Mississippi State freshman softball player Briana Bell has been making up for lost time.
After being slowed by a separated shoulder suffered in the preseason, Bell has been taking advantage of the opportunities that have come her way.
Bell started her second and third games of the season Wednesday afternoon as the Bulldogs swept a Southeastern Conference doubleheader 2-1 and 11-5 against the South Carolina Gamecocks at the MSU Softball Field.
In the second game, Bell drove home four of the 11 runs for the Bulldogs with a pair of singles.
"Now that I've come back from my injury, I'm just happy to get back in the game and help my team out as much as I can," Bell said. "Driving in those runs is part of my job."
Bell has six hits in 12 at-bats and driven in five runs for Mississippi State, which improved to 10-10 overall and 2-0 in the SEC.
MSU softball coach Jay Miller said there were some big things expected of Bell prior to her shoulder injury so he knew it was only a matter of time before she started to make a difference in the lineup.
"She's a great talent as a freshman, but she needs to get some at-bats under her belt," Miller said. "She's just going to get better and better."
Bell was right in the middle of a five-run third inning for the Bulldogs to break a 1-1 tie. Her two-run single allowed Heidi Shape and Courtney Nesbit to cross the plate and gave MSU a 3-1 lead. Ackerman native Chelsea Raines, Jessica Cooley and pinch-hitter Shelby Fisher followed Bell with one RBI single each. Sam Lenahan had the other extra base hit with a fourth-inning double.
The Bulldogs continued the scoring in the fourth inning with five runs on three hits, and even though the Gamecocks came back with four runs in the fifth frame, they could not complete the rally.
The two teams traded runs in the first inning.
After South Carolina got a run, MSU got even when Kaili Smith drove home Ali Bainbridge with a single.
Bainbridge had two doubles to lead the 12-hit attack for the Bulldogs, while Shape added a double and a single, and Bell and Raines had two singles each.
Misty Flesher (3-1) was the starting and winning pitcher for MSU and was followed into the circle by freshman Shana Sherrod and Kylie Vry, who pitched the complete seven innings in the first game.
Sherrod pitched a pair of innings and gave up one run on three hits.
Miller was glad to be able to give his young hurler some work in an SEC game.
"It was nice to give shannon some innings," Miller said. "She's been working hard all year and she has a wicked drop ball. She's tough to hit once through the order. She came in and did a nice job."
Miss. State 2,
S. Carolina 1
Vry went the distance, hurling a three-hitter, as the Bulldogs began the SEC schedule on a winning note.
"I thought Kylie pitched well in the first game," Miller said. "She really came on and shut them down. We scratched, clawed and came up with a couple of runs."
After South Carolina got one run in the fourth inning, MSU collected the deciding two runs in the sixth frame.
Kaili Smith had an RBI single for the Bulldogs, while Brittany Gates added a triple and Bainbridge and Raines had one single each.
Vry (4-7) struck out three and walked two.