Kennedy Provides Walk-Off Single In Eighth Inning
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State softball continued its run of dramatic victories with a walk-off victory over Southern Miss on Wednesday night.
Madisyn Kennedy delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the eighth to bring home Paige Cook for a 3-2 win. Annie Willis tossed her fifth complete game of the season, striking out seven on her way to her 13th victory of the year.
“The bottom line is finding a way to pull it out there and get a win,” head coach Samantha Ricketts said. “I think that’s the biggest thing for us. [There were] definitely some gray hairs, and they’re going to continue to make it interesting. The biggest thing is that we continue to learn how to compete and not go away when things aren’t going our way. Even if we’re down early, knowing that we still have outs on the board, we’re still in the game and we still have a chance.”
The Bulldogs (22-16, 0-9 SEC) opened the scoring in the first inning when Carter Spexarth grounded out to score Mia Davidson who had originally reached on a walk. Southern Miss (20-19, 2-6 C-USA) answered with two in the top of the second inning and were threatening to score more before Kennedy turned a double play to end the frame.
Fa Leilua tied the game in the fifth with her 13th home run of the season. It was her 44th as a Bulldog, which moved her into a tie for second in school history with Kellie Wilkerson (1999-02).
Once the game was tied, Willis settled in and retired all but two batters, allowing just one hit over the final three innings. She froze hitters for the final out in the seventh and eighth frames.
Cook opened the eighth by singling through the right side. A sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch moved her to third where she scored on Kennedy’s single to left field.
Samantha Ricketts on Annie Willis’ outing:
“She definitely looked stronger the later she threw. I think these were definitely tough conditions to throw in for any pitcher. Being able to attack and get out of that 2nd inning with only two runs was huge, leaving the bases loaded and had runners on a couple of other times. Even with the 148 pitches that she threw, she had four innings where she was 15 pitches or less. I think that really helped her to be able to go all eight innings and for us to not have to get her out earlier once her pitch count got too high.”
Samantha Ricketts on playing small ball in the eighth inning:
“I think the bottom half of our lineup – it’s something we’ve been working on for the past few weeks is just being a little bit better at the small ball and having team at-bats to not try to put too much pressure on ourselves or take too big of swings at the plate. Even Carter [Spexarth] in the four-hole, our first run is on a grounder to second base. That’s something we work on. It’s a team at-bat. Nothing flashy in the books, but it’s getting the job done and getting a way to get some runners across with what our game plan is.”
Madisyn Kennedy on winning games late:
“It feels great to get those wins. This one tonight, we go into extra innings again, same with the last time that we played Southern Miss. It feels great to do it, but we just get it done and it happens.”
Madisyn Kennedy on Annie Willis:
“It gave the whole defense confidence. We had confidence from her and with her from the beginning. I think just seeing her connect with us on the field like ‘Hey, I’ve got this and we’re going to shut it down and get it done’. She had that mentality the whole time and we knew she was going to do it and we had her back in doing that.”
Fa Leilua on her home run:
“I was feeling it the whole game. I told the girls we just had to keep grinding that strike zone. I knew any pitch that was going to be close, I was either sitting on a changeup or an outside pitch, especially the one that was called on Chloe [Malau’ulu]. I knew I just had to protect the plate in my count and back up my girls.”
Paige Cook – Legged out an infield single in the fourth and singled before scoring the game-winning run … Now has eight multi-hit games this year.
Madisyn Kennedy – Delivered a walk-off single, her third career game-winning RBI … Also drew a walk and turned an unassisted double play.
Fa Leilua – Went 3-for-4 with a solo home run … Reached on a fielder’s choice in her fourth trip to the plate … Now tied for second in school history with 44 career home runs at MSU (63 total) … Leads the team with 13 homers this season.
Carter Spexarth – Has at least one RBI in four of her last five games.
Annie Willis – Threw her fifth complete game of the year … Threw a season-high 148 pitches … Struck out seven in 8.0 innings of work.
Mia Davidson walked with one out. She advanced to third on a Fa Leilua single. Mia Davidson scored on a groundout to second by Carter Spexarth.
Southern Miss 0, Mississippi State 1
Hannah Borden singled up the middle. Borden advanced to second on when Amber Pack walked. Columbia Holeman pinch ran for Borden and advanced on a passed ball. Pack advanced to second. Holeman scored on a Maria Smith double to right-center, but Pack held up at third. Jamie Powell walked to load the bases. Pack scored on a Destini Brown walk.
Southern Miss 2, Mississippi State 1
Leilua homered to right field.
Southern Miss 2, Mississippi State 2
Paige Cook singled through the right side. Jackie McKenna laid down a sacrifice bunt to push Cook to second. She then took third on a wild pitch and scored on a single to left field from Madisyn Kennedy.
Southern Miss 2, Mississippi State 3
The Bulldogs head to Missouri to face the No. 15 Tigers (29-10, 7-5 SEC) on April 16-18. First pitch on Friday night is set for 6:30 p.m. CT on SEC Network+. The final two games of the series will air on SEC Network.
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