A strong pitching performance from senior Alison Owen and a two-run single from freshman Caroline Seitz provided the Bulldogs with enough to send a record crowd home happy with a 4-2 Bulldog victory over No. 2 Alabama Saturday at the MSU Softball Stadium in Starkville.
Owen (16-8), who finished the game with 12 strikeouts and two hits allowed, stayed perfect through her first 3.2 innings the circle giving Mississippi State the chance to start off with a 1-0 lead thanks back-to-back- singles from Kayla Winkfield and Loryn Nichols and a squeeze bunt from Heidi Shape that scored Winkfield in the bottom of the third. However, facing her twelfth batter of the game, Owen gave up a solo home run to Kaila Hunt to see Alabama tie the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth.
Mississippi State looked like they would regain the lead in the bottom of the fourth when they loaded the bases, but Alabama prevented damage and then added a run in the top of the fifth to take a 2-1 lead over the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State coach Vann Stuedeman was proud of the way her team responded to the adversity of the Crimson Tide taking the lead.
"I'm so proud of the girls for the way they fought," said Stuedeman. "We've had some tough situations this year. We could have folded when Alabama took the lead, but we didn't. It was guts, grit, heart and fight on display. I know it feels so good for the girls."
The Bulldogs (31-14, 4-10) showed that fight in the bottom of the fifth when Seitz, batting with bases loaded and one out, took the first pitch of her at-bat and singled into left field scoring Shape and Ashley Phillips, who had entered the game as a pinch runner for Sam Lenahan, to give Mississippi State a 3-2 lead.
Owen stuck out the Crimson Tide in order in the top of the sixth, and the Bulldogs added one more run in the bottom of the inning on a bases-loaded walk to push the lead to 4-2.
Alabama (37-6, 15-2) went three up, three down in the top of the seventh to end the game.
The largest crowd to ever watch a home Mississippi State softball game, 1577 fans in all, also witnessed the Bulldogs first ever home win over a top-five opponent.
With her twelve strikeouts, Owen moved to 192 on the season, which stands third for a single season in program history. At 442 career strikeouts, she stands just nine away from tying Stephanie Becker for the most strikeouts (451) in a career for Mississippi State.
The teams square off in the rubber match of the series Sunday at 1 pm. The game will be available on FSN and on ESPN3.com.