March 19, 2017 10:49:39 PM
Scott Walters - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State sophomore outfielder Kat Moore found confidence in a strange place this weekend.
Against Alabama's Alexis Osorio, one of the nation's premier pitchers, Moore had three hits Sunday afternoon at Nusz Park.
Unfortunately, Moore was the lone offensive star in Mississippi State's 3-0 loss to No. 11 Alabama.
"I just tried to stay within myself," Moore said, "I went up there and put to use what (hitting) coach (Samantha) Ricketts was telling me to do. It worked out. Having success like that makes you feel good."
Renewed confidence is a work in progress for the Bulldogs. For a second straight weekend, MSU made it to Sunday with a chance to win a Southeastern Conference series against a Top-11 opponent.
"Our team feels like they can play with anybody right now," MSU head coach Vann Stuedeman said. "That's a good sign. We were within one hit of winning each of these last two series. We certainly had our chances."
Osorio threw two shutouts in Alabama's three-game sweep of Arkansas last week. She was not nearly as sharp Friday night when the Bulldogs struck for three runs and five hits but still lost 11-3 in five innings.
Behind a two-hit shutout from Holly Ward, MSU evened the series with a 1-0 win Saturday night. A week earlier, MSU managed one win in three tries against then-No. 6 Texas A&M.
"We are really learning out there," said Moore, who earned exposure on ESPN's "Top 10" package by making a diving catch to end the 1-0 win. "Last year, our confidence was shaken a little bit. We have just stayed with the process. Winning some games is encouraging us but it only makes us want more."
Stuedeman understands the progress of being made by her team. However, she is ready for the squad to embrace the challenge of winning a series.
"We are simply leaving too many runners on base right now," Stuedeman said. "Whether it be walk, hit batter or base hit, we are creating some chances. We have to do better in scoring position."
MSU (22-7, 2-4 SEC) finished with 14 hits in the series. The Bulldogs left nine runners Sunday. On the other end of the spectrum, MSU pitching held its own.
After throwing the shutout Saturday, Ward (5-3) again drew the start Sunday but was lifted after some tough luck during a two-run second inning. Cassady Knudsen and Alexis Silkwood combined to hold the Crimson Tide to three hits and one run the rest of the way.
"I thought the pitching staff really performed well the entire weekend," Stuedeman said. "We had one difficult inning Friday night. In this game, Holly should have been out of the second inning without allowing a run. We are close but the margin for error is small in this league. We need to take advantage of our scoring opportunities and that gives the pitching staff a little more margin for error."
Alabama (28-3, 5-1) had two hits and two RBIs from Sydney Booker. Osorio (16-1) struck out eight but also walked three and hit two more.
n Elsewhere in the Southeastern Conference, No. 7 Texas A&M (25-2, 5-1) finished a three-game sweep of No. 22 Ole Miss (21-6, 0-3) by taking a 3-1 victory Sunday in Oxford. In Conference USA play, Louisiana Tech (19-10, 5-1) finished a three-game sweep of Southern Mississippi (13-14, 1-5) with an 8-1 win in Hattiesburg.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Scott Walters on Twitter @dispatchscott
Scott is sports copy editor and reporter