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Softball Sweeps Marshall Saturday

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Senior Sam Lenahan hit her seventh home run of the season in game one Saturday.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

STARKVILLE, Miss. – A four-run second inning in game one and one run in the first and second innings of the nightcap led Mississippi State to a Saturday sweep of Marshall at the MSU Softball Stadium with a 4-0 victory and a 2-0 win. The Bulldogs threw their 10th and 11th shutouts of the year. The total is the most for MSU in a campaign since tossing 14 blankings in 2008.

In two dominant pitching performances, senior Alison Owen and freshman Alexis Silkwood combined to strike out 23 batters and surrender just six hits, all singles. Mississippi State improved to 27-10 with the sweep. The mark is tied for the second-best 38-game record in program history, just two games behind the 2006 squad’s 29-8 mark.

Freshman Caroline Seitz sparked the offense with a three-for-six performance as all three hits were doubles. Senior Sam Lenahan also helped the Bulldogs with a run scored in each game and a two-run home run in the opening contest. Lenahan's long ball was the 27th of her career, tied for the fourth most in program history.

In game one, Owen (12-7) struck out the first four batters and finished with a season-best 14 whiffs. The 14 strikeouts are tied for the third most in a game in program history. She scattered three hits and walked two in the contest. Marshall's Jordan Dixon pitched the first four innings and suffered the loss. She yielded four runs on four hits and five walks. She fanned eight and also hit three. Lindsey Fadnek came in for the remaining two frames and allowed just one base runner, a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth. She fanned one.

Silkwood (8-2) took over in the second contest, limiting the Thundering Herd to three hits and a walk. She struck out nine and issued one free pass in the complete game. Dixon (7-14) started her second game of the day and took her second setback. She scattered four hits and yielded two runs, one earned. She fanned seven and hit one.

During the opener, Mississippi State left the bases loaded in the bottom of the first, but exploded for four runs in the bottom of the second. With one out, sophomore Kayla Winkfield was hit by a pitch and stole second base. Sophomore Loryn Nichols followed with an infield hit to Marshall third baseman Shaelynn Braxton, who threw wide to first, allowing Winkfield to score. Lenahan then hit a two-run home run to right for the three-run advantage. After a single from junior Julia Echols, Seitz doubled off the top of the wall in center to plate Echols. Dixon ended the inning with consecutive strikeouts.

The Thundering Herd (10-22) tallied its first hit in the top of the third as it mounted a two-out rally but failed to score. After a foul out and groundout, Kristina Braxton singled through the right side, Kaelynn Greene bunted for a single and Morgan Zerkle reached on an infield single to load the bases. Owen extinguished the threat with a strikeout.

MSU had a great chance to add to its lead in the bottom of the fourth, but could not convert. Lenahan led off being hit by a pitch and, with one out, stole second. Seitz lined out to right and freshman Mackenzie Toler was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with two outs. A wild pitch moved both runners up a base and senior Heidi Shape drew a walk to fill the bases, but a strikeout left them loaded.

Owen allowed just one base runner in the final three innings as Kristina Braxton reached on catcher’s interference with one out in the top of the fifth. She retired the final eight batters of the contest to seal the victory.

In the second contest, Marshall put the first two runners on in the top of the first but failed to score. Greene bunted for a single and Zerkle reached on an infield single. A Shaelynn Braxton fielder’s choice put runners on the corners. Braxton took off for second on a steal attempt, but got caught in a rundown and was tagged on the way back to first base for the second out. A groundout ended the threat.

Coming off the defensive hold, the Bulldogs took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Lenahan reached on an error to start the inning and scored on a double to center from Seitz. A passed ball moved Seitz to third, but a pop out and strikeout closed the frame.

MSU added to its lead in the bottom of the second with another run to go ahead 2-0. With one out, senior Jessica Offutt reached on an infield single. After a groundout, she stole second, swiped third and came home on an infield singe from Nichols. Lenahan lined out to Dixon to end the frame.

Marshall had another opportunity to score in the top of the fourth but could not convert. With one out, Savanah Webster walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Following a second whiff, MSU attempted to pick Webster off second, but the throw bounced off Webster and toward right center. Webster attempted to go to third on the play, but shortstop Winkfield picked up the ball and threw to third baseman Seitz, who applied the tag to end the inning.

Silkwood retired 10 of the final 11 Thundering Herd batters to complete the victory. With one out in the top of the seventh, Webster dropped a single into left field, but Silkwood bounced back with a strikeout and lineout to end the game.

The teams complete the series Sunday with a noon CT contest.

Post-Game Notes
-         MSU earned its 24th and 25th non-league wins of the season, tied with the 2013 squad for the most by the Bulldogs in the last five seasons.

-         Mississippi State has stolen 17 bases in the last four contests. In the previous 10 games, the Bulldogs had swiped five bases.

-         Mississippi State is 18-2 (.900 winning percentage) this season when scoring three or more runs.

-         Mississippi State pushed across one run with two outs, increasing its season total to 62 two-out runs (40.0 percent of team total).

-         The 11 shutouts are the fifth most in a year in program history. The 1998 squad owns the mark with 17 blankings.

-         MSU threw out its seventh, eighth and ninth runners of the campaign, gunning down Jessica Watts in the second inning of the opener and Shaelynn Braxton in the first frame and Savanah Webster in the fourth inning of the second contest.

-         Opponents have been successful in just 40.0 percent of steal attempts this season (six-of-15).

-         Senior Sam Lenahan has hit .429 (nine-for-21) in the last eight games with a .586 on-base percentage, .810 slugging percentage and a team-high seven runs batted in.

-         Freshman Caroline Seitz has 16 doubles, the most in the Southeastern Conference this season and tied for the second most by an MSU freshman.

-         The 16 doubles for Seitz are tied for the fifth most in a year in program history. Keri McCallum owns the mark with 22 doubles in 1999.

-         Sophomore Kayla Winkfield is batting a team third-best .333 (four-for-12) in her last five contests.

-         Winkfield tied her single-game career high with two steals in the opener.

-         Freshman Katie Anne Bailey started at catcher in game one and threw out her first career runner attempting to steal.

-         Senior Alison Owen registered her 15th game as a Bulldog, and seventh this season, with 10 or more strikeouts with a season-high 14 whiffs.


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