The Mississippi State softball team wants to win the late innings.
That's exactly what they did Saturday night.
The Bulldogs (3-1) beat Georgia State 9-1 in five innings on the third day of Bulldog Kickoff Classic.
MSU entered the fifth inning with a 3-1 lead after the Panther's MeQuilia Franklin stole home on a double steal.
The Bulldogs entered the bottom of the fifth with an offensive mindset. Senior outfielder Jessica Cooley took an 0-1 pitch out of the park for her third career grand slam to give MSU a 7-1 lead with no outs.
"We just want to fast start and finish the game, so fifth inning, that's the first of late innings," Cooley said. "That's kind of our motto, 'late innings are our innings.' We just wanted to come back out, fight and finish."
A few batters later, sophomore outfielder Ashley Phillips hit a two-run double to center field to end the game.
"I just want to give credit to my teammates for getting on base in front of me and giving me the opportunity to win the game," Phillips said.
The Bulldogs got four solid innings out of redshirt junior right-handed pitcher Alison Owen. Owen who sat out last year after transferring from Georgia has been anxious to get back in the circle. She lets her nervousness fuel her.
"I like to take the nervousness and make it more excitement," Owen said. "I was so excited to get back (in the circle)."
After pitching seven innings and recording nine strikeouts in a loss to open the year, Owen bounced back with another good outing.
She gave up one hit and struck out five in four innings of work. It has been a long time coming for Owen, but it doesn't seem like she is missing a beat.
"I tribute a lot of that to coach (Vann Stuedeman)," Owen said. "She has just been working with me. We have fixed a lot of things, we've worked on a lot of things and we've constantly been in the bullpen. I'm just really thankful to be here and really blessed to have a coach that is willing to work as much as she does with me and the other pitchers as well."
Stuedeman says it easy to coach a player like Owen.
"She is so much fun to coach and so easy going," Stuedeman said. "One thing that's really special about Alison is that she has very good command of her pitches and really limits walks."
Senior lefty Stephanie Becker came in relief of Owen to pick up the win. She pitched one inning, gave up one run on two hits and struck out the side.
The Bulldogs took advantage of an error by the third baseman in the bottom of the third inning to get on the board first. Junior catcher Sam Lenahan reached on the error and drove in freshman outfielder Loryn Nichols in the process.
Redshirt junior third baseman and North Carolina transfer Logan Foulks, hit a two-run homer to cap the scoring in the third.
Phillips and Cooley each had two hits to lead MSU.
The Bulldogs are back in action today when they play South Alabama in the tournament finale at 3:30 p.m.
Mississippi State 8,
Tennessee State 0
The Bulldogs struck out 12 batters for a combined one-hitter and scored six runs in the fifth inning to knock off the Tigers in six innings in MSU's first game of the day.
It is the 15th time in 21 years the Bulldogs have struck out more than 12 batters. Four of those have come in Stuedeman's tenure as head coach.
Kylie Vry pitched four innings, gave up one hit, and struck out nine. Freshman righty Jacey Punches accounted for two innings in the circle, no hits and three Ks to get the win.
"Kylie did a great job," Owen said. "Her balls were moving. Jacey got her first win which is a really big deal."
The Bulldogs held a 6-0 lead going into the bottom of the sixth. Kayla Winfield stole home and Lenahan walked with the bases loaded to force home Jessica Offutt for the game winning run.
"Really excited about the offense," Stuedeman said.
Offutt led the Bulldogs with two hits and two RBI. Ashley Phillips had a double for the Bulldogs.