STARKVILLE - Mississippi State's softball team won its fourth straight SEC contest on Wednesday, taking both games of a doubleheader from No. 15 Tennessee.
State won Game 1 on a two-run double from Carter Spexarth then put six runs on the board in the first inning of Game 2 and cruised to a midweek sweep.
With the win, MSU snapped Tennessee's streak of four straight SEC series victories and earned its highest-ranked win since upsetting then-No. 7 Florida, 4-2, on May 4, 2019.
It also marked three years to the day since MSU's last win over a ranked Tennessee squad, a 10-3 victory over the then-No. 7 Lady Vols in 2018.
The Bulldogs (29-22, 5-15 SEC) held the Lady Vols (38-10, 11-9 SEC) scoreless through the first six innings of the day before allowing a run on a double in the seventh.
Spexarth's double came on the heels of Montana Davidson reaching on a dropped third strike, and Fa Leilua drawing a walk.
State's defense showed up in the sixth to protect the lead with two highlight-reel plays in the outfield. Brylie St. Clair made a diving catch in the gap with a runner on second and one out. Two pitches later, Chloe Malau'ulu brought back a home run in front of the left-field foul pole.
"One thing we talked about after the end of the first one was to make sure that we weren't satisfied with one game and to come out and play hard," head coach Samantha Ricketts. "It's really been the message for the last few weeks. The first inning and first pitch is just as important as the last inning, and we have to not wait until the seventh to make something happen.
"We've had a lot more action in the first inning the last few weeks. It was good for them to come out and attack. The big ball by Fa and some other base hits, but also being able to find ways on through walks, HBP's, and other ways to manufacture offense for us up and down the lineup."
Leilua homered in the bottom of the first to kick off Game 2, and six more Bulldogs reached base as MSU rallied for four more runs on three singles, a walk, a fielder's choice and an error.
In the circle, Emily Williams went the distance in Game 1, striking out seven with just one walk. Annie Willis earned her 15th win of the year in Game 2, tossing 4.0 innings before Alyssa Loza came on for a 3.0 inning save.
Samantha Ricketts on winning games late in the season: "You always want to be playing your best ball at the end of the season. It's something you talk about, getting hot at the right time. For the team to continue to buy in, not quit or lay down and say 'There's always next year,' when I think many people would have expected us to, that's what I'm most proud of. We continue to fight and scratch and claw, even when it's not pretty, and compete.
"Now, I think we're starting to see things turn our way. The work that they continue to put in, even through the low parts and losses, is really paying off right now. It's been a lot of fun to see that pay off for them and for them to continue to want to compete and fight every single day."
Carter Spexarth on scoring six runs in the first inning of the second game: "I think our mindset was just 'attack.' We knew that game one was their number one [pitcher]. We had gotten her out in the first game, so we were just excited to see someone else and jump on that and take advantage of the situation as much as we could."
Carter Spexarth on her two-run double in the first game: "I was just looking for a strike at that point. I'm pretty sure she walked Fa [Leilua] in front of me and Montana [Davidson]. I think they were two freebies that she gave up. I knew she was going to have to attack me. I was waiting for her to leave a good pitch and with two outs, do what I can."
- Fa Leilua - Hit her 18th home run of the season and the 68th of her career ... Leads the SEC with 45 walks.
- Carter Spexarth - Drove in MSU's only runs in the Game 1 victory while going 2-for-3 ... Now has eight doubles on the year ... Went 1-for-1 and was walked and hit by a pitch in Game 2.
- Brylie St. Clair - Had a career-high three putouts in Game 1, including a game-saving diving catch in the sixth inning.
- Emily Williams - Threw a complete game, allowing just one run ... Struck out seven and walked one.
Game 1 Scoring Recap
Montana Davidson reached first on a dropped third strike and advanced to second on a Fa Leilua walk. Montana Davidson and Leilua scored on a double to right center from Carter Spexarth. Mississippi State 2, Tennessee 0
Madison Webber doubled to right field. Anna Fox pinch ran for Webber and scored on a double from Amanda Ayala. Mississippi State 2, Tennessee 1
Game 2 Scoring Recap
Chloe Malau'ulu reached on an error and scored on a Fa Leilua home run to left field. Carter Spexarth singled to right field. Spexarth was pushed to second on an Addison Purvis single. Paige Cook walked to load the bases. Madisyn Kennedy singled, scoring Spexarth. Jackie McKenna then grounded into a fielder's choice that saw Kennedy retired at second while Purvis scored. Montana Davidson reached on a throwing error by the shortstop that allowed Cook to come home. McKenna later scored on a wild pitch. Mississippi State 6, Tennessee 0
Kiki Milloy singled up the middle, stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher. Milloy scored on a Madison Webber sacrifice fly to center field. Mississippi State 6, Tennessee 1
Amanda Ayala singled to left field and advanced to second on a left field error. Ayala scored on a double to right field from Ashley Morgan. Mississippi State 6, Tennessee 2
MSU's final regular-season series comes at home this weekend as the Bulldogs host No. 22 Georgia for three games on May 7-9. The Friday night contest will include a pregame graduation ceremony for those Bulldogs who earned their degrees this semester, and first pitch is set for 5 p.m. CT on SEC Network.
Saturday's game is also set to be nationally televised on the SEC Network, beginning at 1 p.m. CT. The series finale on Sunday will include pregame Senior Day ceremonies with first pitch set for 1 p.m. CT.