March 30, 2013
Starkville, Miss. - After losing game two in a seventh-inning rally by Auburn, the Mississippi State Bulldogs returned the favor by rallying for three runs to claim a 4-3 victory in the series finale over the Tigers' softball team Saturday afternoon.
Auburn dropped to 23-14 overall and 4-8 in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State improved to 21-12 overall and 2-7 in the SEC.
"This was a disappointing loss," Auburn head coach Tina Deese said. "We looked like we were going to close it out, but they got the big home run and took momentum. We've got to regroup and learn from this and moved forward."
Marcy Harper took the loss to fall to 12-6. Harper allowed four runs, all earned, on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts in a complete-game effort.
Allison Owen earned the win to improve to 11-5. Owen went the distance, allowing three runs, one earned, on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts.
Auburn took advantage of a Mississippi State error to get on the scoreboard in the top of the second inning. Baylee Stephens was hit by a pitch with one out. After a strikeout, Tiffany Howard put down a bunt single that was fielded by catcher Sam Lenahan. Howard reached safely, but as she was pumping to fake a throw to second base the ball slipped out of Lenahan's hand and sailed into right field.
Stephens scored easily on the play while Howard advanced to third. Morgan Estell followed with a single to center, scoring Howard to give the Tigers a 2-0 edge.
The Bulldogs threatened in the bottom of the third when Loryn Nichols led off with a single and then stole second to move into scoring position with no outs. Harper, however, battled to retire the next three batters on two infield pop-ups and one strikeout to leave the runner stranded.
Mississippi State put the leadoff batter on in the bottom of the fifth when Swayze Hollenhead was hit by a pitch. Kayla Winkfield was put in to run for Hollenhead. Harper picked up the first out when Julia Echols attempted to bunt and fouled out to Caitlin Schultze behind the plate. Winkfield moved into scoring position when she stole second base without a throw. Harper then got Nichols swinging on strike three for the second out.
Harper followed the strikeout with a four-pitch walk to Lenahan which put runners at second and first. After falling behind in the count 3-1 to Jessica Cooley, Harper battle back to 3-2. Cooley fouled three consecutive pitches before hitting a fly ball to shallow center that was caught by Howard to end the inning.
After scoring twice in the second inning, the Tigers were kept in check by Owen as she retired 11 consecutive hitters. Branndi Melero broke up the string with a one-out double up the middle in the top of the sixth. Caitlin Jordan followed with a line drive single through the left side which plated Melero to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead. That would be all the Tigers would get, however, as pinch-runner Kristyn Richards was thrown out attempting to steal and Schultze was punched out on strike three.
The Bulldogs cut into the deficit in the bottom of the sixth. Briana Bell laced a one-out double to the wall in left to start the rally. After a wild pitch moved Bell to third, Heidi Shape hit a bloop single into shallow right to bring her home and make it a 3-1 game.
Jessica Offutt was put in to run for Shape and stole second on the very next pitch. Harper picked up the second out when Erin Nesbit fouled out down the right field line. Offutt took third on the play, but would not advance as Harper ended the inning on a fly out to Stephens in left.
Mississippi State rallied In the bottom of the seventh. Echols led off with an infield single up the middle which brought the tying run to the plate. Harper retired the next batter, Nichols, on a short pop-up to Maris Medina at third base. On the first pitch of the at-bat, Lenahan tied the game with a two-run home run. It was Lenahan's eighth homer of the season and it cleared the wall in right field.
The Tigers dodged a bullet on the next batter when Cooley attempted to stretch a single to right into a double. Cooley was easily thrown out by Melero for the second out of the inning. Foulks, who homered twice Friday, came to the plate and worked the count full before taking ball four to represent the winning run at first base. Ashley Phillips was then put in to run for Foulks at first. Bell then ended the game when her high fly ball to center dropped in front of a diving Howard and rolled, which allowed Phillips to score the game winning run.