May 19, 2018 11:03:03 PM
From Special Reports
TUCSON, Ariz. - Behind a stellar offensive performance that featured 23 runs off 30 hits over two elimination contests, Mississippi State softball (38-22) picked up victories over Saint Francis (39-19) and North Dakota State (34-19) on Saturday night to advance to the Tucson Regional Championship.
Behind the fourth-most hits in a single game in school history, the Bulldogs opened elimination Saturday with an 11-5 victory over St. Francis to advance to a rematch with the Bison. A six-run first inning sparked the ultimate 12-0 decision as Mississippi State swept the elimination games.
"We felt that we needed to make a statement today," said head coach Vann Stuedeman. "Our kids really responded. We didn't go away. We didn't want the season to be over. It was important to have some run support on the board, and it must have looked really good up there today."
The victories were the first in a regional for the Bulldogs since knocking off Weber State, 2-0, in the 2015 Lafayette Regional. The Bulldogs advance to their first regional championship under Stuedeman and the first for the program since the Austin Regional in 2005.
Senior Carmen Carter was the star at the plate over Saturday's doubleheader as she went 5-for-7 (.714) with a double, home run and four RBIs. She knocked hits in her first five plate appearances on Saturday. Junior Sarai Niu drove in five runs off three hits, including knocking the go-ahead run over SFU.
Earning the start in Saturday's opening game, Cassady Knusen (13-9) earned the victory as she tossed five innings, allowing five runs off five hits and five walks. She struck out four in the outing. Senior Holly Ward (16-9) tossed two innings of relief against SFU before picking up the complete-game win over NDSU. The right-hander tossed a total of seven innings, allowing just two hits and striking out two.
Junior Kat Moore led off Saturday's opener, hustling down the line for an infield single to shortstop. Niu gave the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead with a two-out double to the gap in right center to plate Moore.
The Bulldogs flexed the offense in the top of the second as Carter led off the inning with a double down the line to left before redshirt junior Bevia Robinson slugged her fourth triple of the season to push the Bulldog lead to 2-0. Moore picked up her second hit of the contest with single up the middle to score Robinson.
Freshman Mia Davidson chased SFU starter Abby Trahan out of the game as Davidson picked up the fourth hit of the second inning with a single to left field. Reliever Adrian Smith forced the second out of the frame with a ground out to first before Niu singled to left field to pick up her second RBI and extend State's lead to 4-0.
Junior Emily Heimberger joined the hit parade in the top of the third with a one-out single to left. After swiping second, Heimberger would come around to score on an RBI single to center from Carter.
Saint Francis would keep the Bulldogs off the board in the top of the fourth and cut into MSU's lead in the home half of the inning. After a double and MSU fielding error allowed two runners on, Taylor Hoover tripled to center before scoring on an RBI single to left from Mikayla Bower, cutting MSU's lead to 5-3.
The Red Flash loaded the bases in the fifth with help of three walks, before a two-out single up the middle by Kassidy Troxell scored two to lock the game up a 5-5.
MSU would rally with a monster sixth inning, which began with a single up the middle by Robinson. SFU would pick up two outs on a fly out and fielder's choice, but senior Morgan Bell got on board via a hit by pitch before Niu connected on her fifth homer of the season with a no doubter to left center to give the Bulldogs an 8-5 advantage.
The Bulldogs would not stop there as senior Reggie Harrison singled to left before coming home on a triple off the bat of Heimberger. Carter would cap her perfect day at the plate against SFU with a two-run homer to push the lead to 11-5.
Ward tossed two flawless frames of relief, retiring all six batters she faced with two fly outs and three groundouts to send the Bulldogs to the Saturday's second elimination game and a rematch with North Dakota State.
Mississippi State did not waste any time in Saturday's second contest as all nine Bulldogs in the batting order reached base with two outs in the first inning against North Dakota State. The insane two-out rally began with a walk to Niu and a single by Bell. Harrison plated the first run of the game with a single to center.
An NDSU errant throw on a ground ball to second sailed in the Bulldog dugout, awarding every base runner and extra base and sending Bell home. Carter, senior Calyn Adams, Robinson and Moore would knock four straight RBI singles to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead after one.
Heimberger and Harrison would spark another scoring run as the duo knocked one-out singles in the second ahead of Carter. Carter would reach base for the sixth time in her sixth plate appearance of Saturday's doubleheader with help of an NDSU error, which brought Harrison home. Adams plated the second run of the second with a sacrifice bunt, allowing Heimberger to score and extend the lead to 8-0.
MSU would take its 8-0 lead into the fifth where the Bulldogs would add four insurance runs. With two runners on, Bell would pick up an RBI with a single to left field before Harrison belted a home run to center to push the lead to 12-0.
Ward allowed just two Bison on base the entire game to pick up her ninth shutout of the season, setting a new MSU single-season record.
Mississippi State advances to the Tucson Regional Championship and will face the tournament host No. 9 Arizona at 6 p.m on Sunday. The Bulldogs will have to knock off the Wildcats twice to advance to the program's first Super Regional.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala - Alabama softball earned its second run-rule victory in as many days at the Tuscaloosa Regional, defeating Wisconsin, 9-1, Saturday in five innings to advance to Sunday's championship game.
Alabama (35-18) and Wisconsin (29-22) only played one inning before rain and lighting entered the area, forcing a three-hour weather delay. Upon resumption, the Crimson Tide scored three in the third inning before the Badgers answered with its first run of the day in the bottom-half of the inning. A six-run fifth inning for Alabama put the game out of reach as Wisconsin went down in order in the bottom half to secure the run-rule victory.
The top of the order was again strong for the Tide, with the first four batters going a combined 4-for-8 with five runs scored and three RBIs. Sophomore Bailey Hemphill's lone hit of the day was a two-run home run, her team-leading 13th of the season. Senior Demi Turner posted her second-straight multi-hit game, going 2-for-3 with a pair of runs scored. Junior Reagan Dykes hit the Tide's second home run of the day, a three-run shot in the fifth inning, to back up her strong defensive effort behind the plate with a caught stealing a heads-up double play.
Senior Alexis Osorio (14-9) needed just 83 pitches over 5.0 innings to earn the win, fanning seven while allowing just one run on one hit. The run was just the second allowed in regional play over her four-year career and the first earned run.
After each team went three up, three down in the first, Hemphill drew a leadoff walk in the top of the second. Freshman KB Sides, pinch-running for Hemphill, dashed to second on what ended up as ball four to sophomore Gabby Callaway at the plate and the Wisconsin catcher threw down to second but no one was covering the bag, allowing Sides to advance to third on the error.
With runners at first and third and nobody out, lightning in the area forced a three-hour delay before play resumed. Back-to-back strikeouts and a groundout got Wisconsin out of the inning as Alabama stranded a pair on base. The Badgers got a runner to third with one out in the bottom half of the inning but Dykes ended the inning with a spectacular double play, fielding the popup behind the plate and firing to third to catch the runner off the bag.
Sophomore Claire Jenkins reached base safely on a fielding error to lead off the third and then advanced to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. Turner made the first hit of the game a big one, popping an RBI triple into the left field gap to give Alabama a 1-0 lead. Later with two out, Hemphill bashed a two-run home run to left field, increasing the lead to 3-0.
After back-to-back strikeouts to start the bottom of the third, Wisconsin reached on a hit-by-pitch and the runner stole second in the next at-bat. Turning back to the top of the order, Kelsey Jenkins drove her in with an RBI single to cut the Badgers' deficit to 3-1. A great throw-and-catch from Dykes to Booker covering second caught Jenkins stealing to end the inning.
Sophomore Elissa Brown led off the top of the fifth with a single to left before stealing second. Turner followed with an infield single and freshman Kaylee Tow laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the pair into scoring position. Wisconsin intentionally walked Hemphill to load the bases with one out but another walk to Callaway moved everyone up 60 feet and allowed another run to cross and make it 4-1. Yet another bases-loaded walk made it 5-1 before Wisconsin made a pitching change. Junior Merris Schroder added another run with a sacrifice fly and then, on a full count, Dykes blasted a three-run home run to left field to swell the lead to 9-1. A popup ended the half-inning and Wisconsin went down in order in the bottom half as the Tide secured its second run-rule victory in as many days.
Alabama will face Oregon State at 1:30 p.m. today for the tournament title.
Tempe, Ariz. - Ole Miss will face Arizona State at 8:30 p.m. today for the Tempe Regional championship. The Rebels will have to beat the Sun Devils twice to advance to a second straight super regional.
Ole Miss lost to Arizona State 7-1 early Saturday, before beating Long Beach State 1-0 in an elimination game late Saturday night.