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MSU softball grabs critical doubleheader split with No. 16 Missouri

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE --Mississippi State needed less than a day to stew over their effort with the bat. 

 

Less than 24 hours after one of their most paltry efforts at the plate, the Bulldogs offense exploded for a 9-3 victory over No. 16 Missouri in the opening game of a Southeastern Conference doubleheader Saturday at the MSU Softball Field.  

 

Due to the weather forecast, the teams played twice Saturday and will not play today. 

 

MSU (30-12, 3-9 SEC) had just two hits, both of which came from Logan Foulks, in the opener of this three-game conference tilt Friday night in a disappointing 6-0 loss. The Bulldogs wasted no time getting some confidence back in the offense with a three-run opening inning off Missouri pitcher Casey Stangel.  

 

"We took a much better approach today at the plate and you could see we were going to be better immediately after batting practice today," MSU senior catcher Sam Lenahan said. "We really thought we'd get a lot more chances to score today in the first game." 

 

Lenahan drove a pitch deep over the left field wall for her eighth home run of the 2014 season. While hitting just. .248, Lenahan leads the Bulldogs with 33 RBIs this season and her power shot lifted the Bulldogs to 11 more hits in the contest.  

 

"It was just huge for our confidence and overall outlook of our team to strike early and get nine runs in that first game," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. 

 

The middle of the MSU order dominated as Lenahan, Logan Foulks, Caroline Seitz and Julia Echols all had multi-hit games and combined for seven RBIs. The entire MSU order wasn't fooled with Stangel's arsenal of pitches as they struck out just three times in the contest.  

 

"Sam Lenahan is in a good frame of mind and I can't tell you how important that is for her and this team," Stuedeman said. "I truly believe that when she is putting up hits and feeling good about herself than that translates to the whole team having success." 

 

The MSU lineup worked in perfect harmony by getting power from Lenahan and Foulks' extra-base hits and then some small ball action by Echols. Echols had a productive at-bat in each of her four plate appearance with two sacrifices, a hit by pitch and two RBIs.  

 

In what Stuedeman called "a huge win for the Bulldogs program" the Bulldogs third-year coach got a special effort from her ace pitcher Allison Owen. The senior transfer from Georgia, who wore pink eye black in honor of her cousin who survived breast cancer, tossed a complete game allowing just two earned runs on nine hits.  

 

"No game is ever easy but I just had fun and enjoyed being with my teammates and when I'm feeling like that, I have a good way of pitching really well," Owen said. "I feed off the fact my teammates played their hearts out in the field. Normally it can work the other way but I got energy from the people behind me today." 

 

Owen's 120-pitch effort included nine strikeouts and no walks as she was never truly threatened after MSU gave her a 5-1 lead after three innings. Owen (15-7) gave MSU a chance at a comeback in the second game of the doubleheader by slowing the momentum of the Missouri offense and allowing MSU to get the bases loaded down 6-1 in the sixth. However, Missouri won the game and thus the series, 8-1. 

 

"She is just the strikeout machine for our club and no matter what she gets swing and miss," Stuedeman said. "She really put it in cruise control and she deserved to get a victory over a Top 20 club like Missouri because she's that talented." 

 

The victory gives MSU eight wins in its last 11 games and another win over a Top 25 program which will help in the latest ratings percentage index as the Bulldogs look toward a week of games that includes No. 11 South Alabama and No. 4 Alabama. 

 

"There's no moral victories in SEC but for us to get things figured out and worked out while still getting a victory over a Top 20 team like Missouri is something we can build on," Stuedeman said. "We will play better after making some great plays and swings out there this weekend, I can feel it." 

 

Missouri (27-10, 6-6) relied on another superb effort of Tori Finucane (12-5) in the pitcher's circle for a victory in the second game of the Saturday twinbill. After pitching a shutout Friday, the Tigers right-hander allowed just one run in a 124-pitch outing. Finucane's ERA is at just 2.01 as she pitched to contact perfectly while scattering nine hits. 

 

Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.

 

 

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