Mississippi State’s Amanda Ivy (25) connects on a bunt attempt during Saturday’s game at Nusz Park. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
April 8, 2017 11:26:07 PM
STARKVILLE -- Alexis Silkwood never imagined it would end quite like this.
An East Alton, Illinois native, Silkwood became Mississippi State's all-time winningest pitcher in softball history Saturday afternoon.
Silkwood achieved the feat with a complete-game performance in a 6-4 win over South Carolina before a season-high Super Bulldog Weekend crowd of 1,413 at Nusz Park.
"It was awesome to see all my teammates come to the circle after the last pitch," Silkwood said. "I knew it was one of their best hitters. It felt good when I left my arm. It was great to get the win. It was great to do it for Starkville and this great university and for everybody we represent. I never would have imagined anything this great."
MSU (28-13, 3-8 Southeastern Conference) and South Carolina (23-15, 3-10) will play the rubber game of a three-game series at Noon Sunday. Both teams are fighting to clinch a spot in the SEC tournament and to solidify NCAA tournament resumes. The Bulldogs can clinch a winning season for the fifth time in six years with a win today.
Silkwood picked up her 56th career victory. She also holds the school career records for strikeouts (531), innings pitched (613.2) and complete game (48). Silkwood moved to 12-3 this season with her ninth complete game.
"I am really just so happy for her," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. "She works hard and fights for this team every single day. She's beaten everyone in the country. It's like Vic Schaefer said about his (women's basketball) team, don't dare give her any credit, don't pick her, because she's better with her back against the wall. I'm really just happy for her."
South Carolina won the series opener, 3-0 Friday night. The Bulldogs were held to five hits by Gamecocks' ace Nickie Blue (9-6). Holly Ward (7-6) threw another game for the Bulldogs, while being touched for single runs in the second, third and seventh innings.
Saturday would prove much different. MSU collected 10 hits - the most in a conference game since 14 hits in a 5-2 win at Texas A&M on March 10.
The Bulldogs took the lead for good with three runs in the third inning to build a 4-2 lead. A two-run double by Calyn Adams was the big blow. Adams' hit was part of a 3-for-3 day and gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead. Katie Anne Bailey followed with an RBI-double to increase the lead.
An inning later, MSU gave Silkwood two critical insurance scores. Caroline Seitz had an RBI-double and Adams followed that up with another run-producing hit.
"We swung at some good pitches today," Adams said. "We wanted to work all parts of the field and we were able to do that. We had a big crowd and it was exciting to play before them. Overall, we had some good strokes on the ball and were more aggressive. It felt good."
South Carolina pulled within 6-4 in the sixth inning but a double play ball came to the rescue of Silkwood. The Gamecocks were retired in order in the seventh inning.
"This just means that we're unstoppable and we can compete with the best of the best, because we are the best of the best," Silkwood said. "It's awesome to see all of Starkville out here supporting us. You can't describe it. It's fun to go out there and not just do it for the girl next to me, but for the city of Starkville, this university and all the little girls that play softball."
The Bulldogs had five doubles for the first time since the 2015 season. Adams now has eight multi-hit games this season, including her first three-hit worksheet. Adams is hitting .433 in conference play.
Seitz and Bailey also had multiple hits.
"Coming off of last night, we knew we had to have better at-bats," Seitz said. "We needed to be more aggressive. To see (Silkwood) be successful, I am so excited for her. Nobody works harder. She is going to give us everything. We just need to put things together more consistently. We did that early today."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott was sports editor for The Dispatch.
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