Stuedeman's Squad Set For Highway 82 Showdown Against Alabama

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Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

STARKVILLE, Miss. – Eighty-four miles separate the Mississippi State and Alabama softball programs. This weekend in Tuscaloosa, the distance will be zero on a diamond at Rhoads Stadium, as the two teams battle in a critical three-game Southeastern Conference showdown. The Bulldogs (28-14, 6-9 SEC) travel east on Highway 82 for the series opener at 6:30 p.m. Friday, before a 4:30 p.m. first pitch Saturday. Sunday’s 1 p.m. series finale will broadcast live on Fox Sports South, with Dave Neal calling the game and Cheri Kempf analyzing the action.

Free live audio of each game in the three-game set will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive).

Alabama (38-6, 10-5 SEC) is ranked No. 4 in the latest USA Today/NFCA Top-25 poll and has won 50 of the 57 games in the series, including a 24-2 mark in its own ballpark. The Bulldogs’ last victory against the Crimson Tide came on April 10, 2004, when MSU pulled off a 10-5 upset in Starkville.

The silver lining in this year’s series is the fact that MSU is ranked 28th in the latest RPI, its highest ranking in two seasons under current Head Coach Vann Stuedeman. State is 2-8 against the RPI Top-20, but half of the losses have come by just one run. Last season, MSU was 1-16 vs. RPI Top-20 teams, with only three of the 16 losses coming by a single run. Despite the record, the 2012 squad made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team ranked 35th in the RPI.

As head coach, Stuedeman is 20-4 all-time in the month of April, and 4-1 (.800) in nationally-televised games. The only loss on TV came the last time the Bulldogs played Alabama, a 5-2 setback on ESPN in the first round of the SEC Tournament on May 10, 2012. With 11 games left in the regular season, MSU has secured a regular-season overall record of above .500, giving MSU its first back-to-back seasons above .500 since 2007-08. The Bulldogs are five wins away from tying last year's win total of 33 (33-24).

Before becoming head coach at MSU on June 23, 2011, Stuedeman spent the previous 11 seasons as an assistant at Alabama. Serving as the pitching coach, Stuedeman guided six different pitchers to 11 All-American honors en route to three SEC championships and six appearances in the Women's College World Series.

Also having ties to Tuscaloosa is Assistant Coach Alan Reach, who was a student manager under Stuedeman and Alabama Head Coach Patrick Murphy from 2000-02. Reach, a graduate of Alabama, returned to Tuscaloosa from 2005-11, coaching Tuscaloosa County High School and current Alabama Student Assistant Coach Jazlyn Lunceford. Not only did Reach graduate from Alabama, but his sister Jennifer was a four-year starter for the Crimson Tide from 2000-03.

On the field, MSU junior right-handed pitcher Alison Owen has been one of the most impressive pitchers in the country so far in 2013. Owen leads the nation in fewest walks allowed per seven innings (0.72) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (196-to-15). Owen's .714 win percentage this year (15-6) is the best by a MSU pitcher since 1986 (Min. 10 Decisions), while her 1.73 ERA and 196 K's are the best in each category since Autumn Anderson finished the 1998 campaign with a 1.07 ERA and 245 strikeouts.

At the dish, the Bulldogs are led by junior slugger Sam Lenahan. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native paces the team with a .370 batting average, a .537 on-base percentage and a .750 slugging percentage. Lenahan is also patient at the plate, ranking eighth nationally with 0.79 walks per game (38 total base on balls).

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.


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