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Knudsen, Ward lead No. 23 MSU to shutouts of Ole Miss

 

Cassady Knudsen

Cassady Knudsen

 

Holly Ward

Holly Ward

 

 

From Special Reports

 

 

OXFORD -- Cassady Knudsen and Holly Ward were simply dominating. 

 

Knudsen and Ward threw back-to-back shutouts Sunday to lead the No. 23 Mississippi State softball team to 5-0 and 6-0 victories against Ole Miss at the Ole Miss Softball Complex. 

 

The victories mark the first time since 2011 that MSU (32-11, 6-8 Southeastern Conference) has recorded back-to-back shutouts against a SEC opponent. 

 

Knudsen and Ward combined for 19 strikeouts and allowed only nine singles in the doubleheader. 

 

Ole Miss (21-18, 4-12) went 0-for-15 with runners in scoring positions, while MSU was 6-for-14 (.429). 

 

"Our team is so tough," MSU coach Vann Stuedeman said. "We have a lot of off-the-field things that are pressing, but it just shows you the resilience and the grit of this team. Cassady was really spinning the ball, and she was trusting herself today, which was fun to see." 

 

Freshman Mia Davidson went 5-for-7 in the doubleheader with two runs and one RBI. Senior Reggie Harrison had four hits and led the team with six RBIs. 

 

Junior Emily Heimberger and Davidson recorded three hits in the opening game. Heimberger scored two runs. Harrison went 2-for-4 at the plate in Game 1 and drove in a team-leading two runs.  

 

Knudsen allowed two hits and five walks. She struck out 11 for her striking out 11 for her sixth double-digit strikeout game of the season. 

 

The Bulldogs are Rebels traded three scoreless innings. Knudsen worked out of jams in the first and third, leaving Rebels stranded in scoring position in both innings. 

 

MSU broke through in the top of the fourth when junior Kat Moore slugged her third home run of the season. 

 

MSU plated three crucial insurance runs in the top of the fifth with RBI doubles, all to left field, by Davidson, Harrison, and Morgan Bell. 

 

Knudsen worked around five walks and three errors before allowing her first hit -- a single by Dylinn Stancil -- in the sixth. Knudsen and the Bulldogs worked out the jam with help of two strikeouts. 

 

Heimberger led off the top of the seventh with a single through the side before working her way to third on a foul out and a passed ball. Harrison would bring Heimberger scored on Harrison's single up the middle. 

 

Ole Miss had its second hit in the seventh, but senior Carmen Carter reeled in a fly out to right field to wrap up MSU's 15th shutout win. 

 

In Game 2, Harrison went 2-for-3 with a sacrifice fly and four RBIs. 

 

Ward (12-4) worked around seven hits and five walks to pick up her sixth shutout. She struck out eight. 

 

Harrison's two-out single up the middle in the first gave MSU a 1-0 lead. 

 

Ole Miss took advantage of two walks and a wild pitch to move two runners into scoring position with one out in the bottom of the first, but Ward responded with back-to-back strikeouts. 

 

Leading 1-0 in the sixth, junior Sarai Niu led off with an infield single before Harrison broke the game open with her sixth home run. 

 

A couple Ole Miss miscues in the top of the seventh, including an errant throw on a Heimberger sacrifice bunt attempt, plated a MSU run. Ole Miss intentionally walked Davidson to load the bases before Niu and Harrison knocked back-to-back sacrifice flies to push the lead to 6-0.  

 

The Rebels tried to rally late with back-to-back, one-out singles, but senior Calyn Adams made two impressive defense plays to retire the side and clinch the shutout. 

 

The shutouts were MSU's first in consecutive SEC games since 3-0 and 2-0 victories against Arkansas to open the series in 2011. 

 

With two shutouts, MSU has 16, the second-most in program history. The 1998 pitching staff holds the program record at 17. 

 

Senior Kaitlin Lee took the loss in Game 1. She allowed four runs on 10 hits. Freshman Anna Borgen gave up one run and two hits in 2 1/3 innings. 

 

In Game 2, freshman Ava Tillmann allowed six runs (four earned) on seven hits. She struck out two. 

 

Junior Kylan Becker reached in 6 of 7 plate appearances, going 2-for-3 with four walks. 

 

Senior Paige McKinney was 2-for-4 with a walk. 

 

Ole Miss left 20 runners on base across both ends of the doubleheader. 

 

The teams will conclude the series at 6 tonight (SEC Network). 

 

Ole Miss will look to avoid being swept by MSU in Oxford for the first time since 2012. 

 

 

 

No. 15 Alabama softball team loses to No. 20 Arkansas  

 

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The No. 15 Alabama softball lost to No. 20 Arkansas 6-3 on Sunday afternoon at Bogle Park, 6-3. 

 

Alabama (26-13, 7-8) fell behind first after Arkansas (33-9, 8-7) scored two runs in the first and added another in the third. 

 

A solo home run from freshman Kaylee Tow in the fifth made it 3-1, but the Razorbacks added three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. 

 

Tow blasted her second home run in the top of the seventh, a two-run shot, before a groundout ended the game. 

 

Tow's two home runs were part of a 3-for-4 day. She leads the team with 10 home runs. She also had 26 RBIs. 

 

Sophomore Gabby Callaway also posted a multi-hit effort, her 10th of the season. The San Diego, California, native earned at least one hit in all three games this weekend. 

 

Alabama left a pair stranded on base in the top of the first and Arkansas loaded the bases with three-straight singles to lead off the bottom half. After a strikeout, a fly ball to center field scored one on a sacrifice fly and an error on the play allowed another to cross to make it 2-0 with two out and a runner at third. A groundout ended the inning with the Razorbacks holding the early two-run advantage. 

 

With two out in the bottom of the third, Kayla Green and Ashley Diaz hit back-to-back doubles, extending Arkansas' lead to 3-0. In the top of the fifth, Tow went opposite field and blasted a solo home run to make it 3-1. 

 

With a runner on first and one out in the bottom of the sixth, an error on a sacrifice bunt attempt put two in scoring position for the Razorbacks. Hannah McEwen capitalized on the mistake with a single up the middle, scoring two to extend the lead to 5-1. Later in the inning with two out and runners at the corners, freshman Madison Preston entered in relief in the circle. The Arkansas batter swung at strike three but the ball got away on a wild pitch, allowing her to reach safely and a run to score to make it 6-1 before a groundout ended the inning.  

 

With two out and a runner on first in the top of the seventh, Tow blasted her second home run of the day to make it a three-run game but a chopper to first ended the game. 

 

Alabama will play host to Southern Mississippi at 6 p.m. Wednesday (SEC Network). 

 

 

 

ICC softball team earns highest ranking in NJCAA 

 

FULTON -- After starting the season unranked, the Itawamba Community College softball team skyrocketed into the national spotlight after sweeping No. 1 Jones County Junior College to earn the program's highest-ever ranking at No. 4 spot in last week's National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) DII Softball poll. 

 

Other MACJC teams joining the Indians (31-7, 22-2 MACJC) in the rankings include: No. 6 Jones County (38-3, 22-2 MACJC); No. 15 East Central Community College (29-9, 16-8 MACJC); No. 19 Northeast Mississippi Community College (23-18, 14-10 MACJC).  

 

Des Moines Area (28-0) takes over the No. 1 spot in the country. The Indians dropped a pair of one-run games to the Bears during Spring Break.  

 

ICC holds the top spot in the conference holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Jones County with doubleheaders against Coahoma Community College (0-26, 0-24 MACJC) and Meridian Community College (11-22, 9-15 MACJC) left on the schedule.  

 

The MACJC best-of-three series is scheduled for Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28. If the Indians earn the regular season conference championship and win their series, they will play host to the MACJC State tournament May 4-6 in Fulton.  

 

ICC's 6-1 Game 2 victory against East Mississippi C.C. on Tuesday secured the program's seventh-straight season with 30 or more wins. ICC split with Mississippi Gulf Coast C.C. on Friday at Harrison Central High School in Gulfport.

 

 

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