STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) - Allowing a lone bunt single in the sixth inning, senior Cassady Knudsen turned in a shutdown performance in the circle as No. 21 Mississippi State (26-4) defeated Central Arkansas (13-13), 7-0, at Nusz Park Wednesday night.
The right-handed allowed two base runners in the first inning via a walk and hit by pitch before retiring the next 13 batters she faced with help of eight strikeouts. The Bears would not see another base runner until the sixth inning as UCA would load the bases with a walk, fielding error and a bunt single, its lone hit of the night.
Senior Holly Ward tossed the final two innings, working out of the bases-loading jam by forcing a double play on her first pitch of the game. Ward did not allow a base runner over her two innings and recorded a lone strikeout.
The top of the order did the damage for the Bulldogs at the plate as the first four hitters with 5-for-12 with six runs score, five RBIs and two home runs off the bats for senior Reggie Harrison and junior Sarai Niu.
"Both Reggie (Harrison) and Sarai (Niu) got a hold of it for sure," said head coach Vann Stuedeman. "Sarai welcomed the new pitcher. Any time a team changes pitchers and you can get a hit right away that is deflating. We were able to capitalize on some miscues, which is a huge deal. That was one thing I did not think we did well last Saturday at Missouri, being able to do that will be a huge step for this team moving forward."
After the first four Bulldogs were retired in order to start the game, senior Morgan Bell knocked the first hit of the game with a triple to the game in left center. Junior Emily Heimberger would bring home on the next at bat as her groundout to the pitcher allowed Bell to score.
The Bulldogs broke open the game in the third inning behind a couple timely hits. After junior Kat Moore led off the inning with a bunt single, Harrison slugged her first home run since March 9 to push the lead to 3-0. The Bulldogs quickly put two runners on with a hit by pitch to Niu and a Heimberger single up the middle before a miscue in the outfield by the Bears allowed the fourth run of the game to score.
The final runs of the game all came with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. With two runners on via a single by freshman Mia Davidson and a fielder's choice with all hands save by Harrison, Niu sent a no-doubter to deep center field for her second homer of the season.