March 3, 2014 9:33:37 AM
GULFPORT -- Senior Alison Owen and freshman Alexis Silkwood delivered dominating pitching performances Sunday to ensure the Mississippi State softball team would own the best 20-game start in program history.
Owen guided MSU to a 2-1 victory against Ohio, while Silkwood helped the club to a 2-1 victory against Texas State in its final games at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Softball Classic.
The victories helped MSU improve to 19-1. The 2006 squad had the previous best start with an 18-2 record. MSU has allowed the fewest runs (12) through 20 games in program history. The 2006 group held the previous best with 23 runs.
A fourth-inning sacrifice fly from senior Logan Foulks drove in the game-winning run in the opener against Ohio. Freshman Caroline Seitz provided MSU's other run with a first-inning home run. In the second contest, Seitz plated the deciding run with a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Owen (8-1) nearly pitched a perfect game, letting just one runner reach base -- Dakota Pyles had a one-out home run in the third. The long ball snapped a string of 33 2/3 consecutive innings without an earned run for Owen. Her last earned run was against Maryland in the third inning Feb. 14. She struck out 11.
Against Texas State, Silkwood (5-0) became the first MSU freshman to open her career at 5-0 since Lindsey Dunlap went 5-0 in 2009. She scattered four hits in 6 2/3 innings and surrendered an unearned run. She struck out nine and walked two. Sophomore Jacey Punches recorded the second out of the seventh inning on a pop out before Silkwood re-entered for the final out.
Against Ohio, the Bulldogs took a quick lead as Seitz hit a solo homer with two outs in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the third, the Bobcats (12-6) returned the favor with the Pyles' long ball.
MSU regained the lead 2-1 in the top of the fourth. Junior Julia Echols led off with a double off the base of the wall in center, moved to third on a single to right from Seitz and scored on Foulks' sacrifice fly. After a strikeout, freshman Mackenzie Toler and junior Ashley Phillips drew consecutive walks to load the bases. Dorsey entered and got a strikeout looking to end the threat.
Neither team had a base runner reach second base again until the top of the seventh. Toler led off with a single and was replaced at first base by freshman pinch runner Katie Anne Bailey. Phillips was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs. MSU tried to execute the double steal, but Bailey was thrown out at third. After a strikeout, sophomore Loryn Nichols walked, but Dorsey avoided damage with another whiff.
Owen retired Ohio in order in the seventh to seal the victory.
In the second game, Texas State (13-8) took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first. Kelli Baker reached on a leadoff single, advanced to second on a passed ball and went to third on a one-out wild pitch. Silkwood recorded a groundout, but Courtney Harris singled up the middle to plate Baker for the early advantage. A strikeout by Kortney Koroll ended the threat.
MSU evened the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the second. Foulks was hit with the first pitch of the frame, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, went to third on a groundout and came home on a Phillips double to left center. House avoided further damage with a strikeout.
Neither team had another runner reach second base until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Bulldogs put together a two-out rally and took a 2-1 lead. After a lineout and groundout started the frame, Nichols and senior Heidi Shape drew consecutive walks. The first pitch to Echols hit her in the leg to fill the bases. Seitz sent a slow roller to Texas State shortstop Jordan Masek, who fielded the ball but Seitz beat the throw to first and Nichols scored. A groundout closed the inning.
Texas State had a chance to even the score in the top of the sixth, but a Shape diving catch held it off the scoreboard. Timishia North hit a one-out single and was forced out at second on a fielder's choice. Harris drew a walk to put runners on first and second with two outs. Koroll got a barrel on the ball, but Shape dove to her right and made the run-saving grab.
MSU will play host to UAB at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
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