Bulldogs begin softball season with a bang

Mississippi State third baseman Montana Davidson blows into her hands on a cold Friday in Starkville.

Staff Writer

In most cases, the biggest improvement a player makes is from their freshman to sophomore year but Mia Davidson might find it difficult to do that.  

If her first at-bat of the season for Mississippi State is any indication, she has plans to do just that, however.  

Davidson stepped to the plate on Friday in the opening plate appearance for MSU against Middle Tennessee, squared up the bat and hit the ball over the left field fence. It gave way to a three-run first inning that helped State cruise to a 8-2 victory in the first game of a doubleheader in the Bulldogs Kickoff Classic at Nusz Park. 

“She just loves to play the game and she loves her teammates," MSU head softball coach Vann Stuedeman said. "I don’t think she puts pressure on herself. I just think the game is a lot of fun for her. She’s in the building as much as anyone here and that’s what you want from your best player. I think that at-bat was just ‘hey, this is what I love to do.’”  

That home run was Mia Davidson’s only hit of the game but older sister Montana stole the show. After missing  last season due to a knee injury, Montana was a perfect 3-for-3. Arizona State junior outfielder Fa Leilua made her mark in her first at-bat besting Mia’s blast with a two-run shot of her own that led to a 2-for-4 day and a game-high four RBI.  

Leilua led the Sun Devils in home runs in each of her two years in Tempe and she showed her long ball potential with that homer shortly after Mia’s. It led to a 3-0 lead and plenty of comfortability for true freshman Grace Fagan who was in the circle for the Bulldogs.  

Fagan held the lead for MSU for her four innings giving up just one run on six hits and striking out seven batters. It was a game that was to Stuedeman’s liking.  

“I think they left 12 runners on base so she got big in big moments,” Stuedeman said. “She comes out and starts game one of the season after not pitching until game five in the fall. She went to work and she’s spinning it really well. It’s just going to be managing the expectations and the stresses of the year, but it was a good start for her.” 

The Bulldogs added runs in the second and third innings to increase the lead to five runs and the Blue Raiders could never get back into the game from there.  

State had 13 hits in the game with Sarai Niu earning a 2-for-4 night to go along with the multiple hits recorded by Montana and Leilua.

Game Two  
Mississippi State 3, 
Stephen F. Austin 0 

Runs were much more at a premium for the Bulldogs in game two – at least early in the contest.  

That’s what made the performance MSU got from sophomore pitcher Emily Williams that much more important.  

Williams was shutting down the Stephen F. Austin lineup while the Bulldog bats waited to get hot and had nine strikeouts in her first four innings, including two innings where she struck out the side. That gave MSU a chance to get going as Bevia Robinson tripled home a run in the third and Mia Davidson’s sacrifice fly made it 2-0.  

Leading 3-0, Williams faced her only trouble of the game in the sixth when Stephen F. Austin finally manufactured multiple hits in an inning with back-to-back knocks. She came back and got a strikeout and flyout to end that threat.  

“I thought she was spinning it really well,” Stuedeman said of Williams. “She was doing a really good job of figuring out their heartbeat and what their intentions were. When you see a sophomore being able to figure out that part, it’s encouraging.”  

Williams finished with a monster performance throwing a complete game with just three hits and a career-high 14 strikeouts.  

State was led in game two by Niu, who again had two hits. MSU manufactured just four hits as a team this time around but the efficiency was there as it scored two of the three runs from those hits. Montana Davidson followed up her 3-for-3 game one by getting her RBI double. 

Stuedeman was happy to see her sophomore third baseman back on the field after missing last season.  

“That was a lot of fun because it’s hard for them to come back from energy," Stuedeman said. "It’s fun to see them when they come back from an injury like that. I know it’s special for Mia and Montana to play together. I played with my sister in college and it’s a fun bond. You can see them having fun together.”

The No. 24 Bulldogs (2-0) are back in action at the Bulldog Kickoff Classic Saturday at 12:30 p.m. when they play Valparaiso. The championship round starts later in the afternoon.