It was like an NCAA Regional atmosphere Thursday night when the Mississippi State softball team played Alabama in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Even though MSU lost the game 5-2, it gained valuable experience.
The Bulldogs expect to get the ninth bid in school history to the NCAA Tournament tonight and believe being in a tough conference will help as the postseason continues.
"This atmosphere gave us some needed experience and it will help us in preparation for the NCAAs," MSU softball coach Vann Stuedeman said after the SEC Tournament. "The SEC is extremely strong. They have to consider all eight if not nine because Arkansas is a dangerous team that did not make (the SEC) Tournament."
The Bulldogs have made an eight game improvement over last season and hope a 33-22 overall record is good enough to impress the NCAA Selection Committee.
Mississippi State was especially good in April by putting together a 13-2 mark, securing the best winning percentage for the month (.867) in school history.
"We've shown so much more fight since April 1," MSU senior catcher Ka'ili Smith said. "We've grown together, fought and never give up."
Prior to the SEC Tournament, the Bulldogs had an NCAA rating performance index at No. 37. It's usually the case that all teams ranked within the top 40 gets bids to the NCAA Tournament. The last time MSU made the NCAA field was 2009.
Stuedeman and the Bulldogs have invited anyone in the community to come out to Buffalo Wild Wings in Starkville for a viewing of the NCAA Selection Show on ESPNU. The gathering begins at 8:30 p.m. with the show starting at 9 p.m.
Outfielder Jessica Cooley expects MSU to take advantage of the opportunity if its fortunate to have its name come up during the selection show.
"We'll take some of the momentum into next week," Cooley said. "Our team has come a long way. We come up fighting every single pitch and every single inning because you never know when it's going to be your last. I think this team has done a good job and we're coming together. We're all a family and want this so much. We're really excited to get out there and fight."