A team entering the NCAA Softball Tournament with a 36-21 (7-17 SEC) wouldn’t have high expectations, let alone give the regional hosts a run for their money.
Enter the Mississippi State Bulldogs softball team, who despite having a less than stellar conference record still was selected into the field of 64. After dropping their first game to North Dakota State 5-4, an 11-5 win over St. Francis (PA) set up a rematch with the Bison. A commanding 12-0 trouncing then set up a date between the Lady Bulldogs and regional hosts Arizona Wildcats.
It was Holly Ward (16-10) versus Taylor McQuillin (28-10) in a game where the Wildcats were favored. MSU needed two wins if they were to advance to the Super Regionals, and a loss meant the season was over.
Two home runs in the bottom of the first from Mia Davidson and Sarai Niu gave the Lady Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. Unfortunately for them it didn’t last long as Arizona scored three runs in the top of the second. Down 3-2, MSU was able to tie things up in the bottom half of the second from a Carmen Carter bomb.
An eventful first couple of innings was followed by two scoreless innings. Arizona would break the tie in the top of the fifth with an RBI single. State had the winning run at the plate in the bottom of the seventh, but couldn’t find a way to at least tie. Arizona closed out and won the game 4-3.
Overall this season was a success. Mia Davidson is only a freshman, had a .370 batting average and set the single-season home run record at 19. Head coach Vann Stuedeman brought the team to its first SEC tournament win since 2005.
MSU’s top four hitters will be back next year but will have to replace Ward and Cassady Knudsen in the circle. Fortunately freshman Emily Williams will have plenty of time to grow, but there will definitely be big shoes to fill on the defensive side of this Bulldogs team.