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Cooley, Bell power MSU to softball win

April 24, 2012

Jessica Cooley and Brittany Bell lead the Mississippi State softball team in home runs for a reason this season.

On Tuesday, they showed why.

Bell and Cooley went back-to-back with shots over the leftfield fence against the Memphis Tigers as the Bulldogs built a 6-1 lead in the fifth inning.

Cooley hit another home run, a three-run shot, to give MSU a 9-1 victory in six innings.

It was the ninth home run for Bell, while Cooley crushed 14 and 15 of the season.

Cooley gave credit to assistant coaches Alan Reach and Beth Mullins as well as her teammates for keeping her positive during a time where she was not hitting as well.

"I've been getting on base and walking a lot, but haven't really been hitting the ball solid," Cooley said. "My teammates had my back the whole time and especially Shelby Fisher. She's been talking to me every single at-bat, saying 'you've got this and all it takes is one swing.' It was them being able to pull me out of that little slump. I'm thankful to them."

Cooley's solo shot gave the Bulldogs a 6-1 advantage after Bell's three-run homer had increased the margin to 5-1.

After Memphis scored in the top of the third inning to take a 1-0 lead, MSU came back with a pair of runs in its half of the frame to gain a 2-1 advantage. Ka'ili Smith had a single with two outs to drive in Jessica Offutt and Brittany Bell. The Bulldogs have seen 40 percent of their RBI come with two outs this season.

"It was imperative for us to answer immediately and I felt like we were going to with the way the inning started," MSU softball coach Vann Stuedeman said. "K.K. (Smith) was again clutch and put it right up the middle. We were able to motor around and Brittany Bell had a fantastic slide to score that second run."

The runs turned out to be all pitcher Kylie Vry needed to get a victory.
Vry replaced Stephanie Becker in the second inning and went the rest of the way, working five innings, allowing three runs, one unearned run and struck out five.

Stuedeman was happy to see Vry gain confidence.

"Her drop ball was breaking a foot," Stuedeman said. "They weren't getting many foul balls on it and just swinging and missing. That's important for her to feel good and confident as we move forward with one more weekend of SEC play. We need all of the pitchers to be feeling confident."

Along with the home runs from Bell and Cooley for the Bulldogs, Bell added a single and so did Smith, Sam Lenahan and Swayze Hollenhead.
Hollenhead, a former East Webster player, was a pinch-hitter in the fifth and reached on an infield single. She stayed in the game and made her first-ever defensive appearance at second base.

MSU, which improved to 29-19 overall, travels to Southern Mississippi today for a 6 p.m. matchup, then hosts Tennessee Tech for a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday. It will be senior day for the Bulldogs.

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