GULFPORT, Miss. – Mississippi State bounced back from its first defeat of the season with a pair victories Saturday afternoon at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Softball Classic. The Bulldogs topped Memphis 3-2 in game one before downing Nicholls State 7-0 in the nightcap.
Junior Julia Echols led MSU in the opener against Memphis with a career-high three hits and one run batted in. Senior Logan Foulks hit her second home run in three contests and freshman Mackenzie Toler drove in the game-winning run with a seventh-inning double to help the offense come back from a 2-0 deficit to claim the win. In the second contest, Foulks provided two RBI while Echols and senior Heidi Shape each scored twice. Sophomore Jacey Punches was the winning pitcher in both games, upping her record to 6-0 this season.
In the opener, freshman Alexis Silkwood threw the first four innings, yielding two runs on five hits and four strikeouts. Memphis' run in the fourth snapped Silkwood's school-record scoreless-innings streak at 34.1 innings, four-and-a-third frames longer than the previous-best mark. Punches came in for the next two innings and recorded the win. She allowed two singles and a walk. Senior Alison Owen earned her first save of the campaign with two strikeouts and a groundout in the seventh. Christian Novak (3-2) took the tough-luck loss for Memphis. She scattered nine hits and yielded three runs on five walks. She struck out three.
In game two, Punches tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing just one single. She walked three, fanned six and hit one. Nicholls State’s Jackie Johnson (3-8) took the loss after allowing seven runs on five hits and six walks. She fanned three, hit two batters and tossed two wild pitches and four-and-a-third innings. Katie Moulder entered for the final two-and-a-third frames and did not give up a hit or walk, but plunked two batters.
During game one, Mississippi State stranded three runners in the first two innings and had another chance to break through in the top of the third. With one down, Shape walked and Echols followed with her second bunt single of the contest. Novak worked out of trouble again with a fielder’s choice and fly out.
The Bulldogs left another runner on in the top of the fourth and Memphis took a 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the frame. Hannah Harrell slapped for a single to open the frame and moved to second as Silkwood’s throw to first went into right field. A groundout moved Harrell to third and she scored on a Calli Irvin double to left center. After another groundout, Haleigh Ross singled to right to plate pinch runner Ijiah Hargrove for the two-run cushion. Silkwood yielded another single, but shut the door with a groundout.
Mississippi State answered immediately in the top of the fifth with a run to cut the deficit in half at 2-1. Sophomore Loryn Nichols led off with a single to left and stole second base. A groundout advanced Nichols to third and she scored on a double to right center from Echols. Another groundout, with a nice backhand stop from Irvin at first base, moved Echols to third, but a strikeout left her stranded.
The Bulldogs evened the score in the top of the sixth with a leadoff home run from Foulks. Toler followed with a single to right center and was replaced by pinch runner Katie Anne Bailey. After two fly outs, Nichols punched a single through the left side to move Bailey to second. A free pass to Shape loaded the bases, but a strikeout ended the threat.
In the bottom of the sixth, Memphis had a chance to regain the lead, but Punches left two runners stranded. After a groundout started the inning, Cierra Mangum fisted a single into right field and moved to second on a groundout. A walk to Kelly Braman put runners on first and second, but a fly out closed the frame.
MSU used two-out magic in the top of the seventh to come away with the victory. After a fly out started the frame, redshirt freshman Olivia Golden hit a pinch-hit single to right field on the seventh pitch of her at-bat. Foulks fouled out, but Toler delivered with a double to left that plated Golden. Toler hit it on the line to left and Wheeler Hill dove, but the ball scooted past her, allowing Golden to score. Novak ended the frame with a pop out.
Owen entered for the seventh and retired the Tigers in order to earn the save.
Against Nicholls State, Mississippi State wasted little time, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. With one out, Echols drew a walk and stole second base. After a groundout, a wild pitch moved Echols to third and she scored on a Foulks single to right field. A strikeout ended the threat.
The Colonels had a chance to answer in the top of the second, but could not convert a bases-loaded opportunity. After a groundout started the frame, Haley Stevenson singled up the middle and Camille Rozas drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Punches struck out Katie Holmes before a passed ball moved Stevenson to third and Rozas to second. A walk to Cari Spain loaded the bases, but a foul out ended the threat.
In the bottom of the third, Mississippi State added to its lead with three runs for a 4-0 advantage. Shape was hit by the first pitch of the frame and Echols followed with her fourth hit of the day with a single to center. A groundout moved the pair to second and third and Foulks walked to fill the bases. Senior Sam Lenahan ended a 10-pitch at-bat with a walk to force in Shape and make it a 2-0 advantage. An illegal pitch moved all the runners up a base and brought home Echols for a three-run cushion. A Toler groundout to second allowed Foulks to score before a groundout closed the inning.
Punches retired the Colonels in order in the fourth and the Bulldogs scored three times in the bottom of the frame to go ahead 7-0. After a groundout opened the MSU half of the fourth, Nichols dropped a single right in front of home plate and Shape was hit by a pitch for the second time in the game. On a double steal, Nichols took third and Shape went to second. Nicholls State catcher Holmes threw wide and Nichols scored on the play for a 5-0 lead. A Seitz triple over the head of the center fielder plated Shape and Foulks followed with a singe to center that brought in Seitz for the seven-run advantage. Junior pinch hitter Erika Gaul reached on an error and Toler walked to load the bases, but a fly out ended the frame.
Punches worked around a base runner in the fifth and sixth and retired the first two Colonels in the seventh before hitting Spain with a pitch. A Brooke Morris lineout ended the contest.
Mississippi State completes the weekend tournament with a 10 a.m. CT Sunday contest against Ohio before facing Texas State at 1 p.m.
- Against Memphis, Mississippi State earned its first victory facing a two-run deficit since trailing by three on March 30, 2013, versus Auburn.
- Memphis became the first team this season to score more than one run in a game versus the Bulldogs.
- The Tigers are also the first team this season to collect more than five hits against the Bulldogs, picking up seven.
- The Bulldogs’ nine shutouts through 18 games are the most in a year in program history. MSU threw 10 shutouts in all of 2013.
- The Nicholls State contest is the sixth this year when the MSU pitching staff yielded one hit. Last year, the Bulldogs twirled nine contests with one or fewer hits.
- Mississippi State’s 10 runs allowed are the fewest through the first 18 games of a season in program history.
- The Bulldogs have recorded 32 runs batted in while foes have picked up just three in the last eight contests.
- Overall, MSU has outscored the foes38-4 in the last eight games.
- In the last eight games, seniors Logan Foulks (six RBI) and Sam Lenahan (10 RBI) have combined to drive in 16 of MSU’s 38 runs.
- Junior Julia Echols has hit .450 in her last six games (nine-for-20) and is tied for the team lead with four runs scored. She is up to 17 hits this season after totaling 17 in all of 2013.
- Sophomore Loryn Nichols recorded her third two-hit game of the season against Memphis after totaling just five as a freshman in 2013.
- Freshman Caroline Seitz owns three triples this season, tied for the fifth most by a freshman in program history. Keri McCallum owns the rookie record with 11 triples in 1997.
- Freshman Katie Anne Bailey made her first career plate appearance in the bottom of the fifth versus Nicholls State and was hit by a pitch.
- Redshirt freshman Olivia Golden recorded her first hit of the campaign with her pinch-hit single in the seventh inning against Memphis.
- Freshman Mackenzie Toler recorded her first game-winning RBI against Memphis while Golden tallied her first game-winning run of 2014 on the play.