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Bulldogs use 16-hit attack to win at home in softball

March 5, 2012

It's all part of the plan for Jessica Cooley and the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Cooley, a candidate for Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, continued her hot-hitting at the plate for the MSU softball team with two hits, including a grand slam home run, five RBI and led a season-tying 16-hit attack in Sunday's 11-5 victory against the Samford Bulldogs.

State won all five games it played during the Bulldog Classic and improved to 14-5 overall.

Cooley said it has been a team effort to get to this point.

"My teammates are coming in and working extra hard," Cooley said. "It's all 25 of us with the coaching staff and the players. Everybody has a role and doing their roles. That's why we are being successful.

"We came into practice this week really determined on a plan and our coaches really hammered that into us this week. As hitters, we all bought into it. We got great results from it, but our coaches definitely helped me in getting the pitch that I wanted and making a plan for every at-bat."

After Samford jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, MSU responded in the same frame for six runs to take a lead it would keep.

Ka'ili Smith scored the first run of the game for the homestanding Bulldogs when a play off the bat of Shelby Fisher was errored. After Brittany Bell was hit by a pitch, Sam Lenahan grounded into a fielder's choice and Heidi Shape singled, Cooley stepped up to the plate and delivered the homer to right that cleared the bases and put State on top 5-3.

MSU assistant coach Alan Reach credited the work that Cooley has had with fellow assistant Beth Mullins as the reason for her hitting success.
"(Cooley) and coach Mullins worked on getting extension in the fall," Reach said. "Since Cooley is such a great kid, she bought in, saw a little bit of success and just sold out to it. She has worked relentless to get where she is and the good thing is she wants to improve."

Mississippi State added one more run in the first inning as a double off the bat of Jessica Offutt sent Ashley Phillips home.

After MSU increased the lead to 7-3 with a run in the second inning, Samford closed the gap to 7-5 in the fourth frame.

State expanded the margin once again with one run in the fourth and three in the fifth to provide the needed cushion.

Offutt had a single, double and triple, while Fisher added a double and two singles to the MSU offensive output.

"Coach Mullins, our strength coach Alicia Catlette and I have worked extremely hard with our hitters," Reach said. "Credit to Vann (Stuedeman) because she sets the tone for leadership. Our hitters have bought in and worked extremely hard. They have stayed hungry and when you do that, you get a little confidence and start to roll a little bit. We've got to continue to work that process and stay very hungry."

The pitching of starter Stephanie Becker and reliever Lindsey Dunlap kept the Samford offense at bay.

Becker worked the first four innings in the circle to get the win and improved her record to 7-1, while Dunlap hurled the last three frames, did not give up a hit and recorded her first save since 2010. The two pitchers combined for 13 strikeouts.

Stuedeman knows it can be a tough adjustment for pitchers because of the tools available to hitters in this day and age.

Becker was the winning pitcher when Mississippi State defeated Samford 6-3 on Feb. 14 and Stuedeman said the visiting Bulldogs came in ready.

"People are making a lot of adjustments with video these days and the hitters have really caught up with the game with technology," Stuedeman said. "It's nice to have a couple of different arms to put out there and give a different view.

"Lindsey came in and provided something a little bit different. She did an awesome job and I'm really proud of her. She should have a lot of confidence."

Dunlap was quick to give credit to catchers Smith and Lenahan for their work.

"They called a great game and I couldn't ask for anything better," Dunlap said. "I definitely would have given up hits if the defense had not been there behind me."

Mississippi State opens SEC play at home Wednesday against Florida with a doubleheader set to begin at 4 p.m.

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