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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Softball honors seniors, prepares for Razorbacks

Leon Carrubba
Sam Lenahan

Senior weekend honors players who have done so much for their teams. Some seniors provide leadership, some seniors provide on-the-field experience, some seniors make clutch hits or big plays and some seniors affect the team by simply being who they are. 

Sam Lenahan, however, has provided all of these components for the Mississippi State University softball team. The four-year letterman has been one of the most consistent players in her time with the Dogs, from earning All-SEC Freshman Team honors her first season to being named to the NFCA All-South Region First Team her sophomore year and leading the team with a .324 batting average her junior year.

Even though she threw out a league-best 21 runners stealing as a freshman catcher, she has rotated between third base, first base and her natural position at catcher during her four years.

Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said Lenahan exhibits the qualities of the ideal MSU softball player.

“I really think the essence of Sam Lenahan is she’s a total team player,” Stuedeman said. “She’s done whatever we’ve asked her to do for our program in the best interest of our program, and it takes players that are willing to put the team above themselves to build a program, and that’s what she’s done.”

Lenahan’s clutch hits have come game after game for the Dogs, but no hit was more important than one she knocked out of the park last weekend. The Bulldogs had been no-hit through six innings in the series opener against No. 4 Tennessee when freshman Caroline Seitz opened up the seventh inning with a base knock. Still a scoreless game, Lenahan came to the plate and blasted what she called the hardest hit ball of her career for a two-run home run as the Dogs went on to claim the victory 2-0. 

MSU dropped game two to the Vols but came back to win the series finale and claim its second-straight series win against a top-25 opponent.

This memorable weekend followed Lenahan’s most unforgettable moment in her Bulldog career. The previous weekend, MSU took the series from No. 2 Alabama in Starkville. After a walk-off hit to win game three and  series, the coaches and players celebrated by jumping into Chadwick Lake.

Lenahan said that game will be a story she tells the rest of her life, celebrating with the people she loves most.

“All the teammates that I’ve had the past four years — I can definitely call all of them sisters. It’s just a family here, not just here on the field but even outside. This town definitely feels like home to me, and I will always call Starkville a second home,” she said.

This family Lenahan loves grew even bigger two years ago when now-seniors Logan Foulks and Alison Owen transferred to MSU. Foulks, who played travel softball with Lenahan before college. 

She came to MSU from the University of North Carolina and led the team with 13 home runs in her first season. Bulldog starting pitcher Owen stayed in the SEC, coming to MSU from the University of Georgia. The standout pitcher is just two strikeouts away from breaking the all-time career strikeouts record at MSU — in just two seasons with the team.

Lenahan said these two key players jumped right in with the team when they came their junior year.

“When they came in, everyone accepted them and treated them as our own,” she said. “It’s not like they were ever outsiders to anyone, and I think that’s a testimony to the team that we love each and every one of us the same.”

In addition to Lenahan, seniors Rachael Zdeb, Heidi Shape, Jessica Offutt and Shana Sherrod have spent four seasons with the Dogs. Shape, who has started all 50 games for MSU this year, said while the last two series wins have been great, a perfect end to her senior year would include winning the College World Series.

“When I finish I’m going to take the friendships, but some of the lessons softball has taught and the mindsets we’ve been introduced to — like controlling the controllables and those things — I think will be really beneficial in the work force,” Shape said. “Getting knocked down and getting back up — you do that all the time in sports, and I think that will happen later on in life, so I’ll be well-prepared for that.”

Shape and the Bulldogs have one final home series this weekend against Arkansas and one last road series at LSU next weekend before the SEC Tournament and a potential “perfect ending” World Series run can take place for the Bulldog seniors.

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Softball honors seniors, prepares for Razorbacks