News from MSU Media Relations--Mar. 7

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Softball, Baseball and Men's Basketball.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State gets set for its Southeastern Conference softball opener on Wednesday, and the Bulldogs will have four of its 2011 league games televised this season.

The Bulldogs' first television appearance comes March 20 as the Dawgs close a three-game series against Arkansas beginning at 1 p.m. on Fox Sports Net.

Last week, the opening two games of Mississippi State's April 21-23 series at Tennessee were added to the SportSouth schedule. The opening game of the Thursday-Saturday series is slated for a 6 p.m. CT first pitch, while Friday's second game is tabbed for a 5 p.m. CT start.

State returns to television the following weekend as the May 1 series finale against LSU will be aired on Fox Sports Net. First pitch for that contest is set for 1:30 p.m. at the MSU Softball Field.

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Three of Mississippi State's four home baseball games this week have new start times.

Due to the forecast of heavy rainfall expected in the region, Tuesday's scheduled 6:30 p.m. matchup with Mississippi Valley State has been moved up (from 6:30 p.m.) to 4 p.m.

To avoid possible baseball-basketball broadcast scheduling conflicts and accommodate fans desiring to follow the competitions of both teams, the MSU Athletic Department also announced Monday game time changes for the first two games of this weekend's three-game Mississippi State-Sacred Heart University baseball series. The series-opener is now set for 5 p.m. Friday while Saturday's contest has been shifted to 6 p.m. Mississippi State's Basketball Bulldogs begin competition in the 2011 SEC Basketball Tournament in Atlanta, Ga., Friday at 9 p.m. (CST).

The Bulldogs (10-3) close out their season-opening 14-game homestand with Tuesday's 4 p.m. clash with Mississippi Valley State (1-10). Junior left-hander Nick Routt, a 2009 SEC All-Freshman Team selection, is slated to make his injury-delayed 2011 season debut as State's starter Tuesday against the Delta Devils. MVSU is expected to open with senior right-hander Steven Barnes (0-2, 4.80).

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State opens its second straight five-game week of baseball Tuesday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field when the Bulldogs (10-3) host Mississippi Valley State (1-10). First pitch for the 20th renewal of the MSU-MVSU baseball rivalry is set for 4 p.m., a change from the originally-announced 6:30 p.m. start time.

Junior lefty Nick Routt, a 2009 SEC All-Freshman Team selection, is scheduled to make his injury-delayed 2011 debut as the Mississippi State starter. MVSU has tabbed senior right-hander Steven Barnes (0-2, 4.80) for game-opening mound duty. He would become the 16th Bulldog pitcher to take the mound this spring.

After besting Alcorn State 8-1 in the midweek, the Bulldogs swept a pair of games from Georgia State (8-1, 7-3) and dropped two to Iowa (5-3, 7-6) for a 3-2 worksheet on the week. During the five-game span senior catcher Cody Freeman (.421) hit .389 while senior outfielder/first baseman Ryan Collins (.302) collected a team-best eight hits. Freeman enters the week riding a six-game hitting streak. Another senior, third baseman Jarrod Parks (.400), leads the club with 18 hits and 15 RBI and has registered a hit in 11 of MSU's 13 games.

Routt drew six starts before being sidelined last March, posting a 1-1 record with a 6.52 earned run average in 19.1 innings of mound duty. He led the 2009 pitching staff as a rookie in 2009 with five wins, 87 strikeouts and 86.2 innings pitched.

Mississippi State is 19-0 all-time against Mississippi Valley State in a series that dates back to 1994. State claimed last year's meeting 16-2 at Dudy Noble Field.

The Bulldogs travel to Birmingham, Ala., Wednesday for a scheduled 6:30 p.m. meeting with UAB. Following their first road game of the year, the Bulldogs return to Starkville to open a three-game weekend series against first-time foe Sacred Heart University. Adjusted weekend game times include a 5 p.m. start for Friday's series-opener and a 6 p.m. first pitch for Saturday's MSU-SHU clash.

Men's Basketball
STARKVILLE - Mississippi State senior guard Ravern Johnson was tabbed the SEC's Co-Player of the Week following two outstanding performances against Arkansas and South Carolina.

In those two victories, the Lyon, Miss., native averaged 23 points and 5.5 rebounds.

But it was his accuracy, particularly from long range, that turned eyes as he drained 12 of his 22 attempts beyond the arc. In his last six games, he's 26 of 44 from long range.

"I've been working really hard on getting my shot back," he said. "I've just got to keep it up."

Johnson leads the Bulldogs and is fifth in the SEC with his 17.6 scoring clip, while his 80 made 3-pointers are tops as well. Against the Gamecocks on Saturday, he tied his career-high with seven treys.

He is the second Mississippi State player this season to garner player of the week honors, with junior Dee Bost achieving the feat the week of Jan. 17. Joining Johnson on Monday in receiving player of the week was Kenny Gabriel of Auburn, while Kentucky's Brandon Knight was named freshman of the week.

MSU (17-13) returns to action at 9 p.m. CT on Friday in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Atlanta against Thursday's Vanderbilt-LSU winner.

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