STARKVILLE, Miss. -- A sacrifice fly from freshman Katie Anne Bailey drove in classmate Amanda Ivy to lift Mississippi State to a 4-3 10-inning victory against No. 3 Alabama on Sunday at the MSU Softball Stadium. Through the first nine innings, Bulldog senior Alison Owen and Crimson Tide senior Jaclyn Traina staged a pitching battle for the ages as the teams were tied 0-0 entering the 10th inning.
“Alabama is an incredible team,” head coach Vann Stuedeman said. “I’m really proud of the players. We’ve been so close so many times. They felt it and made it happen.
“We were so close last year to winning this particular series. You have to hit every step of the process. I think this is a step in the right direction for us.”
Alabama took a 3-0 lead in the top of the 10th as Kallie Case singled in the first run and Haylie McCleney added two more with a two-run triple. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the 10th and used back-to-back singles, a fielder’s choice and sacrifice fly to walk off winners.
“There were so many ways we could get that run across,” Bailey said. “All I did was take a deep breath and say there’s no where else I’d rather be right now. Any of our hitters could have gotten that hit.”
Mississippi State improved to 32-14 with the victory. The mark is tied for the best 46-game record in program history. The Bulldogs are now 5-10 in Southeastern Conference action.
MSU recorded its second series victory against Alabama, and first since 2004. The Bulldogs earned back-to-back wins versus ranked foes for the first time since 2013, when they topped No. 3 Florida April 7 and No. 4 Alabama on April 19. MSU had never beaten a top-five opponent at home before winning the final two games of this weekend’s series.
Owen, starting her second game in as many days, gave up three runs on eight hits, six singles, in 9.2 frames. She struck out one and walked two. Freshman Alexis Silkwood recorded the final out and earned the win to improve to 9-5 on the year. Traina threw nine-plus innings, yielding seven hits and two runs on five walks and seven strikeouts. Sydney Littlejohn (8-1) entered with two runners on in the bottom of the 10th and got just one out, giving up two hits and two runs.
After retiring the side in order in the top of the first, Mississippi State got two hits in the bottom of the frame but did not dent the scoreboard. Senior Jessica Offutt led off with an infield single but was caught stealing. Senior Heidi Shape followed with a single through the left side, but a fielder’s choice and foul out ended the threat.
MSU threatened again in the bottom of the second after retiring the Crimson Tide in order. Freshman Caroline Seitz led off with a walk and went to second on a one-out single to left from junior Julia Echols. Traina settled down with a strikeout and groundout to strand the pair.
Alabama (37-7, 15-3 SEC) got its first hit in the top of the third on a leadoff double by Molly Fichtner, who was replaced at second by pinch runner Jordan Patterson. After a pop out, Case hit into a double play as she grounded to Owen, who threw to first to retire Case. Senior first baseman Logan Foulks fired to third to retire Patterson, who had taken off after Owen’s toss to first.
Neither team threatened again until the bottom of the fifth, when the Bulldogs were again held off the scoreboard. With one out, sophomore Loryn Nichols walked and moved to second on a wild pitch. A groundout advanced Nichols to third, but a pop out ended the threat.
The Crimson Tide mounted a two-out threat in the top of the sixth, but Owen kept the game scoreless with a groundout. After a line out and strikeout, Case reached on an infield single, but Owen got McCleney to hit a bouncer back to her to close the frame.
The Bulldogs got a one-out single from Foulks in the bottom of the sixth, but a foul out and pinch runner Olivia Golden caught stealing kept it a 0-0 contest.
Alabama had a runner in the top of the seventh with a one-out single through the left side by Kaila Hunt. Jadyn Spencer swung at the first pitch and hit it to the warning track in left field, where left fielder Offutt made the catch. Another fly out ended the inning.
MSU returned the favor in the bottom of the seventh with a leadoff single though the left side by Bailey. Echols tried to put a bunt down, but the ball hit her for the first out. Traina avoided damage with a fielder’s choice and groundout.
After retiring the Crimson Tide in order in the top of the eighth, MSU had two runners on in the bottom of the frame, but could not convert. With one down, Shape singled. After a fly out to deep right center, Foulks singled up the middle on the 11th pitch of the at-bat to move Shape to second. A groundout, however, kept the game knotted at 0-0.
The Crimson Tide again threatened in the top of the ninth, getting two on but failing to score. Case led off with a single to left field. McCleney popped out on a bunt attempt, but Danielle Richard walked to move Case to second. Hunt flew out to center before Spencer softly lined out to strand the pair.
In the top of the 10th, Alabama broke through with a two-out hit from Case and two runs from McCleney on a triple. Pinch hitter Ryan Iamurri led off with a single and Leona Lafaele re-entered to run at first base. Pinch hitter Andrea Hawkins put down a bunt and third baseman Seitz got the force at second on Lafaele. Fichtner followed with a single through the right side that put runners on first and second with one down. A fly out to left center by Danae Hays moved Hawkins to third with two outs. Case came through with a single just past the outstretched glove of Owen to drive in Hawkins for the lead. McCleney followed with a triple to right that drove in Fichtner and Case. Silkwood entered and ended the inning with a fly out.
The three runs in the top of the 10th set up the Bulldogs' walk-off win in the bottom of the frame. Nichols and Offutt walked to start the inning. Littlejohn entered and Shape hit a grounder back to her. Littlejohn threw to third but the ball was in the dirt, filling the bases with no outs. Senior Sam Lenahan reached on an infield single that plated Nichols and made it a 3-1 deficit. Foulks followed with a single up the middle that drove in Offutt and cut it down to a one-run Alabama lead. Ivy entered to run for Lenahan at second. Seitz hit one to second baseman Hunt, who threw home, but Shape beat the toss to tie the game at 3-3. Bailey then plated Ivy on the fly to center to earn the win.