BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The Mississippi State softball team returns to the Southeastern Conference Tournament and will enter this week’s event as the No. 10 seed after finishing the regular season with a 38-18 overall record and a 10-14 mark in SEC games. The Bulldogs will play No. 7 seed Kentucky at 3 p.m. CT Wednesday at Carolina Softball Stadium at Beckham Field in Columbia, S.C.
Wednesday’s contest will also be nationally televised on ESPNU. In the Bulldogs’ last appearance in the SEC event, they lost 5-2 to No. 3 Alabama on May 10, 2012. Mississippi State’s overall record at the tournament is 11-20.
This season, Mississippi State opened SEC play with a three-game set at home against the Wildcats. Kentucky won the opener 4-0 before the Bulldogs took the second contest 2-1 on a walk-off RBI single from freshman Katie Anne Bailey. UK took the series with a 5-0 Sunday triumph.
Leading the way in the circle this season is senior Alison Owen, the Mississippi State career strikeout record holder. She has an 18-11 record and 2.92 earned-run average while whiffing 213 in 165.1 innings pitched this season.
Freshman Alexis Silkwood has also thrown well, going 13-6 with a 2.32 ERA. Her 148 whiffs are the second most by any Mississippi State freshman and the ninth most of any Bulldog hurler in a year.
On offense, freshman Caroline Seitz and junior Julia Echols have provided the majority of hits while seniors Logan Foulks and Sam Lenahan have been key run-producers. Seitz, a Top 25 Finalist for the inaugural National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Freshman of the Year Award, leads the Bulldogs with a .354 batting average, 62 hits, 19 doubles, 19 multiple-hit games and a .646 slugging percentage. Echols checks in close behind with a .307 batting average and 43 hits while Foulks is hitting .288 with 33 runs batted in and Lenahan has produced a team-high 42 runs batted in.
Defensively as a team the Bulldogs rank fifth in country with a .977 fielding percentage. Mississippi State has committed just 31 errors in 56 games.
MSU has claimed eight wins against ranked opponents this season (1/No. 8 Kentucky, 1/No. 21 Auburn, 1/No. 16 Missouri, 2/No. 3 Alabama, 2/No. 4 Tennessee, 1/No. 25 LSU). The total is tied for the second most in a year in program history. In the previous two years combined, the Bulldogs had claimed six victories against top-25 opponents.
SEC Wednesday First-Round Tournament Schedule
Game 1 - No. 7 Kentucky vs. No. 10 Mississippi State 3 p.m. CT
Game 2 - No. 8 South Carolina vs. No. 9 Auburn 5:30 p.m. CT