May 13, 2011 9:18:00 AM
OXFORD -- Freshman All-Southeastern Conference selection Sam Lenahan had an RBI single Thursday night, but the Mississippi State softball team saw its season end with a 5-1 setback to the No.4 University of Alabama in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament.
MSU finishes the season 24-32, while Alabama (45-7) advances to play Georgia at 4:30 p.m. today (ESPNU) in the semifinals.
"It was a frustrating season overall with all of the injuries that forced us to shift our lineup around. It took us a while to get settled down, but once we did we started playing better softball later in the year," Mississippi State head coach Jay Miller said. "I was pleased with the way this team fought and got us back to the SEC Tournament. We just didn''t get the job done early in the year to get that NCAA Tournament bid, but hopefully that''s something we can take care of next year."
Senior Ali Bainbridge had MSU''s other hit. The single, which came in her final collegiate at-bat, put her at 200 hits for her career.
MSU had a chance to take the lead in the top of the first. Alabama starting pitcher Kelsi Dunne walks to Ali Bainbridge, Heidi Shape, and Sam Lenahan, but the Bulldogs failed to score.
"We had some opportunities to get to Dunne when she wasn''t sharp in the early innings," Miller said. "We had the bases loaded one inning and runners on in another, but we couldn''t take advantage. I thought our team fought really hard, and Sam came through with a big base hit to give us the lead. We just couldn''t hold it, and give credit to Dunne. She showed why she is the SEC Pitcher of the Year."
Alabama threatened in the bottom of the inning behind a pair of bunt singles from Kayla Braud and Jennifer Fenton. MSU starting pitcher starter Stephanie Becker got a pair of infield popups and a groundball to first to end the inning.
Becker (7-11) took the loss. She allowed five runs and nine hits while striking out four in the complete-game effort.
Dunne (24-3) also went the distance, allowing a run and two hits, while striking out 10.
After failing to capitalize on the first-inning opportunity, the Bulldogs got another chance in the top of the third and made it count. Ka''ili Smith reached on a fielder''s choice, and senior Courtney Nesbit walked to set the stage for Lenahan, who punched MSU''s first hit of the game into center field to plate Smith with the game''s first run.
Alabama tied the game in the bottom of the fourth behind a Whitney Larsen leadoff double. Two batters later, Jackie Traina walked, and a wild pitch advanced the pair. Larsen scored the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Jazlyn Lunceford.
Larsen''s three-run home run in the fifth gave Alabama its first lead. Her 12th home run of the season went to center field and just beyond the leaping glove of outfielder Brittany Gates.
Lunceford scored Alabama''s final run as she tripled off the top of the wall in center field to open the sixth and scored on a Kaila Hunt sacrifice fly.
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