GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Eleven years of disappointment and heartbreak vs. top-three teams came to a screeching halt for the Mississippi State softball program Sunday afternoon at Katie Seashole Pressly Stadium, as the Bulldogs (24-14, 3-9 SEC) exploded for a five-run second inning en route to a 6-5 victory against No. 3 Florida.
The win was the first for MSU against a team ranked in the top three since a 7-1 victory against No. 1 Arizona on Feb. 9, 2002. State also snapped a 17-game losing streak against Florida, which dated back to April 2007.
“Our players are gutsy and resilient,” Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. “We came back from a heartbreaking loss Saturday and took game three, and that is part of changing a culture.”
The Bully Bombers pounded out 11 base hits, the most for MSU in conference play this year and the most allowed in 2013 by the No. 3 Gators in a seven-inning game. Junior Heidi Shape (2-for-3, two runs), redshirt junior Erin Nesbit (2-for-3, RBI), redshirt sophomore Briana Bell (2-for-4, RBI, run) and freshman Loryn Nichols (2-for-3, RBI, run) all had multiple hits. Junior Logan Foulks (1-for-4, RBI), senior Jessica Cooley (1-for-3, 2 RBI) and junior Jessica Offutt (1-for-3, run) also collected base knocks for MSU, while junior Sam Lenahan scored a run.
“Coach (Alan) Reach and Coach (Beth) Mullins really sat down Saturday night and studied a lot of film,” Stuedeman said. “Credit both of those coaches. Each player was willing to stick to the plan and execute it.”
Right-hander Alison Owen improved to 13-6 in 2013 for the Bulldogs, striking out five and allowing just one hit in 5.0 innings of relief.
After totaling six hits in the first two games of the series, State jumped out of the gates with five runs off seven hits in the top of the second. Bell led off the top of the frame by denting the towering scoreboard in left for her seventh homer of the season. Shape followed up Bell’s long ball with her second triple of her junior campaign. Following the first out of the inning, Nesbit pulled a liner off Florida third baseman Stephanie Tofft’s glove at third for a single, driving in Shape.
With Nesbit on first, Offutt singled to right field and Nichols dropped a perfect bunt in front of the UF catcher. The bases were juiced for Cooley, who with two outs hit a worm burner up the middle that drove in a pair of Bulldogs to double their lead. Foulks then doubled down the left-field line to extend the lead to 5-0 in favor of the Maroon and White.
The Gators came within one run of tying MSU in the bottom of the second courtesy of a grand slam by catcher Taylore Fuller. After the second inning, the two teams evened out by scoring one run each to give the game its final score of 6-5.
Starkville’s Team heads back home for a critical three-game conference clash starting Friday against in-state rival Ole Miss. Game one will be broadcast live on ESPNU at 7 p.m. CT. First pitch on Saturday and Sunday is at 1 p.m. CT. Admission is free to all events at the MSU Softball Stadium, but if you cannot attend, free live audio as well as video (except Friday) will be available online to HailStateTV subscribers (www.HailState.com/hstvlive).
For live in-game updates of MSU’s rivalry series in Starkville, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures, like the team on Facebook at Facebook.com/MStateSB and visit the team’s Instagram account at MStateSB. For pregame and postgame video, check out MSU’s official YouTube channel at YouTube.com/HailState.
Rivalry Weekend Promotions vs. Ole Miss
Friday, April 12th – Ole Miss (7:00 p.m.)
– GIVEAWAY: 100 Hail State Sunglasses to First Fans in Attendance
– GIVEAWAY: MSU Custom Fans to First 50 Fans in Attendance – Honoring One MSU Senior
– Facebook Friday Giveaway
– 2 Bulldog Coalition Points for Students
Saturday, April 13th – Ole Miss (1:00 p.m.)
- GIVEAWAY: 250 “Thank You” T-Shirts to First Fans in Attendance
- Easter Egg Claim from Around Campus – Prizes Ranging from Gift Cards & Electronics to MSU Gear
– “2013 Greek Day at the Park”
– In-Game Twitter Trivia Giveaways
– Celebrity Home Run Derby Post-Game – MSU Coaches vs. MSU Players
– Barnes & Noble Softball Store on Site
– 2 Bulldog Coalition Points for Students
Sunday, April 14th – Ole Miss (1:00 p.m.)
- GIVEAWAY: 100 Pink “Nerf” Softballs to First Fans in Attendance
– “STRIKE OUT CANCER” Game
– Sunday Bingo with Giftcard Giveaways