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Softball ends the Bulldog Battle with a loss to MSU

Sunday, February 17, 2013

STARKVILLE, Miss. - The only thing longer for the Lipscomb Lady Bisons softball team than their 10-inning loss to Mississippi State will be the bus ride home to Nashville.

Twice the Lady Bisons fought back Sunday. They used a two-run home run from Mickey Bell to tie the game at two in the fourth inning and a solo shot from Kristen Sturdivant in the sixth to knot the game at three.

In the 10th, it was necessary to implement tie-breaking rules which meant each team would start with a runner at second. Heather Montgomery got the call for the Lady Bisons and advanced to third on a wild pitch. But she was left stranded.

Mississippi State, from the Southeastern Conference, won the game in the 10th. Jessica Offutt was placed at second. Ashley Phillips led off the inning with a single to third base that moved Offutt to third. Logan Foulks singled up the middle to score Offutt for the 4-3 win.

“It is frustrating,” Lipscomb coach Kristin Ryman said. “The craziest part about the game was we played really good defense.

“I do think we had more of a spark in this game. And I think it showed on defense. We only had four hits to their 12 but we legitimately had a shot to win the game. I think that was a credit to our defense and Heather Parker.”

The loss was the fifth in a row for the Lady Bisons who started the season with a 3-0 record.

In the fourth inning Haley Elliott had reached base on lead-off single up the middle. She was replaced on the base paths by Brianne Welch who scored on Bell’s homer, her first on the college level.

Two pitchers, left-hander Stephanie Becker and right-hander Alison Owen, combined were both effective. They struck out a total of 21 Purple and Gold batters, a school single-game record for Mississippi State. Owen recorded 14 strikeouts in six innings after relieving Becker.

“We really struggled hitting-wise,” Ryman said. “That is where we have to go back to work this week. We are swinging blindly right now. We have lost our sense of confidence at the plate.

“We have a great hitting team. They had some good pitchers that kept us off balance. But at the end of the day, we feel strongly in the hitting ability of this group. I don’t know if anyone in the country should strike us out 21 times.”

Right-hander Tanner Sanders started for the Lady Bisons. She pitched 2.1 innings, allowing four hits and two runs, both earned. She walked two and struck out three.

Heather Parker, also a right-hander, relieved Sanders in the circle in the third inning.  Parker, 1-2, pitched seven innings. She scattered eight hits and gave up two runs, one earned. She struck out four and did not walk a batter.

“We got really good pitching out of Heather Parker,” Ryman said. “She gave us a really great chance the rest of the way.

“But we can’t rely solely on our pitching and expect them to throw a shut out every game. Our hitters have to do their part.”

It was the first extra-inning game of the season for both the Lady Bisons and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are 6-3 for the season.

The tournament schedule continues for the Lady Bisons. LU travels to Chattanooga Friday for the Frost Classic at Tennessee-Chattanooga. The Lady Bisons will face Missouri State at 12:15 p.m. and close out the first day with Chattanooga at 5:45 p.m.

Saturday the Purple and Gold face Ohio at 10 a.m. followed by Niagara at 2:30 p.m. They will close out the classic Sunday at 9 a.m. against Miami-Ohio.

“We are going to focus on the little things and try to get back on track,” Ryman said. “It was a rough weekend. We don’t want to sit and pout. Everybody has to be accountable. We have to move past it quickly.

“We talked after the game. We are pushing them to spend some extra time on their own working on their hitting. We want them to get the most out of what they are putting in. We want them to be more disciplined as a team and individually. We want them to try to do something about it.”