February 12, 2018 10:38:50 AM
STARKVILLE -- Power hitting and shutdown pitching carried the Mississippi State softball team to a sweep of Missouri State and Mississippi Valley State on Sunday at Nusz Park to clinch the Bulldog Kickoff Classic title.
Senior right-hander Holly Ward tossed her second shutout of the weekend in a 5-0 victory against Missouri State. Freshman right-hander Emily Williams earned her first collegiate victory in her debut in the circle in an 8-0 victory against Mississippi Valley State in six innings.
MSU opened the 2018 season with four consecutive shutouts, marking the first time in program history that the Bulldogs have blanked opponents in four straight games to open a campaign. The Bulldogs are also off to their first 4-0 start since the 2016 season.
"Another good day, especially being patient to sit out the rain all day yesterday," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. "I think it took us a little bit this morning to get started against Missouri State. Kat Moore had a great day. Offensively, we have to make some adjustments a little quicker. Pitching wise, I feel like we need to throw a few more strikes. We had too many walks in the first game. I'm really excited about Emily Williams and Candace Denis' debut on the mound. We got a lot of good freshmen in there. O'Neil Roberson was another freshman who had a good day. It doesn't show up in the box score that well, but it does in the quality at-bat chart. She put a lot of barrel on the ball. Good to see the stuff from the new people and see sparks from the returners."
Missouri State and MSU were locked in a pitching duel in the first four innings, as Ward and Kaitlin Beason held batters to a combined six hits. MSU broke through in the bottom of the fifth, as junior outfielder Kat Moore sparked the offense with a leadoff double to center field. Freshman Mia Davidson followed with her second home run of the weekend.
After getting on board with a walk, senior shortstop Reggie Harrison worked her way to third with a stolen base and an error. She score on senior utility player Morgan Bell's double to right field. Junior utility player Emily Heimberger tripled to center to score pinch runner sophomore Maddie Dorsett to cap the four-run inning.
In the finale, Williams allowed one hit and struck out seven in four innings.
MSU opened the scoring in the second when freshman infielder O'Neil Roberson had a one-out single to right field. She advanced to third on Heimberger's bunt as the speedy junior was able to reach second on an MVSU error. Robinson singled to center to score Roberson, before Dorsett's RBI on a groundout made it 2-0.
In the fourth, Heimberger and Robinson manufactured a run with back-to-back singles. In the fifth, Moore had a leadoff home run. Bell added a three-run home run.
Sophomore right-hander Candace Denis pitched the final two innings.
MSU will play host to Tennessee-Martin at 4 p.m. Thursday at Nusz Park. It will play host to the February Freezer on Friday through Sunday. The tournament will feature Murray State, Drake, and South Alabama.