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Softball Wins Series, Tops Iowa 5-0

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Freshman Alexis Silkwood struck out 11 batters and threw another shutout in Saturday's game versus Iowa.
Photo Courtesy of hailstate.com

STARKVILLE, Miss. – It was a similar success story for the Mississippi State softball team Saturday as a key home run from senior Sam Lenahan, solid base running and another strong performance in the circle from freshman Alexis Silkwood lifted the Bulldogs to a 5-0 victory against Iowa.

Lenahan’s seventh, eighth and ninth RBI of the week on a three-run homer in the bottom of the first carried MSU to its 13th-straight victory to open the campaign. It is the second-best start in program history, trailing only the 2006 squad’s 16-0 mark. The 13-game winning streak is the third longest by an MSU team.

Silkwood earned the win to become the first Mississippi State freshman to begin her career 3-0 since Lindsey Dunlap began 5-0 in 2009. Silkwood scattered four hits, fanned 11 and allowed the first walk of her career with a fourth-inning free pass. The 11 strikeouts were just one short of of the MSU freshman record she set in the second game at FAU last Thursday. Micaela Whitney (1-2) went the distance for the Hawkeyes, allowing five runs on four hits and four walks. She fanned six.

Solid defense allowed Silkwood to work around a one-out double from Michelle Zoeller in the top of the first. After a strikeout, a diving catch by hard-charging sophomore left fielder Loryn Nichols ended the threat.

After the defensive hold, MSU pushed across three runs in the bottom of the frame for a 3-0 advantage. Senior Jessica Offutt and classmate Heidi Shape drew consecutive four-pitch walks to open the frame and a sacrifice bunt from senior Logan Foulks moved the pair up a base. Lenahan then provided her third home run of the week with a three-run shot to center field. A pair of groundouts ended the frame.

Silkwood again worked around a runner in the second as Kayla Massey led off with a single, moved up two bases on back-to-back sacrifice bunts and was left stranded with a strikeout.

MSU added to its lead in the bottom of the second with a run to make it a 4-0 score. Junior Julia Echols led off with a single up the middle. Sophomore Kayla Winkfield bunted and Iowa’s third baseman Zoeller tried to throw to second for the force, but Echols beat the toss to put runners on first and second with no outs. A groundout from Nichols moved the pair up a base and an Offutt sacrifice fly plated Echols before a strikeout ended the frame.

Neither team mounted another threat until a two-out rally by Iowa in the top of the fourth. Megan Blank drew a one-out walk and, after a strikeout, Whitney Repole was hit by a pitch to put two runners on with two outs. Silkwood ended the threat with a strikeout.

In the bottom of the fourth, MSU tacked on another run with a double steal to go ahead 5-0. With one out, Winkfield singled. Nichols reached on an error and Winkfield motored to third on the play. Nichols moved to second on a steal and as Iowa’s catcher threw to the bag, Winkfield took off for home and scored. Consecutive groundouts allowed Whitney to avoid further damage.

MSU had a chance to add to its lead in the bottom of the fifth but could not push across a run. Foulks led off with a double and was replaced by redshirt freshman pinch runner Olivia Golden. Lenahan drew her second walk of the contest to put runners on first and second and was replaced by freshman pinch runner Katie Anne Bailey, but a fly out and consecutive strikeouts closed the inning.

Silkwood shut the door for the final time in the top of the sixth as Zoeller led off with another double, but a groundout, fly out and strikeout kept Iowa off the scoreboard.

In the top of the seventh, the Hawkeyes were retired in order by Silkwood to seal the victory.

Mississippi State goes for the series sweep Sunday with a 10 a.m. CT finale.

Post-Game Notes
-       The Bulldog staff has allowed just 33 hits in 13 games, good for an average of 2.5 hits a contest. Last season, Mississippi State allowed opponents to average 5.1 hits a game.

-       Mississippi State’s six runs allowed are the fewest through the first 13 games of a season in program history.

-       The Bulldogs’ seven shutouts through 13 games are tied with the 2006 squad for the most through 13 games in program history. MSU threw 10 shutouts in 2013.

-       The four-straight shutouts are the most consecutive blankings by an MSU club since four in a row from Feb. 20-22, 2009.

-       MSU threw out Kaitlyn Mullarkey stealing in the third inning. Opponents are just two-of-six on steal attempts this season (66.7 caught stealing percentage).

-       Senior Sam Lenahan drove in three runs and has plated at least one in six of the last seven games. She has driven in nine runs already this week.

-       Lenahan’s two runs batted in lifted her career total to 122. She is now sixth on the MSU career RBI chart. Courtney Bures (2005-08) owns the school’s career runs batted in record with 193.

-       In the last seven games, Lenahan owns a .400 batting average (eight-for-20) with 12 RBI.

-       With a home run in each game this week, Lenahan is the first Bulldog to homer in three-straight contests since current assistant coach Jessica Cooley accomplished the feat from March 3-4, 2012. Lenahan is slugging 1.857 this week.

-       In the last six MSU victories, Lenahan has driven in the game-winning run four times.

-       Lenahan picked up two walks to give her 110 in her career. She is one behind Ka’ili Smith (2009-12/111) for third on the program’s all-time chart.

-       Senior Logan Foulks went one-for-two and is batting .571 (four-for-seven) this week after going two-for-15 at last weekend’s FAU Strike Out Cancer Tournament.

-       Foulks threw out Mullarkey for Foulks’ initial caught stealing of the campaign.

-       Freshman Alexis Silkwood has struck out 31 batters in her last 20.2 innings pitched, including two double-digit strikeout performances.

-       Silkwood has not allowed a run since her debut against Northern Kentucky on Feb. 7 and has yielded just eight hits in her last four appearances.

-       Sophomore Kayla Winkfield tallied one hit, giving her eight for the season. In all of 2013, Winkfield tallied 10 hits.

-       Winkfield scored her first run since the Jacksonville State contest on Feb. 9 and stole her first base since the game against the Gamecocks the previous day.


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