STARKVILLE, Miss. – A career-high four runs batted in from senior Sam Lenahan combined with another strong performance in the circle by sophomore Jacey Punches lifted Mississippi State to a 6-0 victory over Central Arkansas on Wednesday afternoon. Lenahan tallied an RBI single and three-run home run to lead the offense while Punches allowed just one single in helping MSU improve to 11-0.
The 11-0 start is tied for the second best in program history, behind only the 2006 team’s 16-0 mark. The 2008 group also began the year at 11-0.
Punches (4-0) earned her fourth win of the campaign and surrendered only one single and two walks in five innings pitched. She retired 10 of the final 11 batters she faced, including the last six. Senior Shana Sherrod threw the sixth, sending the Bears down in order. She faced the first two batters of the seventh before freshman Mackenzie Toler entered and recorded the final three outs. Kayla Gomness (0-3) tossed the first four-and-two-thirds innings for Central Arkansas, yielding six runs on eight hits. She issued two free passes and fanned a pair. Kylee Studioso threw the final inning-and-a-third and allowed one hit and struck out one.
After sending down the Bears in order in the first, the Bulldogs took a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the frame. Senior Jessica Offutt led off with a single, stole second base and came home on classmate Logan Foulks’ one-out single to left center. A strikeout and Foulks caught stealing allowed Gomness to escape without further damage.
Punches worked out of trouble in the top of the second as Central Arkansas (3-8) loaded the bases with two outs, but could not score. Taylor Dear hit a one-out single and, after a lineout, Ashley Boswell drew a walk. Amy Gunnells reached on an error to fill the bases, but a groundout to first baseman Lenahan ended the threat.
In the bottom of the third the Bulldogs added to their lead with two more runs for a 3-0 advantage. Sophomore Loryn Nichols led off with a four-pitch walk, stole second base, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a single up the middle by senior Heidi Shape. She moved to second on a wild pitch and, after a pop out, advanced to third on a passed ball before a Lenahan single to center plated Shape. A groundout to third closed the frame.
Central Arkansas had another scoring chance in the fourth, but a good defensive play from Punches kept the Bears off the scoreboard. Jessie Taylor led off with a walk and was replaced by pinch runner Tylor Dodson. A sacrifice bunt advanced Dodson to second and after a fly out, Boswell hit it on the screws, but Punches reached out, knocked down the ball, picked it up and threw to first for the inning-ending out.
The Bulldogs tacked on their last runs in the bottom of the fifth for a 6-0 final. Nichols again was the spark, leading off with an infield single and stealing second base. After a pop out, a Shape fly out moved Nichols to third with two outs. Foulks drew a walk and stole second base to extend the inning before Lenahan went deep to right center. Freshman Caroline Seitz followed with a double to left center and Toler singled, but a caught stealing ended the threat.
In the top of the seventh, the Bears again loaded the bases but could not convert. Dear led off with a walk and Briana Whisenhunt followed with a single. Toler entered for Sherrod and walked Boswell to load the bases with no outs. A double play off the bat of Gunnells proved to be the key play as the Bulldogs got the force at home and third before a lineout to Lenahan at first ended the game and preserved the shutout.
MSU returns to action this weekend, hosting Iowa (3-6) for a three-game series. The Friday and Saturday contests start at 3 p.m. while the Sunday clash is set for a 10 a.m. first pitch.
- With the victory, MSU improved to 11-1 in first-time meetings under head coach Vann Stuedeman.
- Mississippi State pushed across four runs with two outs, increasing its season total to 31 two-out runs (49.2 percent of team total).
- The Bulldog staff has allowed just 28 hits in 11 games, good for an average of 2.5 hits a contest. Last season, Mississippi State allowed opponents to average 5.1 hits a game.
- MSU has tossed five shutouts this season. In all of 2013, the Bulldogs threw 10 shutouts.
- The Bulldogs stole four bases. It is the team’s fourth game with four or more steals this season.
- Mississippi State struck out just three times. The Bulldogs have whiffed four or more times just four times in the first 11 games.
- Senior Heidi Shape reached base in the third inning with a single and is the only Bulldog to have been on in every game this season.
- Senior Jessica Offutt’s stolen base in the first inning gave her sole possession of 10th on the MSU career chart with 50 swipes.
- Senior Sam Lenahan drove in a personal-best four runs and has plated at least one run in four of the last five games.
- Senior Logan Foulks drove in a run after plating just one in the previous five games. Foulks tops the team with 10 RBI this season.
- Senior Shana Sherrod tossed one inning, lifting her season total to three frames. Sherrod had not thrown more than three-and-two-thirds frames in a year since her freshman campaign (12.0 innings).
- Freshman Madison Arroyo made her Mississippi State debut, pinch running for Mackenzie Toler in the fifth inning.