STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Junior Sam Lenahan hit a game-tying two-run home run and redshirt sophomore Briana Bellhit a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the seventh, as the Mississippi State softball team edged Auburn, 4-3, Saturday afternoon at the MSU Softball Stadium.
After losing both games of Friday’s doubleheader in heartbreaking fashion, the Bulldogs (21-12, 2-7 SEC) salvaged the three-game conference set by winning the series finale in dramatic fashion, snapping a six-game losing streak in the process.
“It sure does feel good to get that win today,” Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. “Winning today shows a lot of character as well as what this team is made of. We rebounded from a hard two games yesterday and a hard week in general, so I am proud of our team for gutting it out.”
Trailing 3-1 heading to the bottom of the final frame, sophomore first baseman Julia Echols snapped an 0-for-18 slump with a hard-hit infield single to second base. Following a popup to third base by freshman Loryn Nichols, Lenahan stepped to the dish as the tying run with two outs. On the first pitch by Auburn right-hander Marcy Harper (12-6), Lenahan crushed a towering fly ball down the right-field line, falling just over the outreached glove of Tigers’ right fielder Branndi Melero at the wall for a two-run game-tying long ball.
Auburn (23-14, 4-8 SEC) recorded the second out of the inning when senior left fielder Jessica Cooley sliced a 1-1 offering to the Bermuda Triangle in right, but was then thrown out at second trying to stretch it to a double. With one out away from possible extra innings, MSU junior Logan Foulks walked on a full count to signal the start of some Mississippi magic. Stuedeman pinch ran Foulks for Water Valley, Miss., native Ashley Phillips, who scored on the next pitch as Bell sent a single to right field for the walk-off win.
“My teammates were pumping me up before my at-bat,” Bell explained. “When your entire team is confident in you, how can you not be confident in yourself? That at-bat was for my team.”
The Bulldogs fell behind early 3-0 as a result of two unearned runs in the second inning courtesy of a bizarre defensive miscue by the Maroon and White, along with an RBI single in the top of the sixth by Auburn’s Caitlin Jordan.
For the game, Bell and Cooley both finished 2-for-4, while Lenahan drove in a game-high two runs thanks to her game-tying homer. Echols, junior Heidi Shape and Nichols all went 1-for-3 to round out the Bully battery.
Junior right-hander Alison Owen hurled her team-leading 11th complete-game victory of the season for State thanks to nine strikeouts and zero walks. The two-time SEC Pitcher of the Week improved to 11-5 in her first season representing the Maroon and White.
“There have been very few outings where Alison has gone out there and not given us a chance to win,” Stuedeman said. “She had 14 strikeouts last night and nine today. That is just gutting it out.”
Starkville’s Team returns to action this Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the MSU Softball Stadium, as Stuedeman’s squad takes on Jackson State. Admission is free for those that can attend, but for those that cannot, live video and audio streaming of the game will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive).