"Softball is a game of inches and tonight the game gave up a few more inches than we would have liked," head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "With that said, we became better tonight as a ballclub and will draw from this learning experience tomorrow."
Senior catcher Ka'ili Smith reached base twice with a single and a walk, while juniors Shelby Fisher and Jessica Cooley also finished 1-for-2. In addition to the trio of Bulldog singles, sophomore center fielder Jessica Offutt and senior designated player Brittany Bell also reached on walks. For the first time this season, the Maroon and White stole four bases for the second-consecutive game.
Laboring through 4.2 innings of work, junior left-handed pitcher Stephanie Becker suffered the loss for MSU, falling to 10-6 on the 2012 campaign. The southpaw surrendered eight runs (seven earned) on seven hits and three walks and struck out three opponents. Picking up the win for the Big Orange was Ellen Renfroe, who hurled a complete-game three-hitter to improve to 16-1 on the year.
The visitors drew first blood with two runs in the top of the first. Leadoff hitter Raven Chavanne got things started with a Davy Crockett rocket to the wall in left for her second triple of the year. After Becker retired Tory Lewis on a 4-3 groundout and hit three-hole hitter Kat Dotson, Chavanne tapped the dish for the first run of the game when cleanup hitter Madison Shipman sliced a single down the right-field line. The shortstop sprinted for second on the next pitch, forcing MSU's Smith to throw down to shortstop Erin Nesbit in an attempt to catch her stealing. Nesbit caught Smith's throw and threw it right back home trying to nab Dotson on her own steal attempt, but it was not in time as the team from Knoxville scored its second run.
Starkville's team had a chance to respond in the first and second inning, starting when Smith drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first frame. Offutt reached on a fielder's choice when Smith was forced out at second, and then swiped the second bag to give MSU its first runner in scoring position. The speedy outfielder advanced to third on a throwing error by the UT catcher, but was stranded there after Renfroe recorded a strikeout and a popout. State put the go-ahead run at the dish two outs into the third, but Renfroe struck out another Bulldog to get out of the jam.
Chavanne jump-started the UT offense again in the third by depositing 1-0 pitch to the gap in right-center field for a stand-up double. Lewis bunted her over to third on a sacrifice. After Dotson was hit by a pitch for the second at-bat in a row, Shipman launched a fly ball deep to center field. Offutt caught it for the second out of the inning, but was too far from home as Chavanne tagged easily for the 3-0 Vols' lead.
Just like the second inning, MSU had two runners on in the bottom of the third, but succumbed to another Renfroe strikeout for its third out.
Extending its lead to 5-0 in the top of the fourth, UT plated a pair of two-out runs on two hits, the first of which came via a solo home run by first baseman Melissa Brown. Catcher Ashley Andrews then reached first for the only time Friday with a 3-1 base on balls and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Chavanne then progressed to first on an infield single to shortstop, knocking Andrews over to third. On the next pitch, UT executed the double steal again, as Andrews scored and Chavanne reached second safely.
Putting the game in run-rule status with a three-run fifth, Dotson started things off with a leadoff bunt single back to Becker. After advancing to second on a passed ball, she was forced out at third after Shipman walked and Gibson reached on a fielder's choice. Pinch hitting for designated player Cheyanne Tarango, Shelby Burchell drew a walk on a 3-1 pitch. With the bases loaded, left fielder Melissa Davin drove it deep to right-center field. Both MSU's Offutt and right fielder Brittany Gates showed no regard for their physical wellbeing, colliding in an all-out dive as the ball trickled to the wall. Davin rounded Burchell on the bases and was called out for doing so, despite the two-RBI single.
With Burchell on first and two gone, Becker was replaced in the circle with sophomore righty Shana Sherrod. Sherrod forced Brown to hit a grounder to second, but an error by the MSU second baseman allowed Brown to reach. With Burchell advancing to second on the Bulldog miscue, the pinch hitter scored when Cat Hosfield recorded an RBI base knock to right for the final run of the contest.
The next game of the series is Saturday at 1 p.m., where the Bulldogs will honor all the young softball players in Mississippi's College Town. Kids from Starkville Parks and Recreation will take the field with Starkville's team for the national anthem and SPR Sports coordinator Sheila Runnels will throw out the first pitch. Following the game, all of the children and fans in attendance will have an opportunity to get autographs from their favorite players. For more information regarding MSU softball, follow the team on Twitter at @MStateSB and like the team at Facebook.com/MStateSB.