STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – One final offensive showcase helped Mississippi State softball to a 5-0 opening weekend with an 8-0 victory in five innings over Jacksonville State on Sunday to complete the Bulldog Kickoff Classic. It is the second 5-0 start for MSU in the three years under head coach Vann Stuedeman.
It was not just the offense, however, as the Bulldog pitching staff tossed two shutouts and yielded just three runs in a dominant opening weekend. MSU posted a 0.75 earned-run average and struck out 38 batters while issuing just four walks. The three runs are the fewest allowed by the Bulldog pitching staff through the first five games of a season since surrendering two in 2010.
Sunday at the plate, freshman Caroline Seitz hit her second home run in as many games and junior Katie Gentle drove in the game-winning run with a pinch-hit double in the second inning.
From the circle, senior pitcher Alison Owen (2-0) allowed just one hit, a double to Jamie McGuire in the top of the fifth. She struck out six and did not issue a walk in her second complete game in as many days. Casey Akenberger (1-1) took the loss for the Gamecocks, tossing two innings and allowing five runs on five hits and four walks. Tiffany Harbin threw the remaining two-and-two-thirds frames, yielding three runs on four hits and two free passes, and hit a batter. She also fanned one.
The Bulldogs broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the second for a 4-0 lead. Seitz and Mackenzie Toler reached on consecutive walks to open the frame. Following a fly out, sophomore Loryn Nichols singled through the left side to load the bases for Gentle, who doubled to the gap in left center to plate Seitz and Toler for a two-run lead. Senior Jessica Offutt followed with a double over first base that plated Nichols and sophomore Kayla Winkfield, who re-entered to run for Gentle. Senior Heidi Shape walked, but a pop out and fly out closed the inning.
MSU quickly added to the lead in the bottom of the third as Seitz led off with a home run for a 5-0 advantage. Toler followed with a single to left center and was replaced by freshman pinch runner Katie Anne Bailey, who made her Mississippi State debut. Junior Julia Echols walked, but a sacrifice bunt, fielder’s choice and groundout ended the threat.
Another solo shot in the fourth pushed the MSU lead to 6-0 as senior Logan Foulks hit a one-out long ball to left.
Owen gave up her lone hit of the contest in the top of the fifth with the McGuire double, but bounced back with consecutive strikeouts to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Bulldogs ended the contest with two runs for the 8-0 final score. After a foul out started the frame, consecutive singles by Echols, Nichols and Winkfield loaded the bases with one out. Offutt popped out to second, but Shape was hit by a pitch to force in a run for a seven-run lead and Foulks received a free pass for the final run.
MSU wraps up its season-opening home stand on Tuesday with a 5 p.m. CT contest against Southeastern Louisiana.