccaneer defensive miscue.
Getting their second wind in the fifth, the Bulldogs matched the inning total with a five spot in the frame. State started with two quick outs before Lenahan doubled down the left-field line. The slugger scored easily when junior Logan Foulks barely missed a home run with a standup double off the top of the wall in right field. Having entered the game in the bottom of the fourth, sophomore Ashley Phillips put runners at the corners when she reached on a fielding error by the CSU third baseman. Both runners were brought home when Bell muscled one over the left field wall again for her second home run and the final three runs of the game.
Starkville's Team returns home Wednesday to finish its home-and-home against No. 22 Louisiana-Lafayette. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. CT at the MSU Softball Stadium. Admission is free for those that can attend, but for those that cannot, live video and audio streaming of the game will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive).
"We need all the Maroon and White faithful out at the MSU Softball Stadium this Wednesday night," Stuedeman said. "Be loud, bring your support and help us win."
For live in-game updates of MSU's non-conference clash with the Ragin' Cajuns, 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.