TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Lesley Noel allowed just two hits in Michigan State's opening day contest against Alabama-Birmingham at the Seminole Classic Friday afternoon, leading the Spartans to a 5-1 victory at Florida State's JoAnne Graf Field. Junior designated player Caitlin Mahoney and redshirt freshman Bianca Mejia each batted in two runs, while Abby Lincoln scored on a UAB wild pitch in the fifth to seal the game.
The opening day victory is the sixth straight for MSU, dating back to the 2003 season, and is head coach Jacquie Joseph's 11th season-opening win. In MSU program history, Michigan State is 27-10 in season openers, including Joseph's 11-4 mark.
Michigan State drew first blood at the bottom of the first, and would hold the lead throughout the rest of the game. Nikki Nicosia led off with a single and quickly advanced by stealing second. After a sacrifice bunt by Kara Weigle to move Nicosia to third base, Mejia hit a sacrifice fly to left field, allowing Nicosia to score, which gave MSU a 1-0 lead.
After a scoreless second, the Spartans went back to work on offense, tallying two runs in the third inning. Jessica LeFevre opened at the plate with a single to center field, then stole second. And with Nicosia on first after being walked, a ground out by Weigle put Nicosia and LeFevre in scoring positions at second and third, respectively. Mahoney approached the plate and tallied an RBI single, scoring both of MSU's base runners and extending the Spartan lead to 3-0.
But Alabama-Birmingham (6-3) fought back in the top of the fourth; the Blazers spoiled Noels' no-hitter when Leigh Walker homered over the left field fence, but the solo shot would prove to be UAB's only run.
The Spartans rebounded in the fifth inning with the game's two final runs, as Nicosia and Lincoln crossed home plate. Nicosia walked, then advanced to second on a Weigle sacrifice bunt. Mejia singled to center field and advanced to second on the throw, while Nicosia scored. Lincoln came in to pinch run for Mejia, and on the next at bat, Lincoln advanced to third as Mahoney singled to left field. Karen Fox made her collegiate debut as a pinch runner for Mahoney, and highlighted her performance by stealing second. UAB's Jennifer Nelson gave up the game's final run with a wild pitch, allowing Lincoln to score from third. The MSU 5-1 lead held out as the final score.
Freshmen Heidi Purtzer and Jessica Bracamonte started their first games in Green and White at first base and right field, respectively, while Lindsey Hansen saw her first collegiate action as a pinch hitter for Bracamonte in the sixth inning.
Michigan State continues action tomorrow at the Seminole Classic, taking on Bethune-Cookman and Jacksonville at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., respectively. Live stats for both games are available at www.msuspartans.com.