February 14, 2018 11:41:38 PM
STARKVILLE -- While the season is way too young to make projections, it is safe to say the Mississippi State pitching staff is off to a good start.
Through four games, the softball Bulldogs have allowed four hits and no runs, including a perfect game.
MSU will look to continue that early-season success today when UT Martin come to Nusz Park for a 4 p.m. start. Weather permitting, the team will then play twice Friday and Saturday at the MSU-hosted February Freezer.
"Certaintly, the type of start we wanted," MSU head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We pitched it well the entire weekend. It's important that you start the season with confidence. It's a good way to get going."
MSU beat Mississippi Valley State twice, Missouri State and Omaha in the Bulldog Kickoff Classic.
Holly Ward threw the program's second perfect game in the five-inning, 10-0 season-opening win over MVSU. Cassady Knudsen threw a five-inning one-hitter in an 8-0 win over Omaha.
Ward and Knudsen are both seniors. Stuedeman said their mental makeup on the mound will be critical as MSU tries to make an NCAA regional for the sixth time in seven seasons.
"The coaches have really been working with (the pitchers) on the mental aspects of the game," Knudsen said. "It's important that you have confidence in the circle. Knowing how to pitch is half the battle, but you also have to have a belief in what you are doing."
In a 5-0 win over Missouri State, Ward went the distance on a two-hitter with seven strikeouts. In an 8-0, five-inning win over Valley, Emily Williams drew her first start (four innings) and combined with fellow newcomer Candace Denis on a one-hitter.
"Some of the new pitchers are really going to help us this year," Ward said. "Right now, we are helping them learn how to pitch on this level. It's a challenge but as seniors, it is important that we do everything possbile to help make them ready to pitch."
Offensively, the big news from the first weekend was the play of Mia Davidson. Davidsonn was chosen Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week after collecting eight hits, with two home runs, in the season-opening tournament.
It was the team's first Freshman of the Week since Alexis Silkwood won it twice in 2014.
This weekend, the competiton grows stiffer. UT Martin is 2-2 after splitting four games in the UL Monroe-hosted Mardi Gras Classic. State will play Drake (4-1) twice, South Alabana (4-1) and Murray State (1-3) this weekend.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter
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