STARKVILLE, Miss. – On Friday, the Columbia softball team split its two games of the 2012 season. Liz Caggiano's seventh-inning heroics gave the Lions a 5-3 win in their season opener.
An eight-run third inning proved costly for Columbia (1-1) as the Lions fell in five frames to Mississippi State, 11-1, in their second game of the 13th MSU Bulldog Classic.

Liz Caggiano hit the game-winning two-RBI double in the bottom of the seventh, veterans Emily Snodgrass, Jennifer Bergeron and Christie Taylor had two hits apiece and the Columbia softball team rallied back from a three-run deficit defeat Louisiana Tech, 5-4, in the Lions’ 2012 season opener.

Down 4-3 one out in the bottom of the seventh, Morgan Cook connected for a single to center field. After Emily Caruthers entered to pinch run, Snodgrass ripped a double down the left field line to give the Columbia two runners in scoring position. Bergeron was hit by a pitch in the next-at bat, so the bases were juiced with one out for the rookie catcher Caggiano. The Bellaire, Texas, native belted a double to left center bring in Caruthers and Snodgrass and give the Lions their first victory in a season opener since 2008. The game-winning double was the first hit of Caggiano’s collegiate career.

First-year Brooke Darling (1-0) was a workhorse in the circle and earned the win after tossing a full seven innings with two strikeouts and three earned runs in her collegiate debut.

Louisiana Tech (9-8), the designated away team, took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Dacia Hale hit a one-out single through the left side to plate Amanda Kreuger. The run was unearned as Kreuger had advanced to third base following a throwing error by Snodgrass.

The Lions were aggressive offensively from the start as the looked to quickly respond. With two outs in the bottom of the first, Bergeron singled through the left side and Morgan Cook motored around the corner from second base before being thrown out at home plate.

Columbia had a chance to even the game once again in the third inning but left a runner stranded on third. First-year Mackensey Lakian opened the home third with a single to left center and advanced to third base after a strikeout, groundout and an illegal pitch from Louisiana Tech starter Melanie Goff. With two outs, Lakian was left stranded on third when Snodgrass grounded out to short.

The Lady Techsters saw their lead grow to 3-0 in the top of the fourth when Kreuger hit a two-out, two-RBI triple to right field to score Kendra Harmon and Charday Wilson.

The Lions started to claw their way out of the three-run deficit in the bottom of the fourth. Bergeron led off the frame with a single to center and then stole second base. Two batters later, Taylor singled down the left field line to drive in Bergeron for Columbia’s first run of the game and of the year. Taylor advanced to second on the throw and advanced to third on a groundout in the following at-bat. With two outs, first-year Kalli Schultea knocked an RBI double to right center to plate Taylor and bring Columbia to within 3-2.

Columbia remained hot in the bottom of the fifth as the Lions knotted the game at 3-3. First-year Kayla Shimoda led off the inning with an infield single to short and advanced to second in the next at-bat. With one out, Snodgrass ripped a double to left center to bring home Shimoda.

Louisiana Tech jumped back in front in the top of the seventh. With one out and one on, Katelyn Hill drew a walk on 12 pitches. Hill and Michelle Jones pulled off a double steal to give the Lady Techsters two runners in scoring position. After Tricia Van Winkle drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases, Alayna Kipp hit a sacrifice fly to center to plate Hill and give Louisiana Tech a 4-3 advantage.

Taylor went 2-of-3 at the plate with one RBI and one run scored. Snodgrass finished 2-of-4 with one RBI and one run. Bergeron was 2-of-3 with one run. Eight different Lions recorded hits in the game, including four first-years.

Tournament host Mississippi State defeated Columbia, 11-1, in the Lions’ second game of the day. The Bulldogs scored eight runs in the third and three in the fourth to force the five-inning run rule.

The Lions jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Kayla Shimoda drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second in the next at-bat. Jennnifer Bergeron clubbed a single to right center and advanced to second on a fielding error by the right fielder. Shimoda scored on the play to plate Columbia’s lone run of the game.

Columbia maintained the 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third, but Mississippi State exploded with eight runs to seize control of the game. Jessica Cooley led off the frame with a solo home run to left off Lions starter Tristin Moone to even the game at 1-1. After two walks and an infield single, the Bulldogs had the bases loaded with no outs and Brittany Bell made the Lions pay with a three-RBI double to left center and an advancement to third on the throw. Sam Lenahan plated bell with an RBI single up the middle, giving MSU a 5-1 advantage. Kalli Schultea entered in relief of Moone and recorded two outs but walked two batters to load the bases again. Jessica Offutt’s bunt single to first scored Lenahan. Kaili Smith reached on an error in the next at-bat and Cooley and Shelby Fisher scored to give MSU an 8-1 lead.

Mississippi State scored three more runs in the fourth to put the game out of reach. Lenahan hit a no-out RBI single to right and Fisher followed with a two-RBI double to left center to round out the Bulldogs’ scoring.

Moone (0-1) took the loss after allowing six earned runs over two innings of work. Schultea allowed three earned runs and struck out one in her first collegiate appereance. Game one starter Brooke Darling pitched a scoreless inning of relief in the fourth and recorded one strikeout.

Shimoda, Bergeron and Liz Caggiano recorded the Lions’ only hits in the game.

Mississippi State’s Misty Flesher (1-1) picked up the win after tossing five frames with five strikeouts and one earned run allowed.

The game was rain delayed to a 3:55 p.m. (ET) start.

Columbia will close out its stay in Starksville with games against Mississippi State and Samford on Saturday. The Lions face MSU again at 11 a.m. and take on Samford at 5 p.m.