February 26, 2013 12:21:39 PM
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State University softball coach Vann Stuedeman knew she had her ace pitcher the minute Alison Owen decided to transfer from the University of Georgia.
"We knew when she said yes to Mississippi State, it was a big yes for our program," Stuedeman said. "With the help of our whole staff, she can make a huge impact. She is good now, but she can be even better."
Owen was named Southeastern Conference softball co-pitcher of the week, the league announced Monday. The right-hander's first career SEC honor makes her
the ninth pitcher in school history and the second Bulldog in the last seven seasons to pick up the nod.
Owen broke the single-game school record with 15 strikeouts in a complete-game, two-hit blanking of Wichita State University. The performance came six days after Owen tied the previous mark of 14, which was last set twice back in 1998.
One day later, Owen returned to the circle and broke her own school record with a 16-strikeout performance against Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. The Newnan, Ga., native fanned the entire Cougars' lineup consecutively to start the game, becoming the first pitcher in school history to record nine-straight strikeouts. The career-high 16 K's marked the most by a SEC pitcher in a seven-inning game this season.
Owen was named to the Blues City Classic All-Tournament Team Sunday night after going 2-0 on the weekend. The righty pitched two complete-game shutouts at the Southaven tournament, striking out 31 batters and issuing her first walk of the season in 40.1 innings pitched. Opponents squeezed out three hits and failed to score a run against the Bulldogs' ace, hitting a minuscule .067.
"I would not have been able to accomplish this if it was not for the animal defense behind me and our team's pitch-by-pitch mentality," Owen said Monday afternoon. "I also want to personally thank my two catchers this weekend, Sam Lenahan and Logan Foulks. They did a phenomenal job behind the plate."
On the season, the junior is 5-1 and leads the SEC in opponent batting average (.076), strikeouts per seven innings (11.4) and fewest walks allowed (one). Additionally, she is third in the league in ERA (0.52) and ranks fourth in strikeouts (65). Her last three starts have all been complete-game shutouts, including two one-hitters as well as a two-hitter.
"She came in with such a huge upside and she definitely has not plateaued," Stuedeman said. "She knows what she is doing and she has very good command. That year we spent picking apart the mechanics and then she came in with so much talent already."
Stuedeman's pitchers have been one of the main reasons for MSU's early success this year (9-4). The staff leads the SEC in strikeouts (143) and opponent batting average (.159), while ranking second in fewest hits allowed (51). The Bulldogs are on pace for 605 strikeouts in the regular season, which would shatter the school record set last season of 358. Opponents are hitting just .159 off MSU's staff, which would also destroy the MSU all-time mark of .216. State's record of 6.7 strikeouts per seven innings set by Stuedeman's staff last season would be obliterated by this year's 11.3 mark, while the 1.82 staff ERA is currently the lowest in 15 years.
"Vann really is the best pitching coach in America because as soon as I got here, I felt comfortable," Owen said. "When it came this year to actual games, I felt like I'd been doing it here all the time."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
2. Strange Sex, Familiar Sex BOOK REVIEWS
4. A Stone's Throw: Bridge work COLUMNS