SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (WCBI/MSU Athletics) – Senior Stephanie Becker struck out a career-high 13 and teammate Alison Owen broke her own school record with a SEC season-best 16 strikeouts as the Mississippi State softball team recorded a doubleheader sweep Sunday morning on the final day of the Blues City Classic at Greenbrook Park.
The Bulldogs picked up an 8-4 victory against Southeast Missouri State in game one, before shutting out Southern Illinois at Edwardsville by a 1-0 margin in game two. The sweep on the final day of the Memphis-hosted tournament pushed the Maroon and White to 9-4 on the season.
“Stephanie and Alison were both great today,” Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. “I am proud of the way our team competed in both of today’s games.”
For their efforts this weekend, both pitchers were named to the Blues City Classic All-Tournament Team. Owen, who was named to the first team, went 2-0 with two complete-game shutouts, 31 strikeouts, one walk, zero runs allowed, three hits given up and a .067 opponent batting average. Becker earned second-team honors after going 1-0 in two appearances with 23 strikeouts, zero walks, a 1.24 ERA and a .195 opponent batting average.
Junior Sam Lenahan was also named to the all-tournament team after hitting at a .455 clip (5-for-11) with a .909 slugging percentage. The infielder collected four RBIs, two doubles, two walks, a home run and a run scored on the weekend.
A total of 1,469 fans, mostly dressed in maroon and white, attended the Saturday and Sunday games at the in-state Classic, where MSU finished 3-1 on the weekend.
GAME ONE RECAP
Seven different Bulldog batters drove in a run in MSU’s 8-4 early morning victory against Southeast Missouri State. Junior third baseman Logan Foulks notched a season high with a perfect 3-for-3 performance at the plate, tying a season best with two runs scored. Also scoring twice was redshirt sophomore Briana Bell, who finished 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in her first start since May 2011.
“It was 28 degrees when we arrived here to play, so kudos to Becker for stepping up and getting a career high in strikeouts,” Stuedeman said.
With those 13 K’s to go along with zero walks, Becker improved to 2-1 on her senior campaign. The lefty sprinkled four hits over 6.2 innings, giving up two runs (one earned) in 112 pitches. After putting two runners in scoring position with zero outs in the first, Becker did not yield a hit again until one out in the fifth. Redhawks’ pitcher Lindsey Patterson fell to 1-2 after surrendering four runs on six hits and four walks in 6.0 innings of work.
“Our team played really well and we scored a lot of runs,” Becker said. “Sam caught great and Coach Stuedeman called an excellent game.”
Lenahan hammered an RBI double to the gap in right center in the third, which scored Foulks and put MSU on top early by a score of 1-0. State tacked on two more in the fourth with an RBI double by junior Jessica Offutt, who scored on the same play courtesy of a costly throwing error by the SEMO left fielder in an attempt to throw Offutt out at the second bag.
Junior Heidi Shape singled and Foulks walked to begin the top of the fifth frame. Following a wild pitch which moved both runners over, senior Jessica Cooley executed a perfect squeeze, scoring Foulks to make it 4-0 in favor of the Maroon and White. Foulks then tapped the dish on the RBI by Bell. Senior Shelby Fisher concluded the scoring in the fifth with an RBI single that plated Cooley.
State surrendered an unearned run in the bottom of the fifth, but gained it right back courtesy of sophomore Swayze Hollenhead’s first RBI of season, which scored freshman outfielder Loryn Nichols.
The Bulldogs added one more in the top of the seventh off an RBI groundout by redshirt junior Erin Nesbit (her first of 2013), before giving up three runs in the bottom of the last inning to give the game its final score of 8-4.
GAME TWO RECAP
Less than 24 hours after breaking the single-game school record with her 15th strikeout vs. Wichita State, Owen fanned 16 SIU-E batters to break her own mark in MSU’s 1-0 victory against the Cougars. The shutout was the fourth in the first 13 games for MSU this season, which shut out five opponents total in 57 games last season.
“Owen had another spectacular outing,” Stuedeman explained. “She had ice water in her veins and kept working to get the win.”
In addition, Owen set the school record by retiring nine-straight batters via the strikeout to start the game. The junior jumped to 5-1 in 2013 with her third-consecutive complete-game shutout as a starter. Cougars’ pitcher Haley Chambers (3-2) suffered the loss for the visitors.
“Today felt awesome,” Owen said. “Logan behind the dish and the rest of the defense were making plays left and right. That fired me up.”
The lone run of the game came on a clutch two-out single up the middle by Lenahan in the bottom of the first, which allowed sophomore Ashley Phillips to sprint across the impeccable white pentagon.
The toughest challenge of the young season comes March 1-3, as Starkville’s Team travels to Orlando, Fla., to take part in the D9 Citrus Classic. The Bulldogs will play Hofstra, Maryland, LIU-Brooklyn, Fordham and Syracuse in a 48-hour period at the internationally-known ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
For live in-game updates of MSU’s games in the Magic Kindom, follow the program on Twitter at @MStateSB. For pictures from the Classic, 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.
“The team is really excited to go down to Orlando and play some great opponents in some great weather,” Stuedeman explained. “The tournament prepares us for conference play the following week. We have five quality opponents and we’ll have to show up for every pitch.”