STARKVILLE - Friday proved to be a historic day for the Mississippi State softball program as several milestones fell in two victories at Nusz Park.
The Bulldogs defeated Bryant, 5-1, making Samantha Ricketts the fastest head coach in program history to record 20 wins in the Maroon and White, doing so in 23 games.
In the nightcap, Annie Willis dominated Mississippi Valley State (3-13), throwing the 22nd no-hitter in program history while striking out a school-record 19 batters.
"Awesome job by Annie Willis," Ricketts said. "She came out and was locked in from the first pitch and great composure from her. She was really locked in. I'm really happy for her, and for her to throw a no-hitter and set the school record in strikeouts is a big deal. She's earned it, for sure. Coach [Josh] Johnson has done a great job with our entire pitching staff and called another excellent game tonight."
The reigning SEC Pitcher of the Week stuck out the first five batters she faced before fielding her position on a ground out. After striking out the side in the third, two batters reached on errors to open the fourth. Willis remained composed and proceeded to strike out 11 of the final 12 batters, including 10 straight.
"We worked all week to hit my locations, which is what I struggled with last week, so I really focused on that this week," Willis said. "I came out, and honestly, I didn't even know I had that in me. I was just playing for my team, and that was the most relaxed I've felt. I always feel like that with my team behind me."
Along the way, Fa Leilua belted the 50th home run of her career, with a blast to dead center field that brought home two runs. Chloe Malau'ulu also drove in a pair with a two-run single.
Against Bryant (1-9), MSU fell behind in the first inning after a bases-loaded ground out brought home a run. State responded with a three-run third inning highlighted by a Leilua RBI double. The Bulldogs added two more in the fifth to result in the final score.
The Bulldogs (21-3) host SE Missouri State at 12:30 p.m. CT on Saturday, with the winner earning the No. 1 seed for the day's semifinal games. Bracket play begins with the No. 1 vs. No. 4 game at 3 p.m., and the No. 2 vs. No. 3 game will be played at 5:30 p.m.
Samantha Ricketts on Fa Leilua's 50th career home run:
"In two years, Fa has been such an impact for us, obviously power-wise but even just on the team. Her personality, she brings so much out here - energy, focus, and compassion for everyone and her teammates. I'm just so happy to see her succeed on and off the field and continuing to work to get better. She's a great leader, a great hitter and a great teammate all around."
Annie Willis on being named SEC Pitcher of the Week on Monday:
"You get something like that, and you come out and feel like people expect you to do something. But you just have to come out and play for your team. I felt like they were here for me, and I was there for them."
Candace Denis - Stole her team-leading 12th base of the year against MVSU.
Fa Leilua - Hit the 50th home run of her career, making her one of 10 active players in the country to have reached that mark ... Along with Mia Davidson, the Bulldogs join Arizona as the only teams in the country with multiple 50-homer hitters ... Put together a pair of multi-hit games.
Chloe Malau'ulu - Drove in a pair with a two-run single against MVSU.
Carter Spexarth - Recorded her fourth multi-RBI contest of the year against Bryant.
Brylie St. Clair - Came on as a pinch runner and stole two bases before scoring a run.
Lindsey Williams - Knocked two hits in both games marking her third and fourth multi-hit efforts.
Annie Willis - Threw the 22nd no-hitter in school history ... The Bulldogs have thrown a no-hitter in six straight years, tossing seven total in that span ... Struck out an MSU single-game-record 19 batters.
VS. BRYANT SCORING RECAP
Toni Camarillo singled to right field and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Gabrielle Ermish walked. Carlyn Hernandez singled to left field to load the bases. Aleix Hudson grounded out to second, scoring Camarillo.
Bryant 1, Mississippi State 0
Lindsey Williams doubled to right center. Mia Davidson singled to left field, advancing Williams to third. Candace Denis grounded out to first, to score Williams and advance Davidson. Fa Leilua brought Davidson home with a double to right center. Carter Spexarth singled to center field, and Leilua scored.
Bryant 1, Mississippi State 3
Candace Denis singled through the right side. Fa Leilua doubled to right center, advancing Denis. Carter Spexarth grounded out to second, allowing Leilua to advance to third and scoring Denis. Madisyn Kennedy singled to left field to bring Leilua home.
Bryant 1, Mississippi State 5
VS. MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE SCORING RECAP
Candace Denis drew a one-out walk. Fa Leilua singled to left field, and Denis advanced to second. The Bulldogs pulled off a double steal before Chloe Malau'ulu singled to left field driving in both runners.
MVSU 0, Mississippi State 2
Lindsey Williams singled to left field, and Brylie St. Clair came on as a pinch runner. St. Clair stole both second and third base. Jackie McKenna doubled to center field, scoring St. Clair. Mia Davidson singled to center field, and McKenna advanced to third. Christian Quinn came on to run for Davidson. Candace Denis grounded out to the pitcher, to bring home McKenna and allow Quinn to reach second. Quinn then stole third base before scoring on Fa Leilua's two-run homer to center field.
MVSU 0, Mississippi State 6