The Mississippi State Bulldogs have a plan for every situation during a softball game.
When Erin Nesbit came to the plate in the fifth inning with two runners on and two outs, she was aware of what she had to do.
The strategy was the same even when Nesbit had two strikes in the count.
Nesbit hit a double to left field to score Ka'ili Smith and Sam Lenahan with what turned out to be the winning runs as the Bulldogs defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 4-3 Friday at the MSU Softball Field.
"We never get into the batter's box without a plan," Nesbit said. "At that point, I had two strikes on me so I was looking to protect the plate and the zone. I wanted to hit something hard."
Nesbit did exactly that as she went down and hit a low delivery from Kentucky pitcher Chanda Bell. Ellen Weaver of the Wildcats was burned in left and couldn't get back to make the catch.
Despite having a .183 batting average going into the game, Nesbit found a way to produce in the clutch.
"I'll continue to say that she has a ton of intangibles," Stuedeman said of Nesbit. "She's got grit, guts, heart and a work ethic like a warrior. She's a one-pitch wonder and is able to go from one pitch to another. When she has a bad foul ball or a swing and a miss, she's able to move from that one to the next very quickly. That's what helps her to succeed."
Nesbit's hit gave MSU a 4-3 lead, but a play just as crucial to getting a win was the defensive play made to end the game.
After Kentucky had scored a run in the sixth inning to cut the lead to 4-3, it had the tying run on second base in the seventh.
Nesbit fielded a play with the runner crossing in front of her and threw a strike to Shelby Fisher at first to secure the victory for the Bulldogs, who improved to 26-19 overall and 9-14 in the Southeastern Conference.
"If that ball squeaks up the middle, the tying run definitely scores in the top half of the seventh," Stuedeman said. "It was a bouncy ball and had a runner in front of her, but she made the play."
The Wildcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning, but the home team answered with a pair of runs in their half of the frame.
Brittany Bell led off with a double and came home on a bases-loaded walk to Lenahan, while Jessica Cooley reached on a walk and scored on a fielder's choice to Fisher.
The contest remained tied until Nesbit's double in the fifth.
Four runs was enough for MSU pitcher Stephanie Becker, who went the distance, gave up three runs on six hits and had nine strikeouts.
"She's just a bulldog," Stuedeman said of Becker. "She has a short-term memory and just goes to work."
Smith had two of the four hits for the Bulldogs, both singles, while Bell and Nesbit had one double each.
MSU and Kentucky play the second game of the series today. The first pitch is set for noon and an alumni game is planned following.
"We'll have to be ready again because this is a great Kentucky team that's extremely well-coached," Stuedeman said.
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