Softball Ends Season With Saturday Split

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MSU finished the season with 39 wins, tied for the third most in a year in program history.
Photo Courtesy of Bill Simmonds

Mississippi State fought off elimination once but could not do it twice as the Bulldogs played a Saturday split at the Lafayette Regional. The Bulldogs downed Texas Southern 5-3 in game one before falling to Texas 4-3 in the nightcap to end the season.

Versus the Longhorns, MSU led 3-1 with two outs and nobody on base in the top of the seventh before a Lindsey Stephens three-run home run changed the outcome.

With the victory against the Lady Tigers, Mississippi State earned its 39th triumph of the campaign, tied for the third most in a year in program history behind only the 2000 (44 wins) and 2008 (41 wins) squads. The Bulldogs also recorded their 11th NCAA Tournament victory in program history and won a game at the big dance for the second-straight year. MSU finished the year with a 39-21 record.

Against Texas Southern, freshman Alexis Silkwood (14-7) got the start and tallied a Mississippi State freshman-record 13 strikeouts. The 13 whiffs tied senior Alison Owen’s NCAA Tournament single-game record. Silkwood's first 16 outs of the game, 10 were whiffs. Silkwood gave up three runs, all unearned, on four hits. Sammantha Jimenez (7-5) took the loss after yielding five runs, four earned, on six hits and three walks in four-and-a-third innings. She fanned two and hit two. Jeniece Tillman entered for the remaining inning-and-two-thirds, allowing two hits and one walk with one strikeout.

Versus Texas, Owen tossed six-and-two thirds, giving up three runs on five hits. She walked two and struck out four. Silkwood (14-8) recorded one out, a strikeout, and yielded the Stephens homer. Texas’ Gabby Smith (14-4) threw all seven inning and allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits and two walks. She hit three and struck out eight in the complete-game performance.

In game one, Mississippi State took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. After a groundout started the frame, senior Heidi Shape tripled to right field and scored on a sacrifice fly from freshman Caroline Seitz. Senior Logan Foulks followed with a single to right center, but a strikeout closed the frame.

The Bulldogs had a chance to add to their lead in the second inning, but stranded a pair. Freshman Mackenzie Toler led off with a hit by pitch. Classmate Katie Anne Bailey followed with a ground ball to the third baseman, who threw to the second baseman for the force on Toler, but the toss to first for the attempted double play went wide and allowed Bailey to move to second. Sophomore Kayla Winkfield reached on an infield single that advanced Bailey to third, but consecutive groundouts left the two on base.

In the top of the fourth, Texas Southern (31-20) had its first base runner as Jessica Miller led off with a single just out of reach of a diving Winkfield at shortstop. A sacrifice bunt moved Miller to second and she advanced to third on another groundout, but Silkwood recorded a strikeout to extinguish the threat.

After the defensive hold, the MSU broke the game open with three runs for a 4-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. Senior Sam Lenahan reached on a two-base error as the Texas Southern shortstop Princess Daniels dropped a pop up to start the frame. After a fly out, Bailey walked to put runners on first and second with one down. The pair executed a double steal and Lenahan scored on a Winkfield infield single. Senior Jessica Offutt followed with a squeeze bunt that plated Bailey for a 3-0 advantage. Junior Julia Echols was hit by a pitch to load the bases and a wild pitch brought in Winkfield for a four-run cushion. Following a groundout, redshirt freshman pinch hitter Olivia Golden walked to fill the bases. A strikeout allowed Jimenez to avoid further damage.

Mississippi State pushed across another run in the bottom of the fifth with Lenahan again providing the spark. She led off with a walk and was replaced at first by sophomore pinch runner Loryn Nichols. Nichols stole second and, after a foul out, scored on single to center on the 10th pitch of Bailey’s at-bat. Tillman entered for Jimenez and walked junior pinch hitter Katie Gentle to put runners on first and second with one out. A pop out and fly out left two on base.

The Lady Tigers scored three runs in the top of the sixth to make it a 5-3 affair. With one out, Miller reached on an error, stole second base, moved to third on an infield single by Daniels and scored on a groundout. With two outs, Brianna Parker singled through the right side to drive in Daniels and make it a 5-2 contest. Pinch runner Precious Alvizo entered for Parker and advanced to second on a passed ball. Alvizo scored on a double inside the left-field line from Thomasina Garza. Silkwood settled back down and ended the inning with a strikeout.

In the bottom of the sixth, Mississippi State had a chance to answer but left two on base. After a fly out started the frame, Seitz doubled to right center and Foulks reached on an infield single. A groundout moved Seitz to third and Foulks to second. Junior Ashley Phillips entered to pinch run for Foulks, but a strike out closed the frame.

Silkwood retired the Lady Tigers in order in the seventh to complete the victory.

Against Texas, MSU struck early and took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Echols led off with a double to center. Shape followed with a sacrifice bunt and Smith’s throw went into center field, allowing Echols to score. Shape went to third on the play. Seitz was hit by a pitch to put runners on the corners with no outs, but a double play and groundout ended the inning without further damage.

The Longhorns (35-22) had an opportunity to even the score in the top of the third, but could not convert. Stephanie Ceo led off with a bunt single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt from Brejae Washington and advanced to third on a fielder’s choice from Stephens, who was safe at first on the play. With runners on the corners and one out, Owen escaped with a strikeout and lineout to Echols in right field.

Both teams went quietly until the bottom of the fourth, when Foulks led off with a home run to make it a 2-0 Mississippi State advantage.

The Bulldogs had another chance to add to the lead in the bottom of the fifth but could not convert. Winkfield led off with a single and moved to second on a one-out sacrifice bunt, but a strikeout left her stranded.

Texas capitalized on the defensive hold in the top of the sixth and scored once to make it a 2-1 game. Stephens singled to right to open the frame and Taylor Thom walked to put runners on first and second with no outs. A sacrifice bunt moved the pair up a base. A sacrifice fly to left from Smith made it a 2-1 game. A groundout ended the inning.

Mississippi State got the run back in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out rally that make it a 3-1 contest. After a strikeout and pop out, Bailey was hit by a pitch. Lenahan followed with a double that ended up in the left-field corner, allowing Bailey to come all the way around to score.

In the top of the seventh, the first two Longhorn batters made outs before the game-winning rally. Ceo and Washington hit consecutive singles before Stephens’ long ball. Silkwood struck out Thom to end the frame.

Smith walked Shape with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but bounced back with a strikeout to end the contest.

Post-Game Notes

  • Mississippi State stole four bases against Texas Southern, tied for the most in program history during an NCAA Tournament game. The Bulldogs also swiped four against California on May 15, 2009.
  • The Bulldogs were hit by five pitches, finishing the year with 88 HBPs, the most in a year in program history.
  • In the last five games, MSU was hit by 19 pitches.
  • MSU’s run in the first inning against Texas was the initial in program history against the Longhorns. The Bulldogs had been shut out in the first four matchups.
  • Junior Julia Echols was hit by a pitch to increase her season total to 16, the third most in a year in program history.
  • Senior Heidi Shape hit a triple against Texas Southern. She is just the third Bulldog in program history to hit a triple during an NCAA Tournament contest, and the first since Tanelda McDonald versus Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on May 20, 2005.
  • Senior Logan Foulks hit a home run against Texas to become the seventh player in program history to deliver a long ball during an NCAA Tournament game. She’s the first to accomplish the task since current volunteer assistant coach Jessica Cooley hit a home run against Mississippi Valley State on May 18, 2013.
  • The long ball was Foulks’ first since April 20 at No. 4 Tennessee.
  • Senior Sam Lenahan drew a walk during the fifth inning against Texas Southern to increase her season total to 39 free passes, tied for the eighth most in a year in program history.
  • Lenahan was hit by a pitch against Texas to give her 12 HBP this year, tied for the sixth most in a campaign in program history.
  • Sophomore Kayla Winkfield recorded two hits against Texas Southern for her first multiple-hit game since April 1 at Mississippi Valley State.
  • Senior Jessica Offutt stole a base against Texas Southern to give her 59 for her career, the eighth most in program history.
  • Senior Alison Owen’s single-season strikeout total is 223, good for the third most in a year in program history.
  • There have been three seasons in program history with an MSU pitcher recording 200 or more strikeouts and Owen owns two of them (2014 and 250 in 2013). Autumn Anderson (1998/246) is the only other Bulldog hurler with more than 200 whiffs in a campaign.
  • Freshman Alexis Silkwood increased her strikeout total to 167 to set the record for the most in a year by a freshman in program history.
  • The total is also good for the fifth most in a year by any MSU hurler.

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