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By JOEL COLEMAN
For a team needing a spark, Mississippi State's Kylie Vry has perhaps lit the fuse.
Just two days after the Bulldogs were swept in a pair of lopsided decisions Wednesday at Florida, Vry took the mound Friday at the MSU Softball Field and hurled a complete-game, four-hit shutout against Arkansas, leading State to a 3-0 win.
"I felt good out there," said Vry. "I got ahead a lot and the defense played great behind me. We've had some tough games lately and just had to come back strong."
Vry struck out eight and and walked just one over her seven innings of work, throwing 110 pitches in recording her fifth win of the season.
Vry's performance couldn't have come at a better time for the Bulldogs (13-14, 3-2 in the Southeastern Conference), who had lost three in a row and four of their last five coming into Friday's action.
"That's what we needed," said MSU's ninth-year head coach Jay Miller. "We needed someone to come out like that and sit (Arkansas) back on their heels. (Vry) pitched a wonderful ballgame. From the first inning on, she had command, got ahead in the count and worked all her pitches really well. After the Florida series, we were a little beat up and a little down and needed someone to do that for us."
The Razorbacks (9-18, 0-6 in the SEC) came into the contest sporting the next-to-worst team batting average in the conference (.263) leading to the league's fewest amount of total runs scored (99).
Arkansas looked every bit like a struggling offensive team throughout Friday's game as Vry and the Bulldogs allowed just one runner to reach scoring position over the game's first six innings.
In the seventh, the Razorbacks posted their biggest offensive threat, bringing the potential tying run to the plate with two outs.
The threat didn't last long however, as Vry got pinch hitter Amanda Geile to pop out to MSU third baseman and Ackerman native Chelsea Raines to end the game.
While Arkansas struggled at the plate, MSU's Ka'ili Smith excelled, going 3-for-3 with a walk while driving in all three of the Bulldogs' runs.
Smith drove in single runs in the third and fifth innings to give State a 2-0 lead, then walked with the bases loaded in the sixth inning to cap the night's scoring.
Smith's bases-loaded walk gave the Kapolei, Hawaii native, her 100th career RBI, making the junior just the 10th player in school history to reach that plateau.
"In Florida, we had a tough time drilling in runs," said Smith. "My main goal when I'm at the plate is to bring my sisters in. I just try to get the top of the ball. I heard that a lot of pitchers have topspin so me and (MSU assistant coach Alan Colglazier) have just been working on spins."
Miller was glad to see Smith pushing across runs on a day where few others found success at the plate.
"We were fortunate," said Miller. "We had runners in scoring position every time she came to the plate and she drove them all in."
While Smith was MSU's primary run-producer on Friday, the Bulldogs ultimately left 10 total runners on the bases, a stat that concerns Miller as State prepares to host Arkansas at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday to close out a three-game series.
"I thought we left too many runners out there," said Miller. "We had a lot of chances to break it open and couldn't get the job done. Luckily, (Smith) did."
Now with momentum built in large part from the work of Vry and Smith, Miller hopes his team can begin racking up the wins and push towards the top of the SEC Western Division.
"This is an opportunity for us to stay ahead of some people in the conference and give ourselves a chance at postseason at the end of the year," said Miller. "I think the kids are starting to respond really well."
Smith knows it is on her and her teammates to keep things rolling along.
"We've got to keep this up," said Smith. "We've got to look for the sweep this weekend and keep up the good work."