STILLWATER, Okla. — Mississippi State softball is still alive in the NCAA’s Stillwater Regional, but the Bulldogs have a tall task ahead of them Sunday.
Coach Samantha Ricketts’ team will have to beat regional host and No. 5 national seed Oklahoma State twice to advance to Super Regionals after a 9-3 loss to the Cowgirls early Saturday.
But the Bulldogs are still alive thanks to a 12-0 run-rule win over Campbell in Saturday evening’s elimination game.
Mississippi State will take on Oklahoma State at 1 p.m. Saturday from Stillwater. If the Bulldogs win, they’ll have to beat the Cowgirls a second time to advance, while Oklahoma State needs to win only once.
Here’s how Mississippi State fared in its two games Saturday.
Mississippi State 12, Campbell 0, five innings
An eight-run third inning powered the Bulldogs over the fourth-seeded Camels as Mississippi State tied a school record for runs in an NCAA tournament game.
Carter Spexarth, Mia Davidson, Fa Leilua and Madisyn Kennedy all hit home runs, including back-to-back shots by Spexarth and Davidson in the second inning.
“I really liked the way we came out today,” Ricketts said. “I thought the energy was great. They were very loose. I didn’t think they came out with any pressure of the elimination game.”
Christian Quinn had a two-run double off the top of the wall in the third, and Spexarth plated two runs with a single later in the frame.
Quinn reached on an error to bring home the Bulldogs’ 12th run in the fourth inning.
“Campbell’s a good team, and they’re in this regional for a reason,” Ricketts said. “We didn’t want to just be satisfied with a couple runs here and there.”
Aspen Wesley pitched three shutout innings for Mississippi State, and Grace Fagan closed out the game by hanging two more zeros.
“It just lets us know that we can do it; we will do it,” outfielder Chloe Malau’ulu said of the outburst. “We plan on coming out there tomorrow with that same mindset and just playing our game.”
— Theo DeRosa
No. 5 Oklahoma State 9, Mississippi State 3
Mississippi State took an early lead in Saturday’s first contest and had a chance to break the game open, but No. 5 Oklahoma State swept the rug out from under the Bulldogs and didn’t look back.
The Cowgirls used a five-run third inning to run away with the winner’s bracket game 9-3, handing MSU its first loss of the regional.
State jumped in front from the second batter of the game, when Fa Leilua took Carrie Eberle deep to left field. With the game tied, the Bulldogs had the bases loaded with nobody out in the third, looking to bust the game wide open. The Bulldogs got a run on a fielder’s choice but failed to do any more damage as Madisyn Kennedy struck out on a full count to end the inning.
Oklahoma State tied the game on the first batter of the inning, with Kiley Naomi going yard to left field. The Cowgirls got four more runs on four more hits in the inning and essentially put the game out of reach.
“We had a huge momentum shift right there. We were ready to attack, but their defense made some really good plays on some balls and it didn’t fall through,” Quinn said in a news release. “It was really going in our favor, but some things don’t work out like that. That’s OK. It’s how you bounce back, and that’s what we have to do.”
Oklahoma State got three more runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a commanding lead. The Bulldogs got a run back in the top of the sixth, but the Cowgirls prevailed to advance to the regional championship on Sunday.
“This game is so much more than just balls and strikes and home runs and strikeouts. It’s really about how quickly you can get the momentum back in your dugout after either team scores or has a big inning,” Ricketts said. “We were able to pull ahead in the top of the third, and they came right back out, like great teams do, and answered that with a five-spot.”
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.