MOBILE, Ala. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – For two hours Saturday, the Mississippi State softball team (33-24) showed the fight which brought them to the big dance, coming from behind to eliminate Mississippi Valley State (25-32) from the 2013 NCAA Mobile Regional. Hours later, the music on the dance floor came to a screeching halt, as the Bulldogs were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament with a 3-0 defeat to host South Alabama (47-8).
“We have to get a taste of postseason play, be hungry and realize what it takes to play in the postseason,” head coach Vann Stuedeman said. “This team made a decision to fight. This team is resilient.”
Down to its last four outs and trailing 1-0 against the Delta Devilettes in the first elimination game of the day, senior right fielder Jessica Cooley launched a game-tying home run deep over the center field wall. Following a walk by redshirt sophomore Briana Bell and a bunt single by freshman Kayla Winkfield, senior first baseman Shelby Fisher drove in Bell for the winning run with a single to left field.
All seven of MSU’s hits in the 2-1 victory came with two outs. On top of Bell, Cooley, Winkfield and Fisher, juniors Jessica Offutt, Heidi Shape and Sam Lenahan all went 1-for-3 in game one at the dish.
Junior right-hander Alison Owen tossed a complete-game two-hitter, with her only run being unearned. The righty struck out a NCAA Tournament school-record 13 batters, with her 11th strikeout of the game breaking the single-season school record of 246 set by Autumn Anderson in 1998. The Newnan, Ga., native’s 20 strikeouts this weekend also marked a school record for a single NCAA Tournament as well as in a career. Owen’s win in game one snapped a six-game losing streak in the NCAA Tournament for the Maroon and White, while giving Stuedeman her first career victory as head coach in postseason play.
Thirty minutes following the conclusion of game one, the magic ran out for Mississippi State against the host Jaguars. South Alabama’s Farish Beard went the distance in the circle for the victors, hurling her third-career one-hit shutout, improving to (22-0). The righty struck out a career-high tying 14 batters, with MSU junior Logan Foulks recording the only hit for MSU.
In her last game as a Bulldog, senior lefty Stephanie Becker suffered the loss in game two, falling to (10-9) in her final campaign. The Illinois native surrendered three runs (two earned) on two hits and three walks. Fellow senior southpaw Kylie Vry pitched lights out in her final collegiate outing, throwing 3.2 scoreless innings in relief. In all, five of the nine runs given up by MSU in the Mobile Regional were unearned.
The Bulldogs ended the 2013 season with an overall record of (33-24) and their first NCAA Tournament win since 2008. Stuedeman’s squad defeated four teams hosting NCAA Regionals this weekend, with three of the four wins coming on the road. With Saturday’s win against MVSU, Stuedeman improved to a perfect (14-0) against in-state teams since arriving in Starkville.
“It is just part of the process of building a program,” Stuedeman said. “Last year, we were close to winning one game in a big series, and this year we won a game and were close to winning the big series. Last year, we weren’t able to win in the postseason, and this year, we were able to. It is part of growing and building the program.”