STARKVILLE, Miss. – A seven-run explosion in the bottom of the fifth inning and senior Alison Owen’s second double-digit strikeout performance of the weekend lifted Mississippi State to a 9-1 five-inning victory against Iowa on Sunday morning. The win was the Bulldogs’ 14th-consecutive triumph and continues the program’s second-best start in program history to 14-0.
Sophomore Kayla Winkfield drove in the game-winning run with a second-inning single and senior Heidi Shape ended the contest with a two-run double in the fifth. Freshman Mackenzie Toler also chipped in with the first multiple-hit performance of her career.
Owen (7-0) went the distance for the Bulldogs and limited the Hawkeyes to four hits and an unearned run. She fanned 10 and did not allow a walk. Kayla Massey (1-6) took her second loss of the weekend, throwing four-and-a-third frames, yielding eight runs, three earned, on five hits and a trio of walks. She fanned two before giving way to Shayla Starkenburg. Starkenburg threw the final third of an inning, allowing an unearned run on one hit and two walks.
After Owen struck out five through the first two innings, Mississippi State jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second. Freshman Caroline Seitz led off with a double to right center and moved to third on an error by the shortstop as Toler was safe at first on the play. Freshman Katie Anne Bailey entered to run for Toler and moved to second on a groundout. With one out and runners on second and third, Winkfield delivered a single through the right side to plate Seitz and Bailey. A groundout and strikeout ended the threat.
Iowa (3-9) answered in the top of the third with a run to cut it down to a 2-1 deficit. Owen struck out the first two batters, but Claire Fritsch kept the inning alive with a two-out double. Michelle Zoeller followed with a bunt single, but Seitz at third base picked up the ball and threw high to first, allowing Fritsch to score. It was the Hawkeyes’ first run of the series and snapped a string of four-straight MSU shutouts.
Neither team threatened again until the bottom of the fourth, when MSU had two on but could not convert. After a groundout started the frame, Toler and junior Julia Echols hit consecutive singles to put runners on first and second. Massey avoided damage with a fly out and foul out.
The Hawkeyes tried to even the score in the top of the fifth, but were held off the scoreboard. With one out, Holly Hoffman singled to left center and was replaced by pinch runner Haley Hansel. Owen rebounded with a foul out on a bunt attempt and a strikeout.
Mississippi State ended the game with seven runs in the bottom of the fifth for the 9-1 final. After a leadoff fly out, Shape drew her second walk of the contest and stole second base. Senior Logan Foulks hit a grounder up the middle that Massey knocked down and threw to third, but Shape slid in safely to put runners on the corners with one out. Junior Ashley Phillips pinch ran for Foulks and Lenahan walked to load the bases. Seitz reached on a fielding error by Massey. Second baseman Fritsch picked up the loose ball and threw wide to first, allowing Shape, Phillips and Lenahan to score and Seitz to move to third.
Toler stroked a single to center that plated Seitz for a 6-1 lead. Senior pinch hitter Rachael Zdeb reached on an error as Fritsch could not handle the ground ball, allowing Toler to be safe at second. Senior Shanna Sherrod entered to pinch run for Toler before Starkenburg replaced Massey and a walk to Winkfield loaded the bases. After a fielder’s choice, freshman Amanda Ivy drew a bases-loaded walk to force in Zdeb for a 7-1 advantage. Shape then doubled to right, driving in two runs to end the game due to the run rule.
Mississippi State returns to action Friday at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Softball Classic in Gulfport, Miss., facing a pair of Texas clubs. The Bulldogs play UTSA at 2 p.m. CT and No. 15/15 Baylor at 8 p.m.
- Mississippi State’s 14-game winning streak is the third-longest run in program history.
- The team’s 14-0 record trails only the 2006 squad’s 16-0 mark for the best start in program history.
- Mississippi State pushed across three runs with two outs, increasing its season total to 34 two-out runs (42.0 percent of team total).
- The Bulldog staff has allowed just 37 hits in 14 games, good for an average of 2.6 hits a contest. Last season, Mississippi State allowed opponents to average 5.1 hits a game.
- Mississippi State’s seven runs allowed are the fewest through the first 14 games of a season in program history.
- The unearned run was the first allowed by the Bulldogs this season. The previous six had all been earned runs.
- Senior Sam Lenahan picked up a walk to give her 111 in her career. She is now tied with Ka’ili Smith (2009-12) for third on the program’s all-time chart. Kellie Wilkerson (1999-2002) owns the record with 177 career walks.
- Lenahan led the Bulldogs in the home stand with a .444 batting average (four-for-nine), nine runs batted in, four runs scored, three home runs and a 1.444 slugging percentage.
- Sophomore Kayla Winkfield tallied one hit, giving her nine for the season. In all of 2013, Winkfield tallied 10 hits.
- Winkfield tallied a career-high two runs batted in and has four RBI this season after not having any her freshman year.
- Freshman Katie Anne Bailey scored her first career run after entering to pinch run for classmate Mackenzie Toler in the second inning.
- Freshman Amanda Ivy recorded her first career at-bat, walk and putout after entering for senior Jessica Offutt.
- Senior Rachael Zdeb scored her first run of the season in the bottom of the fifth inning.
- Redshirt freshman Olivia Golden recorded her first at-bat of the season, pinch hitting for sophomore Loryn Nichols in the bottom of the fourth.
- Senior Alison Owen has struck out five or more batters in every appearance this season.
- Owen registered her 11th game as a Bulldog with 10 or more strikeouts with the 10 whiffs.