STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) — Knocking at the doorstep of the Southeastern Conference elite, the Mississippi State softball team kicked the door down with a thrilling 2-1 come-from-behind victory against No. 12 LSU Saturday at the MSU Softball Stadium.
The win over the 2012 Women’s College World Series participant snapped a 21-game losing streak against the Tigers, giving the Bulldogs their first triumph against their SEC Western Division foe since a doubleheader sweep on March 30, 2005.
“This is a great win for Starkville’s team,” Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. “The crowd was packed and I could not be prouder of our fans as well as the resiliency of our players and their willingness to fight back.”
The 2-1 win came less than 16 hours after a 14-inning classic at the Dawg Diamond, which saw the visiting team squeak out a narrow 1-0 victory in a pitchers’ duel for the ages. Saturday’s statement game improved MSU to 16-5 in 2013 (1-1 SEC), while dropping LSU to 18-5 on the year (1-1 SEC). The two rivals will square off one last time in the rubber match Sunday at 1 p.m. to decide which school wakes up on Monday above .500 within the ultra-competitive SEC.
Displaying arguably the deepest pitching staff in the conference, a trio of Stuedeman’s pitchers held the Tigers to one run for the second-consecutive day. Senior southpaw Stephanie Becker drew the starting assignment, giving up LSU’s lone run on four hits in 5.0 innings of work. Fellow senior lefty Kylie Vry picked up the win in relief (2-2) after throwing a scoreless sixth with two strikeouts. Reining two-time SEC Pitcher of the Week and this week’s National Pitcher of the Week Alison Owen earned her SEC-leading third save of the season with a pair of strikeouts in a hitless seventh frame.
“I don’t believe we walk out victorious without all three of those pitchers today,” Stuedeman explained. “Kylie Vry received the win and there are major leaguers out there who get paid millions of dollars to throw a scoreless inning, so hats off to her.”
LSU junior right-hander Meghan Patterson suffered the loss in the circle for the visitors, falling to 3-2 on the year after surrendering two runs on four hits and three walks in 5.1 innings. Fellow junior righty Ashley Czechner recorded the final two outs in the bottom of the sixth with one hit allowed.
Bulldog junior Logan Foulks and senior Shelby Fisher were the heroes for the home team. Foulks finished 1-for-3 with a solo home run, while Fisher went 1-for-3 with an RBI single. Redshirt junior shortstop Erin Nesbit (2-for-3) recorded the only multiple-hit game of the 21-inning series so far in the pitching-dominated weekend.
The two SEC heavyweights battled back and forth for four innings before LSU jumped on the scoreboard first courtesy of a suicide squeeze RBI-bunt single in the top of the fifth by center fielder A.J. Andrews.
Down by a run heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Maroon and White dug deep inside and barked back on offense. With one out, Foulks sent an 0-1 offering screaming over the left-center field wall, tying the game at 1-1 and bringing the MSU faithful to its feet.
“I could not be prouder of this team coming together like they did today,” Foulks said. “It did not matter who is up at the plate for us, because we know we are all capable of getting it done.”
With barrels banging and cowbells clanging, junior Sam Lenahan drew her third walk of the game and her team-high 20th on the season. Pinch running for the junior slugger, freshman Kayla Winkfield swiped second on the first pitch of senior Jessica Cooley’s at-bat, and advanced to third on a strike-three swinging wild pitch that put Cooley on first. With runners on the corners, Fisher calmly sliced the game-winning single through the left side of the infield, knocking in Winkfield and sending the 646 fans at the Dawg Diamond into a euphoric roar of cheers and whistles.
“I would not even have had the RBI opportunity had it not been for my teammates on base, so give them credit,” Fisher said. “Logan fired me up with her home run and our entire team responded to that nicely.”
Stepping into the circle with a lead for the first time this weekend, Owen did what she does best, retiring the side in order with two strikeouts to secure MSU’s first victory against a top-15 squad since a 5-3 home win against No. 7 Georgia exactly a year ago Saturday (March 9, 2012)