STARKVILLE, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - Power hitting and shutdown pitching carried Mississippi State softball to a Sunday sweep of Missouri State and Mississippi Valley State at Nusz Park to clinch the Bulldog Kickoff Classic title.
Senior right-hander Holly Ward tossed her second shutout of the weekend as the Bulldogs topped Missouri State (2-1) by a 5-0 final. Freshman right-hander Emily Williams earned her first collegiate victory in her debut in the circle as State claimed an 8-0 victory over Mississippi Valley State (0-4) in six innings.
MSU opened the 2018 season with four consecutive shutouts, marking the first time in program history that the Bulldogs have blanked opponents in four straight games to open a campaign. The Bulldogs are also off to their first 4-0 start since the 2016 season.
“Another good day, especially being patient to sit out the rain all day yesterday,” said head coach Vann Stuedeman. “I think it took us a little bit this morning to get started against Missouri State. Kat Moore had a great day. Offensively, we have to make some adjustments a little quicker. Pitching-wise, I feel like we need to throw a few more strikes. We had too many walks in the first game. I’m really excited about Emily Williams and Candace Denis’ debut on the mound. We got a lot of good freshmen in there. O’Neil Roberson was another freshman who had a good day. It doesn’t show up in the box score that well, but it does in the quality at-bat chart. She put a lot of barrel on the ball for us. Good to see the stuff from the new people and see sparks from the returners.”
Missouri State and the Bulldogs were locked in a pitching duel over the first four innings as Ward and the Bears’ Kaitlin Beason held batters to a combined six hits. State broke through in the bottom of the fifth as junior outfielder Kat Moore sparked the offense with a leadoff double to centerfield. Freshman Mia Davidson followed with her second home run of the weekend with a monster shot to right field to give State a 2-0 lead.
After getting on board with a walk, senior shortstop Reggie Harrison worked her way to third with a stolen base and taking advantage of Missouri State throwing error on a throw down to second. Harrison came around to score on senior utility player Morgan Bell’s double to right field. Junior utility player Emily Heimberger tripled to center to plate pinch runner sophomore Maddie Dorsett to cap the four-run inning.
Redshirt junior Bevia Robinson and Moore knocked back-to-back singles in the top of the sixth to move Bulldog into scoring position. Harrison rocketed a fly ball into foul territory toward left field, allowing Robinson to score the final run. Ward closed the game with an 1-2-3 inning to record the complete game shutout. Over 7.0 innings, the right-hander allowed two hits, issued four walks and struck out seven.
In Sunday’s finale, Williams earned her first career start in the circle, holding MSVU to one hit while striking out seven over her 4.0 innings of work to earn her first career victory.
The Devilettes kept MSU off the board in the first inning, but the Bulldogs answered in the bottom of the second. Freshman infielder O’Neil Roberson knocked her first collegiate hit with a one-out single to right field. She advanced to third on Heimberger’s bunt single as the speedy junior was able to reach second on an MVSU error. Robinson singled to center to plate Roberson, before Dorsett earned pick up an RBI on a groundout to give MSU an 2-0 lead.
The Dogs would not score again until the fourth inning as Heimberger and Robinson manufactured a run with back-to-back singles. MSU broke out the offense in the fifth inning with Moore’s leadoff homer before Bell capitalized with a three-run bomb of her own to push the score to 7-0.
MSU capped the run-rule victory in the sixth inning as pinch hitter Lexi Malone knocked an infield single to the pitcher. Davidson advanced her to third with a single through the left side. Freshmen pinch hitter Macey Petrey capped the walk-off victory with an RBI on her grounder to short to wrap up MSU’s perfect weekend.
Sophomore right-hander Candace Denis pitched the final two innings, striking out two without allowing a hit.
MSU returns to action on Thursday, Feb. 15 against UT Martin at 4:00 p.m. at Nusz Park before hosting the February Freezer over Friday, Feb. 16 to Sunday, Feb. 18, MSU’s second tournament of the season. The tournament field features Murray State, Drake and South Alabama.
2018 Bulldog Kickoff Classic Results
Friday, Feb. 9
Game 1 – Omaha def. Missouri State, 2-1
Game 2 – Missouri State def. Mississippi Valley State, 4-0
Game 3 - Mississippi State def. Mississippi Valley State, 10-0 (5 inn.)
Game 4 - Mississippi State def. Omaha, 8-0 (5 inn.)
Sunday, Feb. 11
Game 5 – Missouri State def. Omaha, 16-2 (5 inn.)
Game 6 – Omaha def. Mississippi Valley State, 2-1
Game 7 – Mississippi State def. Missouri State, 5-0
Game 8 – Mississippi State def. Mississippi Valley State, 8-0 (6 inn.)