Jessica Cooley and the rest of the high-powered Mississippi State softball offense were back at it again last night against Jackson State. The Bulldogs run-ruled the Tigers by a score of 12-3, ending the game after the top of the fifth. Cooley blasted two home runs en route to a four RBI game to lead the way for the Dogs.
But things did not go State’s way to begin the game as JSU senior Wendi Reed made a dent in the scoreboard early, hitting the second pitch of the game out of the park for her sixth home run of the season. The Tigers added two more runs in the inning to take a quick 3-0 lead off of MSU pitcher Kylie Vry.
Vry said she knew her team would rally behind her and regain the lead.
“The start was a little shaky for everyone, but I knew my team was going to bring it back," Vry said. "We got pumped up after that first inning, and we were ready to get it back."
Vry’s prediction came true as the Bulldogs’ bats went straight to work in the bottom of the inning. Five quick runs chased Tiger pitcher LeEthel Guillory out of the game with only two outs in the first. Senior Ka’ili Smith had an RBI hit before Cooley smashed her 12th home run of the year.
An error, single and two walks set things up again for Smith, who came through with a double to bring in two more runs. JSU pitcher Jasmine Warren tried to stop the bleeding but the damage was already done as eight Bulldogs crossed the plate in the inning.
With a five-run cushion behind her, Vry came back with confidence. She shut-out the Tigers the remainder of the game, including a four-pitch fourth inning which was the lowest pitch count in an inning by a Bulldog this season.
State added four runs in the third with an RBI knock from Brittany Gates and another Cooley home run. Head coach Vann Stuedeman said the girls are buying into the offensive system of coach Alan Reach and coach Beth Mullins.
“Jessica Cooley is just on fire," Stuedeman said. The ball must look like a watermelon to her. They’ve been working really hard, and we’ve been relentless on our offensive approach. It’s great to see it pay off."
For Cooley, everything seems to be going her way. She leads the team and is second in the SEC with 13 home runs, and in her last five at bats, she has hit four home runs and one double. The term “unstoppable”can describe Cooley’s recent play, and she said everything is clicking right now.
“Coach Reach and Coach Mullins have done an awesome job helping me out," Cooley said. "Whenever I’m not in my groove, they know what to say to get me back in it. They have key words that when I’m up to bat they say, and it clicks for me.”
The blowout game also gave opportunities for other players to gain some playing time. Sophomore Rachael Zdeb came off the bench to record a hit and a great diving catch to end the game. Freshmen and former East Webster standout Swayze Hollenhead, Courtney Vanlandingham and Ashley Phillips saw action as well.
Cooley said seeing these girls come in and play so well made her and the rest of her teammates excited.
“It’s such a good feeling because they do a lot more that people don’t see," Cooley said "They have jobs they do in the dugout, so it’s actually relaxing to get into the game; that’s the easy part. It’s a great feeling for any teammate to see their hard work pay off."
Up next for the Bulldogs is a trip to Oxford this weekend to take on in-state rival Ole Miss. The Rebels, at 3-11 in the conference, and the Bulldogs, at 5-11 in the league, are two teams in desperate need of a series win. Although Ole Miss has the advantage of playing at home, MSU is on a hot-hitting streak that will be tough to overcome.