Mississippi State softball upsets No. 2 Florida State, advances to host super regional
Samantha Ricketts made her ambitions clear heading into the season: Mississippi State softball wanted to host postseason play.
They were bold aspirations at the time. The Bulldogs were on an upward trajectory on the field and in the recruiting trails, but they were playing from behind in a conference loaded with talent. Earning a top-16 seed through the SEC grind would be difficult, especially for a program which had never done it before.
Those goals appeared to be out of the picture when MSU was placed as a No. 2 seed in the Tallahassee Regional. Then, the Bulldogs made a magical run.
After beating No. 2 Florida State (54-7) twice Sunday, Mississippi State (37-25) will be hosting a super regional in Starkville. Arizona (36-20), a No. 3 seed in the Columbia Regional, took down No. 15 Missouri on Sunday to advance. Game 1 is Friday (11 a.m., ESPNU) with Game 2 on Saturday (3 p.m., ESPNU) and Game 3 if necessary on Sunday.
"It's just unreal," MSU pitcher Annie Willis said in her postgame interview with ESPN. "It's just something that we've dreamed of as a program. The fact that we get to be able to give Coach Ricketts this opportunity and the fans is just amazing."
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MSU opened the regional with a 4-0 loss against No. 3 seed South Florida. Georgina Corrick, one of the nation's top arms, shut down the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State needed two wins Saturday to keep its season alive. MSU handled No. 4 seed Howard before a rematch against USF.
Corrick was back on the mound, but only for an inning. An injury kept her out of USF's loss against Florida State earlier Saturday, and she was unable to get past an inning against Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs took advantage of Corrick's absence en route to a 6-0 win.
"This team is just so determined, and so hard-working," outfielder Brylie St. Clair told reporters postgame. "It's really fun to play with them and play for them."
Florida State defeated Howard on Friday before beating South Florida, so FSU entered Sunday needing one win. Mississippi State needed two because of the double-elimination format.
The Bulldogs, behind a complete game from Aspen Wesley, took the first game 5-0 to snap the Seminoles' 24-game regional winning streak.
Florida State jumped on Wesley in the second game, scoring twice and knocking her out before MSU could record an out. The Seminoles led 3-1 through four before the Bulldogs sparked a rally.
MSU utilized a three-run fifth to take a lead it wouldn't let up. Chloe Malau'ulu, with a two-run, one-out single, delivered the winning hit — the biggest hit in Mississippi State softball history.
“She has just been hot," catcher Mia Davidson said. "She's been hot all the time. You know, you can always put any pressure on Chloe and she’s going to get it done. She's one heck of a ball player and you just know she's going to get it done no matter what. She's amazing.”
Kenley Hawk gave the Bulldogs two innings and allowed one run before Willis took over for the last four innings where she kept the Seminoles scoreless.
The trip to Tallahassee was MSU's 17th regional since 2000. Prior to this century, the Bulldogs had never been. They had played into the final day of a regional five times but never forced a winner-take-all game.