STARKVILLE — Montana Davidson bobbled the softball just a little as she scooped up the grounder and fired it across the diamond to first base.
The slight delay was all it took for Memphis pinch-hitter Taylor Broddick to reach base with two out in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game at Nusz Park. Instead of recording the final out, the Mississippi State senior third baseman was assessed an error — the Bulldogs’ first of the ballgame.
After a walk, Gracie Morton flied out to left field on the first pitch, sealing a 5-0 win over Memphis (1-12) for Mississippi State (15-5) and rendering Davidson’s slight misplay insignificant. Even so, it was another reminder that the Bulldogs have yet to play a pristine game this season — but that they’re perfectly capable of winning softball games regardless.
“When we’re looking at playing a complete game with our best pitching, offense, defense and baserunning, I don’t know if we’ve put it all together yet,” head coach Samantha Ricketts said. “And we’ve still found a way to go 15-5 through the first 20.”
Ricketts and the Bulldogs know they’ll have to step it up when Southeastern Conference play begins Saturday at Ole Miss. The nation’s premier softball conference features 10 ranked teams, including six in a row from Nos. 17-22. Mississippi State isn’t among the top 25; the Bulldogs’ schedule features six SEC opponents who are.
“We’re ready to go, and we’re just finally ready to be out there competing in the conference with how tough it’s going to be week after week,” Ricketts said. “We’re ready for that.”
Senior ace Emily Williams certainly showed Wednesday that she’s prepared for the grind of SEC play. Williams struck out 10 Tigers in six scoreless innings, mixing speeds and missing barrels. Her ERA is down to 1.47 on the season, showing considerable improvement after she allowed seven runs in 4.1 innings in the Bulldogs’ Feb. 13 season opener against Miami (Ohio).
“It’s good to see E-Dub out there attacking the zone,” Ricketts said. “I think they were really trying to attack our defense. She didn’t even give them an opportunity.”
Memphis recorded three hits against Williams: a double in the first inning, a triple in the third and an infield single in the sixth. Each time, the Bulldogs pitcher finished out the inning without allowing another baserunner, let alone a run.
“I just tried to get a lot of soft contact and come right back after giving up some hits,” Williams said.
While the Bulldogs missed plenty of opportunities on offense with 12 runners left on base, Mississippi State still pounded out nine hits Wednesday. Senior catcher Mia Davidson and sophomore second baseman Paige Cook led the way with two apiece.
“I felt like all of our batters all around did a really good job just seeing the ball and hitting their pitching,” Cook said.
Senior designated player Carter Spexarth lashed a double to center field to score Mia Davidson for the game’s first run. The next two came home in the fourth when fifth-year senior outfielder Christian Quinn beat out an infield single and the throw sailed down the first-base line, clearing the bases and putting Quinn on third.
In the sixth, junior outfielder Anna Kate Segars doubled home a run and Montana Davidson poked a single into right to score another as the Bulldogs went up by five.
Sophomore Aspen Wesley took over the circle in the seventh inning, working around Davidson’s error and a subsequent walk to preserve the shutout.
It was the seventh straight win for the Bulldogs, keeping the momentum alive in the third-base dugout as Mississippi State prepares for this weekend’s trip to Oxford. The series will be played Saturday through Monday with all three games broadcasted on the SEC Network.
Williams said opening SEC play against the team’s biggest in-state rival won’t change how the Bulldogs prepare to attack their first conference series of the season, but it ups the reward should Mississippi State come out on top.
“I think we just treat it just like every other SEC game,” she said. “It’s just more fun to win.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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