Paige Cook giveth, and Paige Cook taketh away.
And both actions from the sophomore second baseman helped the Mississippi State softball team to an 8-5 road win Tuesday at Samford.
Cook snagged a soft liner over the bag at second to end a Samford rally in the bottom of the sixth, then provided some additional offense that would prove necessary with a three-run triple in the top of the seventh.
“That’s big time for some insurance runs there at the end,” Mississippi State coach Samantha Ricketts said in a news release. “One thing she’s really doing a lot better as she continues to go deeper in the season is learning from her at-bats. She’s not letting her previous at-bats bring her down. She just continues to grind it out, something that Chloe (Malau’ulu) does a really good job for us in the leadoff. I thought she looked the same way and was able to continue to learn and know what she was going to get that fourth time she got to see that pitcher.”
Cook’s bases-clearing hit off the wall in left field put MSU (21-16) ahead 8-3, an important extension of the lead for the Bulldogs when Samford (14-20) scratched across two runs in the bottom of the frame on an error and former MSU outfielder O’Neil Roberson’s RBI groundout.
But Alyssa Loza struck out the next two hitters to put away Samford for good. The Birmingham-based Bulldogs struck for two runs on a sixth-inning single by Timberlyn Shurbutt, making it a 4-3 game.
MSU had scored four unanswered runs after Samford opened the scoring on Ryan Brzozoski’s double in the first inning. Senior designated player Carter Spexarth and junior catcher Jackie McKenna connected on solo home runs in the second, and graduate first baseman Fa Leilua and fifth-year senior third baseman Montana Davidson had run-scoring singles in the third and fourth, respectively.
After Samford cut the lead to one run, senior catcher Mia Davidson added a run for the maroon and white Bulldogs with an infield single before Cook’s critical three-bagger in the seventh.
Junior Grace Fagan was huge out of the bullpen, pitching five innings in relief of sophomore Aspen Wesley. Fagan allowed five hits and two runs in her time in the circle, striking out seven.
“I thought Grace looked really good coming in,” Ricketts said. “She kept them off balance, mixing in all parts of the zone, being able to go up, down, in, out and coming right back after any walks or hits she gave up. That really helped her extend it to get to Loza to close it.”
Mississippi State will host Southern Miss (20-18) at 6 p.m. Wednesday before going on the road to face No. 18 Missouri (29-9) from Friday to Sunday.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.
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