KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (MSU Athletics) – For the second time in as many Sundays, Mississippi State clinched a Southeastern Conference series with an exciting victory. The Bulldogs trailed 5-4 entering the sixth inning, but exploded for seven runs in the frame to win 11-7 at No. 4/4 Tennessee. MSU had led 4-1 going to the bottom of the fifth before the Lady Vols scored four times to take a 5-4 lead.
The Bulldogs’ seven-run sixth inning included six hits, two suicide squeeze bunts, two walks, two Tennessee errors and a hit batter. Providing the game-winning run was freshman Caroline Seitz, who went three-for-five with two runs batted in and two scored. Senior Logan Foulks hit a two-run home run and finished with two hits and three RBI.
With the triumph, Mississippi State becomes the first program to win the series against both Alabama and Tennessee in the same season since Florida took two-of-three games from the Crimson Tide and swept the Lady Vols in 2011. MSU is just the fourth program in the last 10 years to accomplish the feat, joining Florida (2011 & 2009), LSU (2007) and Georgia (2005).
MSU improved to 35-15, tied with the 2008 squad for the best 50-game mark in program history. Mississippi State, 7-11 in the Southeastern Conference, owns the fifth most overall regular-season wins by a Mississippi State squad. The triumph is also the seventh by the Bulldogs against a top-25 foe this season, tied for the third most in a campaign in program history.
Freshman Alexis Silkwood threw the first four-and-a-third innings, surrendering four runs, three earned, on five hits and five walks. She fanned four. Senior Alison Owen earned the win in two-and-two-thirds innings to improve to 17-9. She allowed three hits and three runs with two walks and two whiffs. Tennessee’s Ellen Renfroe (23-5) threw four-and-a-third innings, yielding eight runs, seven earned, on six hits, three hit batters and three walks. She fanned the first four batters of the game but did not register another whiff. Rainey Gaffin recorded two outs to end the top of the fifth. Renfroe re-entered in the top of the sixth but did not record an out. Erin Gabriel came in for the final two innings, giving up two runs, one earned, on three hits and two strikeouts.
Tennessee (36-8, 12-6 SEC) had a chance to take an early lead, loading the bases in the bottom of the first, but was held off the scoreboard. Shaliyah Geathers led off with a double just over the head of a leaping Kayla Winkfield at shortstop. After a pop out, Madison Shipman walked to put two runners on and a wild pitch moved the pair up a base. Silkwood struck out Annie Aldrete, but issued a free pass to Melissa Davin to load the bases with two down. Haley Tobler hit it hard to center field, but junior Ashley Phillips made the inning-ending catch.
The Bulldogs used a two-out rally in the top of the third to take a 2-0 lead. Freshman Katie Anne Bailey walked to open the frame and moved to second on a groundout. After another groundout left her on second, Bailey scored as Seitz blooped a single just over shortstop Shipman’s head and into left center. The single was MSU’s first hit of the contest. Foulks followed with a grounder to Alley Perkins at third. Perkins threw high and Seitz came around from second to score on the error for a two-run advantage. A foul out closed the frame.
Tennessee got a run back in the bottom of the frame to make it a 2-1 Mississippi State lead. With one out, Shipman and Annie Aldrete drew consecutive walks. After a strikeout, Tobler hit one to Winkfield deep in the hole. Winkfield threw to first, but the throw scooted off Foulks’ glove and into shallow right, allowing Shipman to score. A second strikeout ended the inning.
After retiring the Lady Vols in order in the bottom of the fourth, the Bulldogs made it a 4-1 lead in the top of the fifth. With one out, Seitz tripled off the wall in left and Foulks followed with a two-run home run. Senior Sam Lenahan was hit by a pitch and Gaffin entered the circle for Renfroe. Gaffin ended the inning with a groundout and strikeout.
In the bottom of the fifth, Tennessee scored four times, three with two outs, to make it a 5-4 Lady Vol lead. With one out, Shipman hit a home run to left to make it a 4-2 MSU lead. Following the long ball, Aldrete doubled to left center and Davin walked. Owen entered for Silkwood and recorded a strikeout before walking Cheyanne Tarango to load the bases with two down. Pinch hitter Hannah Akamine delivered a two-run single to right center that plated Aldrete and Davin to even the score. A dribbler in front of the plate by Perkins allowed Tarango to score and put the Lady Vols ahead by one run.
The Bulldogs answered immediately in the top of the sixth, breaking the game open with seven runs to go ahead 11-5. Winkfield led off with her second walk of the game and Renfroe re-entered the circle. Bailey followed with a single to center and senior Jessica Offutt walked to load the bases with no outs. Senior Heidi Shape hit an 0-2 pitch through the left side for a single that plated Winkfield and tied the game. Seitz bounced a single over Perkins’ head that plated Bailey for a 6-5 advantage. Gabriel entered and Foulks put down a suicide squeeze that delivered Offutt for a two-run advantage. After a strikeout, junior Julia Echols dropped down a squeeze that plated Shape and Seitz also scored to make it a 9-5 cushion as the throw to first went wide. With runners on the corners and one out, sophomore Loryn Nichols was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Winkfield drove in a run with a single to left and Davin booted the ball to allow Foulks and Echols to score. A pop out and strikeout ended the inning.
In the bottom of the frame, Tennessee got two runs back for an 11-7 deficit. After a walk to Megan Geer started the frame, Shipman homered. Owen retired the next three in order to end the threat.
Owen sent down the Lady Vols in order in the seventh to seal the victory.
Mississippi State has nearly a week off before returning to action Friday to begin Senior Weekend. The Bulldogs face Arkansas at 5 p.m. CT Friday and noon Saturday and Sunday.