Hit from Raines gives Dogs win
Ali Bainbridge hit a three-run home run to tie the game for MSU in the sixth inning Sunday against Arkansas. (Kim Murrell/SDN)
Chelsea Raines saved her best at-bat for last for the Mississippi State softball team on Sunday afternoon.
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After failing to get a hit in her first nine plate appearances against the Arkansas Razorbacks over the weekend, Raines singled off pitcher Chelsea Cohen with the bases loaded in the seventh inning to give the Bulldogs a come-from-behind 6-5 victory to complete a sweep of the Southeastern Conference series at the MSU Softball Field.
Raines, a native of Ackerman, knew she had to put past struggles behind and hit the softball hard in a key situation for the Bulldogs.
"I was just thinking hit the middle, hit the middle and stay calm because a lot of times your adrenalin gets going so much and you get nervous," Raines said. "I know I need to come through in situations like that whether I'm struggling or not. It's like a mental thing and you have to block out all the bad and focus on what you need to get done at that time of the game."
MSU softball coach Jay Miller was glad to see Raines shake off a batting slump, make the necessary adjustment at the plate and deliver the winning hit.
It's the approach that Miller says is necessary for hitters in the sport of softball.
"This is a game of adjustments, especially as a hitter," Miller said. "You have to adjust from one game to the next, from one at-bat to the next and sometimes one pitch to the next. (Raines has) been struggling with that a little bit. It couldn't happen for a better kid to come through for us."
The Bulldogs had to do something in the final game of the series against the Razorbacks that they were not faced with in the first two outings.
With two straight shutouts, MSU found itself having to come from behind to close the set.
After Arkansas took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Bulldogs rallied to take a 2-1 advantage in the third on a sacrifice fly by Courtney Nesbit to score Ali Bainbridge and an RBI single by Sam Lenahan allowed Heidi Shape to cross the plate.
The Razorbacks bounced back in a big way in the fourth frame when pinch-hitter Amanda Caldwell stepped up with the bases-loaded and launched a grand slam home run over the left-field wall to put her team up 5-2.
Two innings later, MSU was looking to get something going offensively and the bottom of the order got things started with Shelby Fisher getting a single and Briana Bell forcing a walk.
That enabled the top of the order to get up with Bainbridge and she tied the game with a three-run homer.
Bainbridge wasn't necessarily looking for the long ball, but knew the Bulldogs needed something positive with her at-bat.
"I knew we just needed a hit," Bainbridge said. "I was seeing the ball well and knew I had to get a good pitch, stay back and hit it hard somewhere."
MSU pitcher Misty Flesher, who picked up her second victory in as many days against Arkansas, worked around two baserunners for a scoreless seventh and that set up the heroics by Raines at the end.
Even with Razorbacks seizing the momentum with Caldwell's slam, Bainbridge knew the Bulldogs weren't going to quit.
"We have fighters on this team and we never give up," Bainbridge said. "I knew it wasn't over."
Bainbridge had two singles to go along with her home run, while Lenahan had a double and two singles for MSU.
By winning three games, the Bulldogs improved to 15-14 overall and 5-2 in the SEC.
Miller was pleased with the way his squad went about its business on Sunday.
"When you win the first two and have the opportunity to sweep, you hate to let that slip away," Miller said. "I thought our kids battled real well and even from the first inning, we hit the ball hard. We just couldn't seem to get the key hit. We had runners on every inning and finally we started to break it open."
MSU travels to Kentucky for its next league series beginning on Friday.