GULFPORT, Miss. – Senior Alison Owen and freshman Alexis Silkwood ensured Mississippi State would own the best 20-game start in program history with two dominant pitching performances Sunday at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Softball Classic. Owen guided the Bulldogs to a 2-1 victory against Ohio and Silkwood helped the club to a 2-1 win versus Texas State.
The Bulldogs improve to 19-1 on the season. The 2006 squad had the previous best start with an 18-2 record. Mississippi State has also allowed the fewest runs through 20 games in program history at 12. The 2006 group held the previous best with 23 runs.
A fourth-inning sacrifice fly from senior Logan Foulks drove in the game-winning run in the opener against Ohio. Freshman Caroline Seitz provided MSU’s other run with a first-inning home run. In the second contest, Seitz plated the deciding run with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Against Ohio in the opener, Owen (8-1) nearly pitched a perfect game, letting just one runner reach base as Dakota Pyles hit a one-out home run in the third inning. The long ball snapped a string of 33.2 consecutive innings without an earned run for Owen. Her last earned run was against Maryland in the third inning on Feb. 14. Versus Ohio, she struck out 11. Lauren McClary (2-2) took the loss for the Bobcats, allowing two runs on three hits in three-and-two-thirds innings. She surrendered four walks and struck out three. Savannah Jo Dorsey threw the remaining three-and-a-third frames and yielded two walks, one hit, one hit batter and fanned four.
During the second contest against Texas State Silkwood (5-0) earned the win to become the first Mississippi State freshman to open her career at 5-0 since Lindsey Dunlap went 5-0 in 2009. She scattered four hits in six-and-two-thirds innings and surrendered an unearned run. She fanned nine and walked a pair. Sophomore Jacey Punches recorded the second out of the seventh inning on a pop out before Silkwood re-entered for the final out. Texas State’s Rayn House (10-4) suffered the setback in the complete-game performance. She limited MSU to two hits and two runs and walked three while striking out three.
Against Ohio in game one, the Bulldogs took a quick lead as Seitz hit a solo homer with two outs in the top of the first inning.
In the bottom of the third, the Bobcats (12-6) returned the favor with the Pyles long ball.
MSU answered immediately and regained the lead 2-1 in the top of the fourth. Junior Julia Echols led off with a double off the base of the wall in center, moved to third on a single to right from Seitz and scored on Foulks’ sacrifice fly. After a strikeout, freshman Mackenzie Toler and junior Ashley Phillips drew consecutive walks to load the bases. Dorsey entered and got a strikeout looking to end the threat.
Neither team had a base runner reach second base again until the top of the seventh. Toler led off with a single and was replaced at first base by freshman pinch runner Katie Anne Bailey. Phillips was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. MSU tried to execute the double steal, but Bailey was thrown out at third. After a strikeout, sophomore Loryn Nichols walked, but Dorsey avoided damage with another whiff.
Owen retired the Bobcats in order in the seventh to seal the victory.
In the second game, Texas State (13-8) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Kelli Baker reached on a leadoff single, advanced to second on a passed ball and went to third on a one-out wild pitch. Silkwood recorded a groundout, but Courtney Harris singled up the middle to plate Baker for the early advantage. A strikeout by Kortney Koroll ended the threat.
MSU evened the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the second. Foulks was hit with the first pitch of the frame, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, went to third on a groundout and came home on a Phillips double to left center. House avoided further damage with a strikeout.
Neither team had another runner reach second base until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Bulldogs put together a two-out rally and took a 2-1 lead. After a lineout and groundout started the frame, Nichols and senior Heidi Shape drew consecutive walks. The first pitch to Echols hit her in the leg to fill the bases. Seitz sent a slow roller to Texas State shortstop Jordan Masek, who fielded the ball but Seitz beat the throw to first and Nichols scored. A groundout closed the inning.
The Bobcats had a chance to even the score in the top of the sixth, but a Shape diving catch held Texas State off the board. Timishia North hit a one-out single and was forced out at second on a fielder’s choice. Harris drew a walk to put runners on first and second with two outs. Koroll got a barrel on the ball, but Shape dove to her right and made the run-saving grab.
Mississippi State had a threat in the bottom of the frame but could not convert. Senior Sam Lenahan led off with a walk and was replaced at first by redshirt sophomore pinch runner Olivia Golden. Golden stole second on strike three to Toler, but was left stranded after a pair of strikeouts.
Silkwood nailed the first out of the seventh, Punches retired the next Bobcat batter and Silkwood ended the game with a whiff.
The Bulldogs resume action Tuesday with a 6 p.m. CT contest in Starkville against UAB.
- The Ohio contest was the seventh this year in which the MSU pitching staff yielded one hit. Last year, the Bulldogs twirled nine contests with one or fewer hits.
- Mississippi State’s 12 runs allowed are the fewest through the first 20 games of a season in program history. The 2006 staff owned the previous mark with 23 runs allowed.
- The Bulldogs have trailed for just five-and-two-thirds innings all season.
- MSU has yet to allow a run in the second or fifth innings. In the fifth inning alone, the Bulldogs have outscored opponents 28-0.
- Mississippi State has scored more runs in the second (18), fourth (21) and fifth innings (28) than foes have totaled (12).
- The pitching staff has allowed just 56 hits in 20 games, good for an average of 2.8 hits a contest. Last season, Mississippi State allowed opponents to average 5.1 hits a game.
- In the last 10 games, seniors Logan Foulks (seven RBI) and Sam Lenahan (10 RBI) have combined to drive in 17 of MSU’s 42 runs (40.5 percent).
- Foulks finished the Mississippi Gulf Coast Softball Classic with a team-high six runs batted in and a pair of home runs.
- Junior Julia Echols has hit a team-best .400 in her last eight games (10-for-25) with a squad-high five runs scored.
- Echols’ hit against Ohio was her 18th of the year, one more than she had in all of 2013.
- Echols extended her hitting streak to seven games with a double against Ohio. The stretch was the longest for an MSU player this year and the longest of Echols’ career.
- Senior Alison Owen registered her 12th game as a Bulldog, and fifth this season, with 10 or more strikeouts with the 11 whiffs.
- Owen has fanned 43 in her last 28.0 innings pitched.
- Junior Ashley Phillips owns two hits this season, both doubles to center field.
- Sophomore Loryn Nichols is hitting a team-best .444 (four-for-nine) in her last five games. She also paces the squad with three runs scored and a .615 on-base percentage during the span.
- Nichols drew a career-high three walks against Ohio. It is the fourth time a Bulldog has picked up three free passes in a game this season. Nichols entered the contest with three walks on the season.