April 8, 2011
Starkville, Miss. - Heidi Shape's three-run home run with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning propelled the Mississippi State Bulldogs to a 4-3 victory over the 22-ranked Auburn softball team Friday night in the series opener.
Auburn dropped to 30-9 overall and 9-6 in the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi State improved to 20-19 overall and 8-6 in the SEC. The Tigers and Bulldogs continue the series with an 11:30 a.m. game Saturday.
"Mississippi State got the big hit tonight," Auburn head coach Tina Deese said. "We had a chance after making a good comeback in the fifth inning to take the lead 3-1. Now we have to come out fighting tomorrow."
Jenee Loree (8-3) took the loss in a complete-game effort. Loree allowed four runs, all earned, on three hits with four walks and nine strikeouts.
Kylie Vry earned the win in relief to improve to 8-8. Vry pitched one and two-thirds innings, allowing just one hit and one walk with no strikeouts. Misty Flesher earned her fourth save, recording the final out of the game after walking one batter. Stephanie Becker started and went five innings, allowing three runs, all earned, on six hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
The Bulldogs took the early lead in the bottom of the second. Sam Lenahan doubled over Caitlin Stangl's head in center with one out to give Mississippi State its first base runner of the game. A wild pitch moved Lenahan to third. Loree then walked Shape to put runners on the corners with one out. On a 2-1 pitch, Chelsea Raines lofted a sacrifice fly to right that scored Lenahan for a 1-0 Bulldogs' lead. Loree would cap the Bulldogs' scoring by retiring Brittany Gates to end the inning.
The Tigers rallied in the top of the fifth inning. With one out, Stangl tripled off the glove of a diving Jessica Cooley in right field. On a 0-2 pitch, Amber Harrison just missed a home run as the ball hit just below the top of the fence in center for an RBI double, scoring Stangl to tie the game.
Morgan Estell followed Harrison with a four-pitch walk to put runners at second and first with one out. Becker registered the second out of the inning when she fanned Katie Colton on a swinging third strike. On a 2-1 pitch, Kyndall White launched a fly ball to center that hit off the glove of a leaping Gates and hit the warning track for a two-run double. Harrison and Estell scored on the play to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead. With White at second, Becker ended the Tigers' rally by forcing Lauren Guzman to pop up to short for the third out.
After allowing a run in the second inning, Loree settled into a groove and held the Bulldogs hitless until a leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth inning from Kaili Smith. A ground out to third moved Smith to second with one out. Lenahan then drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch and the Bulldogs quickly pulled off a double steal to put Smith at third and Lenahan at second.
On a 2-0 pitch, Shape cracked a three-run homer off the scoreboard in left-center to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 lead. It was Shape's fourth home run of the season. It was the first home run given up by Loree since March 16 against Alabama.
In the top of the seventh, Stangl reached on a leadoff single to put the tying run aboard. But, Harrison followed with sharp line drive to third baseman Chelsea Raines who caught the ball and fired to first to double-off Stangl to put the Tigers down to their final out. Estell kept the Tigers chances alive by drawing a four pitch walk.
After going 3-0 on Colton, Vry was lifted for Flesher whose first pitch was a ball to walk Colton and push the tying run to second in Estell. A potential rally ended, however, when Flesher got White to fly out to right to end the game.