STARKVILLE, Miss. – Looking to continue its school-record winning streak away from home, the Mississippi State softball team (20-6, 1-2 SEC) travels to Kentucky (20-8, 2-4 SEC) for a three-game series beginning Friday at 6 p.m. ET. First pitch for both Saturday and Sunday is at 1 p.m. ET. Live audio streaming of MSU’s SEC road-opening series will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive) free of charge.
Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on Fox Sports South, with Dave Baker calling the action and Cheri Kempf serving as the color analyst. For those outside the SEC footprint, the game can be viewed at ESPN3.com. The Bulldogs are 3-1 in televised games under Stuedeman since her arrival last season, including a thrilling 2-1 series-clinching walk-off victory against Kentucky at home on April 21, 2012.
The series between the Bulldogs and Wildcats has been a streaky one the last decade. From April 7, 2002–April 3, 2008, MSU won 16 of the 17 games between the two schools, before UK reeled off eight wins in nine tries against the Maroon and White in a three-year span from 2009-2011. The last time the two squads met, Stuedeman’s team swept Kentucky during Super Bulldog Weekend in an exhilarating series that saw Starkville’s Team record two walk-off victories and clinch a berth in the 2012 SEC Tournament. State is 27-16 all-time against Kentucky, including a narrow 11-10 lead in Lexington.
Mississippi State has won 14 of its last 16 games and is off to its third-best start in school history. Only the 2008 squad (22-4) and the 2006 team (21-5) had better starts through its first 26 games. The road has been kind to the Maroon and White, who have been triumphant in a school-record 12-straight games away from the MSU Softball Stadium. Thanks to their recent success, the Bulldogs received 15 votes in this week's USA Today/NFCA Division I Top-25 Poll, the most votes since earning 36 on Feb. 24, 2009 in the 2009 Week Three Poll.
A big reason for this year’s success is Stuedeman's pitching staff, which ranks 22nd nationally in ERA (1.70) and is on pace to shatter the school records for strikeouts (on pace for 537), opponent batting average (.156) and strikeouts per seven innings (10.0). After pitching five shutouts in 57 games total in 2012, the MSU pitchers have already shut out seven opponents through 26 games this season.
Junior right-handed pitcher Alison Owen leads the nation in fewest walks allowed per game (0.22), strikeout-to-walk ratio (124-to-4) and ranks second in fewest hits allowed per game (1.9). Owen is also 10th in the country in ERA (1.01), while teammate Stephanie Becker is eighth in the NCAA and leads the SEC in strikeouts per seven innings (10.6). Owen and Becker are part of a staff which has held opponents to a .093 average (18-for-194) with two outs, while the team is out-scoring opponents in two-out RBIs by a 45-5 margin.
Of those 45 two-out RBIs, 14 have been driven in by junior Sam Lenahan. The right-handed slugger currently ranks 15th in the NCAA in walks per game (0.92), 17th in on-base percentage (0.56) and 29th in slugging percentage (0.851) and doubles per game (0.38).
On top of State’s clutch hitting, speed has been the name of the game for the Dawgs. Through just 26 games in 2013, the Bulldogs have stolen 65 bases, 17 more than the team swiped in 56 games total the year before Stuedeman arrived in 2011. State is sixth in the country in stolen bases per game (2.5) and is on pace to shatter last year's total of 92 base swipes.
For live in-game updates of MSU's first SEC road trip to the Bluegrass State, 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.