Janice Nicholson, who he praised for her 37 years in education.
After the awards came emotions and laughs as the seniors gave their closing remarks as Bulldogs. Coach Schaefer followed with a 40-minute speech reflecting on the careers of his group of four even reminiscing on the taco salad he was enjoying for lunch the day Vivians committed or the night he found out that Johnson was interested in MSU after announcing her transfer from Oklahoma State.
Most of all, he challenged the players sitting in the crowd that will be returning next season and asked for them to follow the lead of the four that are heading out the door.
“We replaced four seniors from last year and said, ‘what are we going to do?'" Schaefer said. “Well, we replaced 111 wins with 126 and are juniors already have 99 wins of their own.
“I cannot remember a group of players improving this late in their careers like these four seniors. This is an important summer for all of the returners. If you haven't noticed, it's onward and upward around here. The time is now.”
MSU will return five seniors for next year with Danberry, Holmes, McCowan, Jonika Garvin and Zion Campbell preparing for their final year in maroon and white. They add a top 15 signing class that includes Mississippi Gatorade Player of the Year Daphane White from St. Martin and they also bring in Connecticut transfer Andra Espinoza-Hunter, who will sit out next season.
OXFORD – A back-andforth game ended with a threerun, fifth-inning rally by Ole Miss (22-18, 5-13) as the Rebels held on for a 7-6 victory over No. 24 Mississippi State (32-12, 6-9 SEC) to take the series finale at the Ole Miss Softball Complex on Monday night.
Junior Emily Heimberger and freshman Carter Spexarth both turned in multi-hit contests as Spexarth drove in a game-high three RBI off of her first career home run.
The Bulldogs tossed four pitchers in the outing with senior Holly Ward taking the loss. The righthander tossed the final two innings, allowing one run off one hit and a walk. Ward and sophomore Candace Denis struck out teamleading three Rebels in the game.
Mississippi State moved two runners into scoring position in the bottom of the first with a one-out walk issued to freshman Mia Davidson, single to shallow left by junior Sarai Niu and a passed ball, but the Bulldogs could not push a run across.
Leading off the home half of the inning with a triple, the Rebels plated their first runs of the series by driving in a run off a fielder's choice and a single up the middle.
After going down in order in the second, Heimberger knocked a one-out single to right field before Davidson tied the game with one swing in the top of the third with her SEC-leading 15th home run of the season.
The Rebels answered in the bottom of the third, leading off with a single. An errant throw on the pick-off attempt moved the Rebel runner to third. Niu wrangled a foul out, stumbling into the visitor dugout on the play for the first out, but the run was allowed to score on the dead ball call to give Ole Miss a 3-2 lead.
Mississippi State answered in the top of the fourth with a rally of its own. Senior Morgan Bell led off the fourth with a double to left field and was lifted for sophomore pinch runner Maddie Dorsett. After moving to third on a fly out, Dorsett came home on an RBI single to left field to lock the game at 3-3.
After a single through the left side by senior Calyn Adams, Spexarth slugged her first home run of her career with a pinchhit bomb to right center to give MSU a 6-3 lead after four. The Rebels got one run back in the bottom of the fourth, plating a run on a wild pitch.
Ole Miss loaded in the bases in the bottom of fifth with no outs, Ward recorded two quick outs with a ground out at second to make the force out at home and a strikeout, but a bases-loaded walk and a two-RBI single put the Rebels back on top 7-6.
Mississippi State loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the sixth with back-to-back singles by Spexarth and Heimberger and an intentional walk to Davidson, but a fielder's choice at shortstop retire the side to keep the Bulldogs off the board.
Mississippi State's men's track and field program retained its No. 9 ranking for the third straight week on Monday.
The Bulldogs have now been ranked inside the top 10 for three consecutive weeks for the fourth time since 2008. It is the first time since 2015 that MSU has been a top 10 team for three weeks in a row.
“We're here to stay,” State head coach Steve Dudley said. “I've been saying that we're built better for the outdoor season. Now, these kids are getting respect for how they've performed.”
MSU is coming off a weekend at the Tennessee Relays that saw it win four individual events and both the men's and women's 4x400 meter relays.
The Bulldogs will have a weekend off before heading to the Penn Relays on April 26-28 in Philadelphia, Pa.
Mississippi State head women's basketball coach Vic Schaefer, left in top photo, and his staff listen as the 2018 seniors class of Blair Schaefer, bottom photos from left, Roshonda Johnson, Victoria Vivians and Morgan William give their senior remarks at Monday night's MSU Women's Awards Banquet at the Mill Conference Center.