STARKVILLE, Miss. - Freshman Sam Lenahan's two-run home run sparked a four-run second inning, and Mississippi State made it hold up as the Bulldogs upset No. 7 Georgia 8-6 in the opening game of a three-game SEC softball series at Turner Stadium in Athens.
The home run was the eighth of the season for the Lawrenceville, Ga., native, tying fellow Georgia native Courtney Nesbit for the team lead.
Playing the final games of her career in her home state, Nesbit collected a pair of hits and scored a run. Heidi Shape, a native of Duluth, Ga., also added a pair of hits and drove in a run.
Mississippi State pressured Georgia into four miscues in the game, and the Bulldogs scored five of their eight runs with two out.
The Maroon & White improved to 24-29 overall and 10-16 in SEC play. Georgia fell to 42-10 and 15-9 in the league.
Mississippi State put across the four deciding runs as nine batters came to the plate in the top of the second inning. Nesbit opened the inning with a single, and Lenahan followed with her towering shot that snuck just inside the foul pole in left field.
Following a pair of strikeouts, freshman Briana Bell reached on an error by UGA shortstop Laura Trout and took third on a Brittany Gates single to right field. Ali Bainbridge put MSU in front 3-0 with an RBI single that chased Georgia starter Alison Owen.
Bainbridge's hit puts her three shy of reaching the 200-hit mark for her career.
"I thought we did a good job of putting some runs on the board in the second inning. Sam came through with a big home run for us, but we did a nice job scratching across a couple more runs after that," MSU head coach Jay Miller said. "We tried to give it back to them in the bottom of the second, but we did a nice job putting the pressure on them. We kept the ball in play, and they made some mistakes that we took advantage of."
Owen fell to 15-4 as she allowed four runs (two earned) on four hits in 1.2 innings.
Freshman Heidi Shape, a Duluth, Ga., native, greeted reliever Erin Arevalo with a base hit that scored Gates to put the visiting Bulldogs ahead 4-2.
Georgia cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning as a Mississippi State two-out miscue led to a pair of runs. Following two groundouts, Brittany Gates had the third out pop out of her glove in center field, putting Kristyn Sandberg on second.
Brittney Hubbard followed with an RBI double, and Trout made it a 4-2 game with a run-scoring single off MSU starter Kylie Vry.
Vry worked two innings, allowing the two unearned runs and two hits. She struck out a pair before giving way to junior Misty Flesher.
Flesher earned the win and improved to 8-6. She allowed three runs and three hits over 2.1 innings before sophomore Stephanie Becker surrendered a run and two hits over the final 2.2 innings to notch her first save of the year.
"We talked about getting everyone through the order once and making a change depending on the situation in the game. It worked out really well for us," Miller said. "All three pitchers did their job giving us a chance to win, and we took advantage of it."
Neither team could capitalize on leadoff base hits in the third, but Mississippi State struck with a run in the top of the fourth to extend the lead to 5-2.
Bell opened the frame with a single up the middle. Three batters later, Heidi Shape's pop fly found its way between the pitcher and second baseman for a single. Ka'ili Smith plated Bell as she hit a fly ball that bounced off a diving Hubbard in right for a double.
Mississippi State jumped ahead 6-2 in the top of the fifth as Chelsea Raines hit her first of back-to-back doubles and scored on a Bell ground ball that was thrown away by Arevalo.
Morgan Montemayor came to the circle following the miscue and got UGA out of the inning, and the host Bulldogs cut the lead to 6-5 in the home half of the fifth. Ashley Pauly singled and Flesher walked Taylor Schlopy. Following a Megan Wiggins lineout, Alisa Goler lined a pitch over the wall in right-center that cut the MSU lead to a single run.
Becker relieved Flesher, and after getting a strikeout, surrendered a single before Sanderberg hit a fly ball to left to end the inning.
The MSU offense added some extra runs in the top of the seventh off a pair of Georgia errors. With two outs in the inning, Jessica Cooley went to second on a two-out error, and Raines brought her home with her 13th double of the season.
Raines then scored on a Bell ground ball that Trout mishandled at shortstop to give Mississippi State the 8-5 advantage.
Schlopy was hit by a pitch to begin the bottom of the seventh, and she scored on a Megan Wiggins double to cut the MSU lead to 8-6.
Goler followed with a line drive to right-center that Smith snagged on the run. She threw the ball to second, and Wiggins was called out for leaving the bag early.
Becker snagged a Hesson ground ball for the final out, setting off a Mississippi State celebration in front of the first base dugout.Mississippi State goes for the series win at 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. Audio of the game will be broadcast on www.mstateathletics.com/m2mlive.
Mississippi State 8, Georgia 6 (May 06, 2011 at Athens, Ga.)
Mississippi State... 040 110 2 - 8 11 1 (24-29, 10-16 SEC)
Georgia............. 020 030 1 - 6 7 4 (42-10, 15-9 SEC)
Pitchers: Mississippi State - Kylie Vry; Misty Flesher(3); Stephanie Becker(5) and Sam Lenahan.
Georgia - Alison Owen; Erin Arevalo(2); Morgan Montemayor(5) and Ashley Razey.
Win-Misty Flesher(8-6) Save-Stephanie Becker(1) Loss-Alison Owen(15-4) T-2:28 A-1076
HR MS - Sam Lenahan (8).
HR UG - Alisa Goler (16).