April 20, 2019 10:04:31 PM
Ben Portnoy - [email protected]
Pitch, foul ball, repeat.
That was the seemingly endless exchange between Mississippi State sophomore pitcher Emily Williams and Ole Miss' Brittany Finney in the Rebels' 3-1 win Saturday afternoon.
With runners at second and third, Finney worked her way through a 14-pitch at-bat to draw a walk and load the bases in the top of the eighth inning.
"It was a crazy battle between both of them," sophomore catcher Mia Davidson said of Williams and Finney. "You've got to love that, the fight in both teams was just insane."
Two pitches later, Ole Miss' Autumn Gillespie delivered the go-ahead three-run double to break the scoreless tie and ultimately led the Rebels the win.
Though she earned the loss, Williams was dominant in eight innings of work. She gave up three runs on four hits while striking out seven on 158 pitches.
"She was amazing," Davidson said. "She pitched one of the best games I've ever caught in my life."
It's been a year of spurts for Williams -- her 9-10 record reflects that.
She's posted stellar starts against some of the nation's best -- like an 8.1 inning, 195-pitch outing against then-No. 4 Alabama March 31 in which she gave up five runs on just five hits. Yet there's also been misfires, such as a nine-run, 12 walk outing against No. 9/8 Tennessee April 14.
Stuedemann said the biggest reason for her recent success has been curbing how many walks she allows.
In 15 innings pitched this weekend, Williams gave up just eight walks -- four in each game. As a result, she ran a scoreless streak of 14.1 innings between game two Friday and Saturday's loss.
"Last year we didn't depend on her, we had Cassady (Knudsen) and Holly (Ward) that she leaned on so she could walk a few, no big deal," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. "I think now she's just growing up. It's a maturity thing and a decision of, 'OK, I need to lock in and the team's relying on me and I need to be good for the team.'"
Offensively, the Bulldogs were stifled by Finney in the circle. The Ole Miss senior gave up just six hits and one run on eight innings pitched.
Davidson added the lone MSU run in the bottom of the eighth with a solo home run over the right field fence. The homer was her 23rd of the season, putting her just two shy of Georgia's Alex Hugo's single-season Southeastern Conference record of 25.
The Bulldogs furthered the threat after senior Kat Moore reached on an infield single and Candace Denis got to first base safely when the Ole Miss infield booted a ground ball the following at-bat.
The game ended when sophomore Montana Davidson grounded out to second, giving Ole Miss a 2-1 series victory.
"We gave it all we got and we didn't come out with the win," Mia Davidson said.
The Rebels throttled the Bulldogs in game one of the three-game set Friday 21-0 in five innings before the home squad responded with a 6-0 victory in the second game of the doubleheader.
DAWG NOTES: MSU honored its five seniors as part of senior day at Nusz Park following the game.
Moore, Bevia Robinson, Emily Heimberger, Sarai Niu and Taylor Kelly were presented with framed jerseys and flowers on field.
The group has combined for two NCAA regional appearances, 127 wins and two 30-win campaigns. They also helped MSU to its first SEC tournament win since 2005 last season over Texas A&M.
"A really fun class with a lot of fun energy that brought a lot of good times to the program," Stuedemann said.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch.