The Mississippi State softball team was on the brink.
Down 7-1 in the sixth inning of the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at North Alabama, the Bulldogs knew what they were up against. Lose both games, and MSU’s record would fall to a paltry 16-16 before heading back into a Southeastern Conference slate in which the Dawgs have yet to emerge victorious.
Then Mississippi State showed what can make its offense so dangerous on the occasions it happens to be firing on all cylinders.
Fa Leilua blasted a grand slam as part of a five-run sixth inning, Madisyn Kennedy delivered the go-ahead hit in the top of the ninth, and the Bulldogs (18-14, 0-9 SEC) came away with a 9-7, extra-inning win over the Lions (17-11, 5-4 Atlantic Sun). MSU went on to beat North Alabama 9-1 in Game 2 of the doubleheader on the run rule in five innings, finishing with seven home runs across the afternoon’s two contests.
“I thought the hitters really did a good job of sticking within their plan and, even the first time through the lineup, making her grind out at-bats and throw a lot of pitches,” MSU coach Samantha Ricketts said in a news release. “We went deeper into counts than we’ve been doing in the past. It was really good to see them locked in early in the game, and I think that paid off in late-game at-bats.”
Leilua’s grand slam to left field followed one of two home runs in the game by sophomore Paige Cook. Cook’s one-out solo shot in the seventh inning tied the game, and Kennedy chopped the ball back up the middle with two away in the ninth to give the Bulldogs the lead.
“That was really exciting to get up 9-7 and to see that happen,” Kennedy said. “I’m glad Paige scored from second. When she scored, I was like, ‘Yeah, we got this.’”
Annie Willis pitched 2.2 innings of scoreless relief to preserve a critical victory for the Bulldogs in what went down as the team’s largest comeback since 2004.
In Game 2, MSU needed no such heroics. Beginning with Carter Spexarth’s two-run shot in the first inning, the Dawgs jumped all over the Lions from the outset.
Kennedy followed suit with a solo shot off the scoreboard in center field in the second before blasting a three-run homer that found a home on top of the left-field batting cage in the fourth.
Leilua added a two-run double later in the inning, and another run came home on an error by the Lions.
Mississippi State will return to action at 4 p.m. Monday at Southeastern Louisiana.