Winkfield shines in return to Nusz Park

By JOEL COLEMAN

sports@starkvilledailynews.com

No matter what color jersey Kayla Winkfield wears, the hits just keep coming.

The former Mississippi State infielder, now a member of the Pennsylvania Rebellion of National Pro Fastpitch, came back to her old stomping grounds of MSU’s Nusz Park on Friday night and came through with a pair of hits to lead her new team to a 6-2 victory over the USSSA Pride.

“It’s just really good to be able to play in front of these fans again,” Winkfield said in the moments following the win. “They’ve become family. It’s really good to be able to share my success with them.”

Winkfield’s biggest contribution of the contest came in the top of the second. After the Rebellion scored a couple of runs earlier in the frame to take a 2-0 lead, Winkfield stepped up to the plate and delivered a two-out, two run double into the left-centerfield gap that doubled the advantage. As Winkfield slid in to third on the play following a throw to home plate, the Nusz Park crowd, many of whom were clad in maroon and white, got the chance to roar for their former Bulldog one more time.

Winkfield’s former head coach was one of the many in attendance making noise.

“I was sitting and had a candy bag in my hand and I was jumping up and candy was flying everywhere,” Mississippi State head softball coach Vann Stuedeman said. “I was fired up.”

Winkfield added another hit, a single, later in the game.

Big hits like Friday night’s are nothing new for Winkfield. In her senior year with MSU this past season, she led the Bulldogs with 59 total hits and a .330 batting average.

The Giddings, Texas native has maintained her mastery at the plate with the Rebellion. Entering play on Friday, Winkfield was leading her new club in total hits and batting average as well.

Such dominance has been welcomed by Rebellion head coach Craig Montvidas.

“She’s just been great,” Montvidas said. “We’ve got a quality person. That’s where it starts. She’s well-disciplined, gets along with her teammates and she can flat out play. We’re thrilled and she’s doing a great job for us.”

Winkfield’s teammates helped make her Friday night homecoming special. Brittany Gomez produced two hits including a homer and three RBI for the Rebellion. Starting pitcher Miranda Kramer earned the win with 5 2/3 solid innings in which she allowed seven hits, but only one run.

Through it all though, the star of the show was Winkfield.

“This was very cool for her,” Montvidas said. “It’s the kind of thing you dream about. It usually goes the other way, but she put on a show for the hometown crowd.”

Friday night eased some of the pain of Winkfield’s last experience on the field at Nusz Park. Last month, as member of the Bulldogs, Winkfield’s collegiate career concluded with a loss at home in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

A few weeks later, though wearing a different uniform, Winkfield finally got the chance to close out her personal chapter in Starkville the right way.

“I’m so glad that her last game on the field, she goes out a winner,” Stuedeman said. “She gets to play here and win and it be an awesome experience. Hopefully we’ll get to see her play again. If not, we’ll cherish this moment forever.”

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