April 13, 2013 11:07:42 PM
Scott Walters - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- When Vann Stuedeman signed on as softball coach at Mississippi State University, Friday night was the night she dreamed about.
With national television cameras rolling and a MSU Softball Field record crowd of 1,553 assembled, the Bulldogs did their part with a 5-1 victory against the University of Mississippi in the opening game of a their best-of-three Southeastern Conference series.
"This was so awesome in so many ways," Stuedeman said."The athletic department did such a great job. So much promotion went into this weekend series. If you want to play for championships, it starts with a championship environment. We had that. The show of support was amazing."
The previous record crowd for the MSU Softball Field was 1,547 for a 1998 game against Ole Miss.
The Bulldog Club hosted a tailgate party and several marketing plans were put in place to bring students out to the MSU Softball Field. The series also benefited from good weather and the MSU baseball team playing at Texas A&M University.
"The crowd was amazing," MSU junior pitcher Alison Owen said. "They really lifted us. When you see the best teams in the nation play, they have these types of crowds. It really meant a lot to all of us to see everybody come out and have a good time."
On Saturday, an announced crowd of 601 watched as MSU clinched the series with a 6-5 victory.
Owen dominates Friday
The series opener belonged to Owen.
The transfer from the University of Georgia was expected to make an immediate impact on the pitching staff after sitting out last season to gain transfer eligibility.
Against Ole Miss, Owen retired 16 straight batters in one stretch. Ole Miss finished with two hits, including a solo home run by Londen Ladner in the second inning.
"It was really important that we came out and started the series strong," Owen said. "The last time we played at home (a series loss to Auburn University), we had a tough start and we really let it bother us the rest of the weekend. Our goal was to come up and start on a better note."
Owen threw 82 pitches while reducing her ERA to 1.62.
MSU continues in-state roll
With victories Friday and Saturday, Stuedeman is 11-0 all-time against teams from the state of Mississippi. Her worksheet includes a 5-0 mark against Ole Miss. MSU has won seven straight in the series.
"It is very important to control your state," Stuedeman said. "It is our job to grow softball in this state. While you are growing softball in the state, you want young players to strive to make the next level. You want these players knowing that your school is a place you can come play in the best conference in the nation and have success."
With a victory today, MSU would clinch a .500 or better season for a second-straight year. The Bulldogs last achieved that feat in 2007-08. ... MSU is 4-1 on national television in each of the past two seasons. ... The Bulldogs moved to 9-6 in one-run games with Saturday's 6-5 win ... In the celebrity home run derby held postgame Saturday, Johnthan Banks wowed the crowd with two towering shots and women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer drew rave reviews from the crowd by reaching the warning track twice
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter