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MSU softball rolls over Samford in non-conference play

 

Scott Walters

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State senior second baseman Heidi Shape knew it had been a long time since she had hit a grand slam. 

 

"It's been quite a while," said a grinning Shape. "I do remember the last one and I know it happened a long time ago." 

 

To be exact, Shape went 568 at-bats in between grand slams. Her first came against UNLV in only her sixth career at-bat at MSU. 

 

The second came in the fifth inning Wednesday night and was the decisive blow in a 9-1 win over Samford at the MSU Softball Field. 

 

"Credit goes to the runners before you as well," Shape said. "You have to have three players on base and they had to have done their part, too. Sometimes, the easy part is swinging the bat." 

 

MSU made a lot of things look easy. Widely considered one of the more daunting non-conference challenges left on the schedule, the homestanding Bulldogs made quick work of the Southern Conference-based Bulldogs by battering Samford pitching for nine hits and taking advantage of three errors. 

 

With a winning record necessary for regional play, MSU (25-10) has taken a huge step toward that goal by winning the first two games on a five-game homestand. 

 

"This was just a Vanntastic night," MSU head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We had been on the road for a while (nine straight games), so it felt great to finally be playing at home in front of our fans. This is a really huge win for this team. You can't really hide that. We need wins to get where we want to go, so we are off to a good start." 

 

MSU opened the homestand with a 2-1 win over Southeastern Louisiana Tuesday night. Roughly 24 hours later, MSU was back at the MSU Softball Field taking on a Samford team, which did not have a bevy of quality wins on its overall schedule but did come to town with a 24-8 record. 

 

"Winning Sunday (the final game of a three-game conference series at Auburn) really helped this team a lot," Shape said. "That really gave us a whole lot of momentum coming into the homestand. We should have won Saturday but we let some things affect us during the game. It was good that we could have a reset and come back out on Sunday and just really focus on the process. Then when we got back home, we just wanted to keep the winning going. We know how important these types of games are. The conference series are important, but these are the wins you need to pick up to make postseason play." 

 

MSU started freshman Alexis Silkwood on the mound. Silkwood (7-2) worked five innings, allowing only one hit and one run, coming off a complete-game pitching performance in the win over Auburn Sunday. Alison Owen pitched the final inning to complete the one-hitter. 

 

Offensively, MSU erased a 1-0 deficit by scoring three times in the fourth inning. 

 

Shape also started this big inning by reaching on an error. Jessica Offutt followed with a hit, as did Kayla Winkfield. 

 

Samford committed two errors in the frame and quickly fell behind. MSU stole five bases for a second straight game with three of them coming in that inning alone. 

 

Loryn Nichols also had a hit in the frame and Sam Lenahan capped the scoring in that at-bat with a hard-hit double off the outfield wall. 

 

An inning later, Caroline Seitz walked, Logan Foulks singled and Mackenzie Toler walked prior to Shape's grand slam. 

 

The run rule was brought into effect an inning later when MSU scored twice. 

 

Lenahan and Olivia Golden each drew walks before a game-ending two-run double by Madison Central freshman Katie Anne Bailey. 

 

"It felt really good to finally be pitching at home again," Silkwood said. "Even though we have had some struggles, the team has really grown together throughout the season. 

 

"We have shown what we are capable of doing." 

 

Shape showed what she was capable of doing in her sixth at-bat against UNLV. Ironically, she hit into a double play before hitting the grand slam in a 10-9 loss. 

 

Stuedeman was not on the MSU staff during the 2011 season, so Shape's grand slam Wednesday was the first one she got to see in person. 

 

"It's funny, I was reading the promotional materials before the game and saw that a fan would win an I-pad or flat screen TV, if we hit a grand slam. 

 

"Then after the grand slam, I couldn't help but think to myself, I know Heidi is real excited now, but I bet someone else is, too." 

 

Follow Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott.

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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