STARKVILLE, Miss. – Sophomore pitcher Alexis Silkwood of East Alton has helped guide the Mississippi State Bulldogs back to the NCAA Division I Softball Tournament.
For the fourth time in as many seasons, the Bulldogs are headed to the NCAA Tournament and the Lafayette Regional for the second-consecutive season.
Mississippi State will be joined by Baylor (38-14), Big Sky Tournament Champion Weber State (38-17) and the host Louisiana-Lafayette (39-9), who earned the No. 13 overall seed in the tournament after winning the regular season Sun Belt title.
The double-elimination action will commence on Friday with Mississippi State taking on Baylor at 5:30 p.m. Weber State then plays Louisiana-Lafayette in the second game at 8 p.m.
Silkwood, a Marquette Catholic High graduate, is the Bulldogs’ top pitcher. The left-hander is 25-14 with a 2.81 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 216.2 innings. She also is hitting .338 in 80 at-bats, with three home runs and 20 RBIs.
As a freshman, she was 14-8 with a 2.18 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 153.1 innings. During her storied prep career, she established multiple IHSA records, including victories (124), shutouts (100), no-hitters (54) and strikeouts (1,907).
This season, she twice was named Southeastern Conference Pitcher of the Week. She threw her first collegiate no-hitter March 25 at Southern Mississippi.
Vann Stuedeman, the head coach at Mississippi State, has now led the Bulldogs to 33-plus wins and an NCAA Tournament berth in each of her first four seasons at the helm of the program. The Bulldogs have now reached four-straight NCAA Tournaments for just the second time in program history, with the first stretch having come from 2002 to 2005.
Mississippi State will make its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in its 19th season as a member of the Southeastern Conference, with an overall record of 11-22 in the regional round. All 12 of the appearances have come since the 2000 season. The Bulldogs have won a regional game in each of the past two seasons and have never advanced to the super regional round of play.
In the 2014 Lafayette Regional, State went 1-2 by beating Texas Southern and falling to Texas twice, but did not face host ULL. MSU is 0-3 all-time against Baylor with the two teams having met in Gulfport, Miss. in a game that the Bears won 1-0 in eight innings.
Mississippi State is 3-12 all-time vs. ULL, while Weber State and MSU never having met in the history of the two programs.
Having mounted an overall record of 35-19 and a 10-14 mark in SEC play, the Bulldogs jumped into the national rankings for the first time since 2009 as they checked in at No. 24 during week six of this season.
The SEC led all leagues with 11 teams selected to the 2015 NCAA Tournament.