Softball Returns Home to Host 13th Bulldog Classic

Following a 1,724-mile journey that consisted of six hard-fought games, the Mississippi State softball team (9-5) returns home to host the 13th Bulldog Classic, Friday through Sunday, at the MSU Softball Stadium. The Maroon and White will play Columbia (twice), Eastern Illinois, Louisiana Tech and Samford, in five of the 13 games at the annual springtime event.

“We cannot wait to get back on our home field and give our community a great weekend of softball,” head coach Vann Stuedeman said. “It will be really fun to get back out in front of our fans and let them see just how much we have improved as a ball club since they saw us last on February 19.”

State will play its first game against an Ivy League opponent at 2 p.m. Friday, when it tangles with Columbia (0-0). A battle of the Bulldogs will take place at 4 p.m. when MSU goes up against Louisiana Tech (7-7). Eastern Illinois (4-3) will get a shot at the Maroon and White Saturday at 1 p.m., but not before the Lions from Columbia get a rematch at 11 a.m. On Sunday, Samford (3-9) awaits State, in a rematch of MSU’s 6-3 Valentine’s Day victory in Birmingham, Ala.

After a weekend road trip to the Sunshine State, Feb. 24-26, the Bulldogs returned to the Magnolia State to pick up an 11-2 win over in-state opponent Jackson State. Stuedeman’s team run-ruled its first opponent of the year as junior left-fielder Jessica Cooley drove in a career-high five runs. Along with Cooley, second baseman Heidi Shape totaled a career-best four hits, going 4-4 on the afternoon. The runs came in bunches, as the Maroon and White put up a four-spot in both the sixth and seventh innings, to give MSU the victory.

In the circle, junior lefty Stephanie Becker (4-1) pitched five innings to earn the win, giving up two runs on five hits. Sophomore right-hander Shana Sherrod worked a quick scoreless inning to close the game, striking out a career-best-tying two batters.

The Classic will be the first taste of action in 2012 for the Lions, who went 17-29 in 2011. Columbia is anchored by sophomore outfielder Emily Caruthers, who hit .322 during her freshman campaign. The Lions return only one pitcher from last season, in Tristin Moone, who owned a 4.10 ERA in 13.2 innings pitched.

The Bulldogs of Louisiana Tech come into Starkville anchored by junior utility player and pitcher Janna Frandrup. The Phoenix, Ariz., native is hitting .433 in 13 games, with 15 RBIs, while holding a 1.11 ERA in 12.2 innings of work.

Eastern Illinois’ pitcher Stephanie Maday (3-0) is hurling a 1.67 ERA and has struck out 22 opposing batters. At the plate, sophomore outfielder Morgan Biel leads all hitting categories for EIU, hitting .438 on the young season with a team-leading two RBIs on seven hits.

Just like the Feb. 14 contest, junior Misha Aldridge stars for Samford, as they head into the game against MSU. The Columbus, Ga., native is hitting .273 with three RBI and one round-tripper on the season, while compiling a 2.21 ERA, with six complete games.

On Friday, the Veranda Restaurant will be throwing out the first pitch, as well as handing out coupons to fans in attendance. The day also marks Facebook Friday, where the first person to write on MSU softball’s Facebook wall after the first pitch vs. Columbia will win a special prize. Saturday will be a treat for fans, as Marketing will be giving away two tickets to the MSU vs. Arkansas men’s basketball game, scheduled to tip-off one hour after the conclusion of State’s game vs. Eastern Illinois. Military Sunday will wrap up the weekend, as the Maroon and White will honor all members of the military attending the game. Also on Sunday, kids wearing their softball or baseball jersey will be able to take the field with the team for the national anthem. As always, softball shirts will be given away for every Bulldog extra-base hit and run.

Following the 2012 Bulldog Classic, State will open up its Southeastern Conference schedule, when it hosts No. 3/4 Florida in a March 7 doubleheader, starting at 4 p.m. For more information regarding the Bulldog Classic, visit the official event page at HailState.com, follow the team on Twitter at @MStateSB and like the team at Facebook.com/MStateSB.

Classic Connections…

●        Samford head coach Mandy Burford and assistant coach Ashley Holcombe-Bell were both coached by MSU head coach Vann Stuedeman at the University of Alabama.

●        Samford assistant coach Brandon Duncan was MSU assistant coach Alan Reach’s roommate at Alabama when the two were student managers under Stuedeman.

●        Sarah Offutt, the sister of MSU sophomore center fielder Jessica Offutt, was a starting outfielder at Louisiana Tech from 2007-10.

●        Mississippi State left-handed pitcher Lindsey Dunlap was a teammate of Samford’s Madison Dickey and Caroline Seay on the Birmingham Vipers travel-ball squad.

●        Rovtar faced EIU pitcher Stephanie Maday several times in high school and again this past summer in summer ball action.

●        Mississippi State’s game vs. Columbia, on Friday, marks the first time MSU has ever played a school from the Ivy League.

●        After losing its first nine against Louisiana Tech from 1983-1997, MSU has won all seven games in the series, since.

Special to The Real Story

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