STARKVILLE, Miss. – Coming off a three-game sweep against in-state rival Ole Miss this past weekend, the Mississippi State softball team (27-14) will travel to Birmingham, Ala., Tuesday for a non-conference matchup at Samford (11-27). First pitch in the battle of the Bulldogs is scheduled for 6 p.m.
Dating back to last season, the Maroon and White have won 34 of its last 41 games (.829) outside the Southeastern Conference. State will look to improve upon its 14-2 record all-time against Samford, including a perfect 2-0 mark under current MSU Head Coach Vann Stuedeman. In addition, Stuedeman is 19-4 in the month of April in two seasons as the dugout general.
Along with Assistant Coach Alan Reach, Stuedeman will return to her city of birth, while Assistant Coach Beth Mullins arrives back at the city where she starred on the diamond collegiately as an all-star for UAB from 2001-04. The game is also a homecoming for area natives Jessica Cooley (Birmingham, Ala.) and Shana Sherrod (Vestavia Hills, Ala.).
Stuedeman will walk to home plate before Tuesday’s game and shake hands with Samford Head Coach Mandy Burford, who Stuedeman coached at the University of Alabama. Samford Assistant Coach Ashley Holcombe-Bell also played under Stuedeman in Tuscaloosa, while fellow Samford Assistant Coach Brandon Duncan was Reach’s roommate in college at Alabama, as both served under Stuedeman in Tuscaloosa as student managers.
Senior Stephanie Becker enters Tuesday’s game after making history this past weekend. With her first-inning strikeout Sunday against the Rebels, the Bulldog pitching staff broke the single-season school record for strikeouts, which now stands at 362. Becker finished the day by tossing her second-career no-hitter and the 15th in school history. One day earlier in MSU’s 6-5 win vs. Ole Miss on Saturday, the senior southpaw became MSU’s all-time career strikeout leader in the first at-bat of the game. The southpaw struck out three in as many innings on the afternoon, surpassing Autumn Anderson’s mark of 406 fanned batters in the late 1990s.
Becker is part of a dynamic pitching staff under Stuedeman which leads the SEC in strikeouts by more than 50 and owns the lowest opponent batting average (.181). After tallying five shutouts total last year, Becker and company have already recorded nine this season with nearly a month left to play. A big reason for the success in the circle has been the animal defense of the Bulldogs, which leads the league in conference-games only with a .976 fielding percentage.
Following its Tuesday tilt in Birmingham, Starkville’s Team will head 84 miles east of Mississippi’s College Town for a three-game set at defending national champion Alabama. For live in-game updates of the 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.