February 12, 2009
STARKVILLE -- On the cusp of breaking into the NCAA Division I Top 25 softball rankings after a weekend of three consecutive victories in the Bulldog Round Robin, Mississippi State seemed poised to continue its winning ways Wednesday against the University of Southern Mississippi.
The Golden Eagles had different plans.
A four-run second inning helped Southern Miss defeat MSU 7-3 on a windy afternoon at the MSU Softball Field.
The loss prevented MSU seventh-year coach Jay Miller from becoming the program''s all-time leader in victories. He is tied with former coach Kathy Arendsen (1997-2000) with 220 wins.
"We were pretty flat," Miller said. "I didn''t think we had the focus and concentration from the first inning on. We dug ourselves a hole early and just couldn''t get out of it. I did not think we fought back very well to give ourselves a chance offensively."
Courtney Hill set the offensive wheels in motion for Southern Miss with a first-pitch triple to right-center field. Catcher Kristin Pilgrim singled with one out to score Hill with the game''s first run.
MSU (3-2) answered in the bottom of the first when catcher Chelsea Bramlett scored on a Ali Bainbridge grounder to first to tie the game at 1-all.
Southern Miss (3-2) battered starting pitcher Elizabeth Woolven, who was pulled in the second inning after giving up five earned runs.
She was replaced by freshman Lindsay Dunlap.
"I thought Lindsay did a good job coming in," Miller said. "I don''t think we were ready to play today. It doesn''t matter if it''s a mid-week game, weekend, or SEC game. You have to show up every day."
USM scored two more runs in the fourth on back-to-back home runs by Pilgrim and Megan Hill to go ahead 7-1.
The Bulldogs'' Brittany Bell scored in the bottom of the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Kaili Smith to left field to make it 7-2.
MSU''s final run came in the sixth when Sammie Jo Bailey scored on Jessie Bailey''s ground out to first.
Dunlap allowed five hits, two runs and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings.
"I don''t think I pitched that great," Dunlap said. "I felt like I should have come in and settled down. I felt like I was getting stronger at the end. But I have to show the team I can be a good pitcher even though I''m a freshman."
USM pitcher Courtney Ramos (3-0) went the distance for the first time this year, giving up seven hits and striking out five.
"Our offense started off whacking the ball and that really helps the pitchers," Ramos said. "Today our whole offense and defense did great. Once you get those runs it takes the pressure off and we were able to do that today."
USM second-year head coach Howard Dobson was pleased with his team''s effort.
"It was nice to come here and get a road win," Dobson said. " Coach Miller has such a great program, and for us to come play as well as we did is great. The last few games we''ve been playing well. We have a very young team. We had to get our kids in the fire now and get them ready to play now for conference games."
Mississippi State travels to Tallahassee, Fla., to play in the Sunshine Classic. MSU will meet No. 23 Purdue, Appalachian State, Miami (Ohio), and host Florida State. The Bulldogs play Purdue at 3:45 p.m. Friday.
"Now is the time to pick it up," Miller said. "We''ve played great at times."
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