STARKVILLE, Miss. - Sunday's game was a grand finale indeed to Mississippi State's series with South Carolina. The Bulldogs won by run rule on a walk-off grand slam from Madisyn Kennedy.
After falling behind, 1-0, in the top of the first, State (22-8, 3-0 SEC) proceeded to score nine unanswered runs to win in five innings.
"I think it was just a full-team effort, and they wanted to make sure they came out ready to play and not be satisfied with just the series win yesterday," head coach Samantha Ricketts. "We knew it was going to be another dog fight, and we had to bring our A game regardless of what the series was at during that time. They came out on the attack and that was evident in the first inning. I liked our at-bats a lot better. I thought we were more aggressive and ready to hit from the first inning on."
Paige Cook started the comeback with a three-run homer in the bottom of the first, and MSU never looked back. Kennedy doubled in a run in that frame as well. Aquana Brownlee homered, one of her three hits on the day, in the third, to make it a 5-1 ballgame.
With two outs in the fifth, Cook and Riley Hull walked around a Brownlee single to load the bases before Kennedy ended things with a home run to right-center field.
Matalasi Faapito picked up the win, going 3.0 innings and allowing just two hits. Reis Beuerlein finished the game, striking out three and allowing one hit.
It was the Bulldogs' sixth walk-off win of the year and second of the series, but it was also their first walk-off by run rule. State now has nine come-from-behind wins. MSU has scored at least five runs in 19 of its 22 victories this year and is 19-1 when doing so.
Madisyn Kennedy on her approach in her grand slam at-bat...
"Honestly, we knew she wasn't throwing a lot of strikes and she was struggling with the two to three batters before me, so it was just about making sure I get my pitch, see the ball and hit it well. I put a good swing on it. That really was the plan. We knew our plans. Leilani [Pulemau], she keeps the charts for us with what we see from these pitchers early on. We each knew what we were going to get, so we knew the plan going up to bat. It was just see ball hit ball."
Madisyn Kennedy on starting the SEC with a sweep...
"We're feeling great. The whole thing this week was to have each other's backs, and I think we have really taken that into everything we're doing. It's been a really great thing for our team, and we're doing it all together. We're just continuing to have each other's backs. Everyone is going to count us out, but we know what we can do. We're confident in what we do. We're just going to go out there and play softball the best we can."
Samantha Ricketts on the contributions of every teammate during the series...
"I am really proud, and it was a full-team effort on the field, the bullpen and even in the dugout. Everyone was doing their job pulling the rope especially against a team like that. One player that I think doesn't get a lot of credit because you don't see her on the box score is Leilani Pulemau. She is in the dugout doing her job, keeping charts and track of every pitcher that they threw. She played a huge part in being ready when they threw four different arms at us today. Big shoutout to her. It is definitely a big team win highlighted by Mata [Faapito] and Reis [Beuerlein] giving us a great outing in the circle, and Madi walking it off at the end."
Samantha Ricketts on how the team was different from the loss to NDSU earlier this week...
"We talk all the time about what lessons we can learn after winning and losing. I think North Dakota State was a good team, but it was a wake-up call for us to make sure we got right and where we needed to be heading into the weekend. Big credit to our upperclassmen, Chloe Malau'ulu, Kat Wallace and Aquana Brownlee. They really spearheaded the let's get this right. Let's get everybody on board going into the weekend. Overall, a lot of good leadership from upperclassmen did a tremendous job for us this week."
Paige Cook on her home run...
"I just kept it simple. We had an expectation of her coming inside, and I just decided to take it the other way since I knew what was coming. We've just been doing what we do, knowing that the big hits will come and that the small ones we just have to keep it simple and do what we know how to do."
- Reis Beuerlein - Threw the final 2.0 innings, allowing one hit ... struck out five in 5.0 innings in the series.
- Aquana Brownlee - Went 3-for-3 with a double and a solo home run ... now second on the team with five home runs.
- Paige Cook - Hit a three-run homer in her first plate appearance ... now tied for the team lead with six homers this year ... led the team with seven RBIs in the series.
- Matalasi Faapito - Threw 3.0 innings, striking out four.
- Madisyn Kennedy - Hit a walk-off grand slam in the fifth ... also doubled and drove in a run in her first plate appearance ... collected a career-high five RBIs ... game was her 18th career multi-RBI game, but first of the season.
With one out, Brooke Blankenship doubled to right-center field. She advanced to third on Zoe Laneaux's fly out and scored on Riley Blampied's single up the middle. South Carolina 1, Mississippi State 0
With one out, Macy Graf and Chloe Malau'ulu drew back-to-back walks. Paige Cook hit a three-run homer to right field. Aquana Brownlee doubled to the right center, and later scored on Madisy Kennedy's two-out double to left field. South Carolina 1, Mississippi State 4
With one out, Brownlee homered to left. South Carolina 1, Mississippi State 5
With two outs, Cook walked and advanced to third on Brownlee's single down the right field line. Kiarra Sells pinch ran for Brownlee and stole second. Riley Hull walked to load the bases before Kennedy hit a walk-off grand slam. South Carolina 1, Mississippi State 9
Mississippi State will hit the road next weekend for another conference series at No. 18/17 Georgia. The battles of the Bulldogs are set for March 24-26. Friday's first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET. Saturday's game will be played at 12 p.m. and broadcast on SEC Network. Sunday's finale is set for 2 p.m. The Friday and Sunday games will stream on SEC Network+.