BOCA RATON, Fla. – A suicide squeeze in the bottom of the 11th inning from senior Heidi Shape plated sophomore Loryn Nichols to give the Mississippi State softball team a 1-0 victory against LIU-Brooklyn on Saturday morning to complete the FAU Strike Out Cancer Tournament. The Bulldogs improve to 10-0, joining the 2008 (11-0) and 2006 (16-0) squads as the only ones in program history to open 10-0 or better.
The 10-game winning streak is also tied for the sixth-longest stretch in program history. The Bulldog pitching staff also set the program record for the fewest runs allowed through 10 games with only six surrendered. It was also the team’s fourth shutout through 10 contests, tied for the fourth most in MSU history.
Freshman Alexis Silkwood earned the start in the circle and threw five-and-a-third innings, allowing three hits and striking out six. In the first four appearances of her career, Silkwood has allowed just five hits and one earned run in 18.2 innings, good for a 0.38 earned-run average. Senior Alison Owen (5-0) entered for the remaining five-and-two-thirds frames, yielding just one hit and two walks while fanning eight. Shelley Procter (1-4) went the distance for the Blackbirds, scattering three hits and four walks while striking out eight.
Mississippi State put two runners on base during the bottom of the first with walks to Shape and Logan Foulks, but a lineout to shortstop by Caroline Seitz left the pair stranded.
Neither team had another base runner until the bottom of the fourth, when MSU had its second scoring chance. Foulks drew her second free pass of the contest with one down and Seitz followed with the first hit of the game on a single to right that moved Foulks to second. Consecutive strikeouts, however, allowed Procter to escape.
Long Island (1-5) recorded its first base runner in the top of the fifth as Sara Shier hit a one-out single into shallow left field. Ashley Brady entered to pinch run, but a strikeout and Brady caught stealing second ended the inning.
The Bulldogs nearly broke through on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth but could not convert. With one out, Nichols and senior Jessica Offutt hit consecutive singles. A sacrifice bunt from Shape moved the runners to second and third with two outs, but a strikeout kept the game scoreless.
The Blackbirds had their first scoring opportunity in the top of the sixth. After a strikeout started the frame, Nicole Archer and Madison Green hit consecutive singles to put runners on first and second. Owen entered for Silkwood and threw a wild pitch to move both runners up a base, but rebounded with a groundout and strikeout looking to strand the pair.
Both teams went down in order in the seventh and the game went to the international tie-breaker rules in the eighth with each team starting with a runner on second base. LIU-Brooklyn pinch runner Jazmine Rodriguez started the top of the eighth on second and Kayla Gloady drew a leadoff walk. A sacrifice bunt from pinch hitter Ariana Lopez moved both runners up a base and Archer picked up a free pass to fill the bases. Owen answered with a strikeout and fly out.
In the bottom of the frame, Procter got out of trouble with a pop out, foul out and strikeout.
LIU-Brooklyn again had a chance to make a tally on the scoreboard in the top of the ninth, but could not score. Nichole Toven started the frame on second base and moved to third with a leadoff double to left from Whitney West. After a groundout, Nikki Schroeder and Rodriguez whiffed to end the frame.
A double play on a suicide squeeze attempt helped the Blackbirds keep the Bulldogs off the board in the bottom of the ninth.
After Owen retired the Blackbirds in order in the top of the 10th, aided by a diving catch in center field by Offutt, MSU went down in order in the bottom of the frame.
In the top of the 11th, LIU-Brooklyn left runners on the corners. With two outs, West struck out swinging, but the ball bounced away and West was safe at first, allowing Archer, who had started on second, to move to third. Owen slammed the door again with a fly out to Offutt in center.
It was perfect execution for MSU in the bottom of the 11th that gave the squad the victory. Nichols started on second, moved to third on an Offutt sacrifice bunt and crossed home on Shape’s squeeze play for the walk-off win.
MSU returns to action Wednesday with a 3 p.m. CT home contest against Central Arkansas.
- The extra-inning victory is the first for the Bulldogs since 4-3 triumph in 10 innings on Feb. 17, 2013, against Lipscomb.
- The 11-inning affair was the fifth game in program history to go 11 or more innings.
- The Bulldog staff has allowed just 26 hits in 10 games, good for an average of 2.6 hits a contest. Last season, Mississippi State allowed opponents to average 5.1 hits a game.
- During the FAU Strike Out Cancer Tournament, the MSU pitching staff posted a 0.54 earned-run average, allowing just three earned runs in 39.0 innings pitched.
- Senior pitcher Alison Owen went 3-0 during the tournament, posting 27 strikeouts in 19.2 innings pitched while posting a 0.71 ERA.
- Senior Heidi Shape reached base in the first inning with a walk and is the only Bulldog to have been on successfully in every game this season.
- Sophomore Loryn Nichols and freshman Caroline Seitz led the Bulldogs during the weekend with a .333 batting average while Seitz tallied a team-high five base hits during the five contests.