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Ward's perfect game leads MSU softball team

 

Mississippi State senior pitcher Holly Ward threw the program’s first perfect game in 20 years in a 10-0 victory against Mississippi Valley State in five innings on Friday afternoon at Nusz Park.

Mississippi State senior pitcher Holly Ward threw the program’s first perfect game in 20 years in a 10-0 victory against Mississippi Valley State in five innings on Friday afternoon at Nusz Park. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff

 

From Special Reports

 

 

STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State softball team kicked its season off in style Friday with two dominating pitching performances at Nusz Park. 

 

Senior Holly Ward threw the program's first perfect game in 20 years in a 10-0 victory against Mississippi Valley State in five innings. Cassady Knudsen followed with five innings of one-hit ball in an 8-0 victory against Omaha in the team's first games of the Bulldog Kickoff Classic. 

 

Action Saturday was rained out. Today, play will kick off at 9 a.m. with Omaha taking on Missouri State. Omaha will play Mississippi Valley State at 11 a.m. MSU will then face Missouri State and Mississippi Valley State at 1 and 3 p.m. 

 

Ward struck out a career-high 11 in the second perfect game in program history. Jenny Hehnke threw five perfect frames in an 18-0 victory against Alabama State on March 2, 1997. 

 

It's the second-consecutive year MSU has earned back-to-back shutouts to open a season. MSU beat Georgia State, 4-0, and Stephen F. Austin, 2-0, to open the 2017 campaign. 

 

"I feel pretty good about the day," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We had productive, timely hitting over both contests. Pitching, obviously, went very well today. We had 25 strikeouts. I'm really excited about Holly Ward's perfect game. We really put the bat on the ball very well. We played great defense. We didn't have an error. For opening day, that's a great way to dust off the cobwebs." 

 

In the opener, junior first baseman Sarai Niu and senior designated player Morgan Bell broke the game open with back-to-back doubles in a six-run first inning. Senior infielder/catcher Calyn Adams drove in the final run of the inning with a single. 

 

In the second, Niu added her third RBI with a single to center. Junior utility player Emily Heimberger drove home three with a triple down the right-field line. Bell's sacrifice fly accounted for the scoring. 

 

"We were really excited," Ward said. "We were pumped to be back on the field again at Nusz Park. Calyn (Adams) and Mia (Davidson) behind the plate were really working for me. Mia was getting me calls left and right and blocking balls up. Calyn closed the game with me. She did a great job. Sarai (Niu) took a beating. She told me afterwards that that was for my perfect game. It shows that they've got my back and I've got theirs." 

 

Knudsen threw 4 1/3 perfect frames in the second game. She struck out a career-high 10, walked one, and allowed a single. 

 

Robinson had a triple in a five-run first. Freshman catcher/infielder Mia Davidson added her first collegiate home run. Adams also had a two-run double. 

 

Bell led off the third with a home run to left-center field before a Davidson doubled and Niu singled to put MSU in run-rule territory.  

 

n Alabama wins two games at Sand Dollar Classic: At Gulf Shores, Alabama, the No. 11 Alabama softball team beat Penn State 10-0 and Lamar 13-0 on Friday at the Sand Dollar Classic. 

 

Alabama's games scheduled for Saturday at the event were canceled. 

 

Against Lamar, junior Courtney Gettins threw a no-hitter in her Crimson Tide debut. 

 

Sophomore Bailey Hemphill led the offense with three hits in five at-bats. She scored two runs and drove in four. Sophomore Gabby Callaway also had four RBIs, three of which came on a bases-clearing triple against the Nittany Lions. Junior Merris Schroder scored three times and drove in three runs, tallying an inside-the-park home run against the Cardinals. 

 

In the circle, freshman Madison Preston (1-0) allowed one hit in five innings against Penn State. Gettins (1-0) threw a no-hitter in her Crimson Tide debut against Lamar. She walked two and struck out one. 

 

Alabama will play Southern Mississippi at 1 p.m. Friday at the Black and Gold Tournament in Hattiesburg. 

 

n No. 14 Ole Miss splits first two games at Sand Dollar Classic: At Gulf Shores, Alabama, the No. 14 Ole Miss softball team defeated Lamar 4-2 and lost to Lipscomb 3-0 on Friday at the Sand Dollar Classic. 

 

Senior Alex Schneider provided some dramatics with a walk-off home run against Lamar. 

 

In the second game, Jordan Fortel held Ole Miss hitless for the first time since March 8, 2015 against Alabama. 

 

Ole Miss starter Brittany Finney matched Fortel's no-hitter through the first four innings before Lipscomb scored three runs in the fifth. 

 

Fortel, a junior, faced just two over the minimum. She walked one and struck out four. 

 

Ole Miss' game against Penn State on Saturday was canceled. 

 

Ole Miss will play Texas at 8 p.m. Thursday in its first game at the Puerto Vallarta College Challenge in Mexico. Ole Miss also will play Houston, Rutgers, and Oregon in the event. 

 

n Southern Mississippi : At Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the Tiger Classic. 

 

n On Friday, Southern Miss lost to Massachusetts 4-0 and No. 8 LSU 4-0. 

 

Four freshman earned their first collegiate starts against UMass, while Tata Davis notched her first two-hit game against LSU.  

 

Samantha Robles started and went six innings in the opener before Jillian Johnson entered in relief. 

 

Kim Crowson started against LSU and pitched four innings before Johnson relieved her and finished the game.  

 

Ciarra Cherry and Jade Lewis had singles in both games, while Samantha Papp had a single against UMass.

 

 

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