News from MSU Media Relations--Apr. 13, 2012.

The latest sports news from the MSU Media Relations Department...Softball, MSU Athletics, Women's Tennis, Men's Tennis and Football.

Softball
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Magnolia madness will consume the state of Mississippi this weekend as the Mississippi State softball team (22-19, 5-14 SEC) travels north to Oxford for a three-game conference clash against in-state rival Ole Miss (16-21, 3-11 SEC). Free audio streaming of all three games this weekend will be available through HailStateTV at www.hailstate.com/hstvlive.

Friday's series opener is scheduled for 6 p.m., with Saturday's game beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday's 1 p.m. series finale will be broadcast live on FOX Sports South and will mark MSU's first game on television this season. Dave Baker will serve as the play-by-play announcer and National Pro Fastpitch League Commissioner Cheri Kempf will handle the color analyst duties.

"From all accounts, Ole Miss is a fiery squad that is led by a coach who coached her team to a NCAA Regional last year," Head Coach Vann Stuedeman said. "Since my first day of work in Starkville, everyone has stressed to me just how important this series is to the people of our state, so I am definitely looking forward to my first experience in this rivalry."

Mississippi State owns a commanding 31-20 advantage over Ole Miss all-time, including a 12-10 record in Oxford. The last time the two in-state foes met was April 1-3, 2011, when the Maroon and White won two out of three games in Starkville at the MSU Softball Stadium (L 0-6, W 3-0, W 9-3). As a true freshman playing against the Rebels, Sam Lenahan hit .333 with a home run, double and three RBIs.

The last time the two schools met in Oxford, State won by an 11-5 margin on March 21, 2010. During that three-game series, MSU shortstop Erin Nesbit went off, going 4-for-8 (.500) with a double, triple, two RBIs, two runs and two walks. While the series is tied at five in the last 10 meetings, MSU has won 10 of the last 15 between the Magnolia State rivals.

Although they are in their first year as head coaches, Stuedeman and Ole Miss' Windy Thees are no stranger to each other. As an assistant coach last year at Alabama, Stuedeman's squad defeated Thees' Memphis squad by a 7-1 margin at the NCAA Tuscaloosa Regional on May 21, 2011. Picking up the win in the circle for Stuedeman was four-time All-American and two-time SEC Pitcher of the Year Kelsi Dunne, who is currently a volunteer assistant for the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs are ranked 33rd in the third NCAA RPI rankings of 2012, released April 9 by the NCAA. With most teams inside the top 40 making the NCAA Tournament, it was a good sign for MSU, who has already played 18 games against teams in the RPI Top-25. State's 22 wins are only two away from tying last year's overall win total of 24 in 56 games played. Through 41 games a season ago, MSU owned a 20-21 overall record.

All-SEC candidate Brittany Bell is a big reason for the turnaround, leading the SEC in on-base percentage (.568) and ranking second in slugging percentage (.762). Both clips are in the top three all-time for a single season in Starkville. Placing eighth in the country in OBP as of April 9, Bell has reached base safely in 38 of 41 games this year.

Also helping out Stuedeman's squad in the slugging department is fellow All-SEC favorite Jessica Cooley. The left fielder's 13 home runs in 2012 are tied with Bulldog legend Kellie Wilkerson for fourth-most in school history for a single season, with everyone above her on the list eventually earning All-America honors. The junior's 0.32 home runs per game average is currently on pace to break All-American Iyhia McMichael's school record of 0.28 set in 2003, while her .707 slugging percentage is currently sixth-highest all-time at MSU for a single season. No one in the country has had a better last six at-bats than Cooley, who is a perfect 6-for-6 with seven RBIs, four home runs and two doubles.

The Rebels of Oxford are led at the plate by sophomore RT Cantillo, who leads UM with a .374 batting average to go along with 25 RBIs for 2012. Redshirt freshman shortstop Allison Brown paces the team in RBIs however with 30 driven in. In the circle Ole Miss' Kendall Bruning (12-11) anchors the pitching staff with a 4.07 ERA and 13 complete games. The senior righty has struck out a team-high 105 batters in 137.2 innings of work.

Following the SEC West showdown, Starkville's Team takes to the road once more on Tuesday, April 17, for a 6 p.m. first pitch against Southern Miss. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m.

For more information regarding MSU softball, follow the team on Twitter at @MStateSB and like the team at Facebook.com/MStateSB.


MSU Athletics
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State Athletics has announced the launch of HailState Social Rewards, a first-of-its-kind social media engagement platform where Bulldog fans can show their support for Mississippi State Athletics and individual Bulldog sports teams, while earning rewards in the process.

Developed in partnership with Lodestone Sports, the leader in social media programs for college sports, fans receive points for participating in social media activities through Mississippi State's official social media accounts. Activities include "liking" Facebook posts, commenting, sharing, tweeting hashtags, re-tweeting, checking in on Foursquare or Facebook, scanning student cards, posting photos and taking in-game polls with Social Stadium Twitter promotions.

Fans can also gain points by taking polls, signing up for promotions, printing coupons and more on official Mississippi State Team Facebook Pages.

The program tracks overall point leaders, athletics leaders and individual team leaders for every sport in which the Bulldogs compete. This will allow Mississippi State to create a unique experience and promotion for each, drive awareness to Bulldog sports and reward fans for each of its teams.

All users need to do to participate is sign up at www.hailstatesocialrewards.com, connect to Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, start engaging on Mississippi State Athletics' official social media accounts and attend Mississippi State athletic events.

Grand prizes will include running through the tunnel with the football team, iPads and an autographed ball from a coach of the fan's choice. Fans at the top of the leaderboard for each sport will be entered into a chance to win one of the prizes.

The first promotion will end on July 31, 2012, and others will follow. In addition, HailState Social Rewards will be adding new social platforms, mobile integration and other ways to gain points in the future.

Mississippi State continues to be a pioneer on the social media landscape among collegiate athletic departments with this program.

To start earning points now, fans can join the fun at www.hailstatesocialrewards.com.


Women's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - In their last home match of the 2012 season, Mississippi State's women's tennis squad looks to end the regular season on a positive note Saturday with an upset of in-state rival Ole Miss. Competition is set to begin at Noon at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre.

For the Lady Bulldogs, currently standing at 7-12 on the season (1-9 in SEC) and 72nd nationally, this will be the last conference match-up before the SEC Tournament begins on April 19. The Lady Rebels (15-7, 7-3 SEC) come into the match ranked 16th nationally.

Sophomore Alexandra Perper will lead MSU's team into battle from the No. 1 position. Perper, standing at 11-7 in dual action, may pair up against Ole Miss' court one mainstay, Krisiti Boxx, for the second year in a row. Boxx, nationally ranked at No. 9 in singles play, defeated Perper 6-4, 6-2 in last year's match against the Lady Bulldogs.

Saturday will also be Senior Day, as Mississippi State recognizes outgoing senior Olesya Tsigvintseva prior to the contest.

Live scoring for this match will be available through hailstate.com, and twitter will also be available via @mstateWT.


Men's Tennis
STARKVILLE, Miss. - With a share of the SEC West title already clinched, Mississippi State's ninth-ranked men's tennis squad (17-5, 8-2 SEC) seeks to win the Western Division outright as they face No. 14 rival Ole Miss (11-6, 7-3 SEC) in Oxford on Saturday. Match time is slated for 1 p.m. CT at the Palmer Salloum Tennis Center on the Ole Miss campus.

State also claimed the SEC Western Division outright in 2011. Equally important Saturday will be the battle for position in the seedings for the 2012 SEC Men's Tennis Championship, which MSU will host April 19-22 during Super Bulldog Weekend on campus.

Leading the charge for MSU this weekend is a trio of seniors in 12th-ranked Artem Ilyushin, No. 40 Louis Cant and 60th-ranked George Coupland. These three seniors have combined for a 49-11 dual-match record and 23-7 in SEC play.

Also earning a spot in the latest rankings is 68th-ranked sophomore Malte Stropp who has earned a career 15-5 SEC record thus far.

In doubles, MSU is led by the 39th-ranked duo of Louis Cant and Malte Stropp who is followed by the No. 53 pair of George Coupland and Artem Ilyushin.

Ole Miss is led by 14th-ranked freshman Nik Scholtz, with No. 27 Marcel Theimann, 49th-ranked Jonas Lutjen and No. 72 William Kallberg backing him up. The Theimann duo leads the Rebel charge in doubles at 16th followed by the No. 35 duo of Lutjen and Scholtz.

The Bulldogs have taken the last two meetings over UM with the most recent being a hard-fought, 4-2 win at the River Hills Cup in February in Jackson.

Live stats for Saturday's contest will be available through www.hailstate.com. Also, follow @mstateMT on Twitter for live updates.


Football
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State athletic department announced Thursday the 2012 football schedule poster will feature images of head coach Dan Mullen along with Johnthan Banks, Josh Boyd, Corey Broomfield, Gabe Jackson, Cam Lawrence, Tyler Russell and Chris Smith. The posters will first be available at Super Bulldog Weekend presented by Regions, with the Bulldog football team holding an autograph session during Fan Fair at 11 a.m. in The Junction prior to the Maroon-White Spring Game on April 21.

Included with each home game listed on the schedule are designations of which color fans are encouraged to wear, including maroon five times while wearing white twice.

"We hear every week from our fans asking what color to wear to each game, so we wanted to make it easier for everybody to be on the same page," director of athletics Scott Stricklin said. "Our fans have been amazing in their participation in creating an unbelievable atmosphere at Davis Wade Stadium and we hope to build upon that even more this year."

Mississippi State will ask fans to wear maroon for home dates against Jackson State, Auburn, Middle Tennessee and Arkansas, while one side will wear white and the other maroon for the Tennessee contest. Against both South Alabama and Texas A&M, the athletic department will encourage the crowd to wear white.

"There's no doubt that our fans have created a home field advantage for us with 16 consecutive sellouts," head coach Dan Mullen said. "When everybody is wearing the same color it just shows the unity we have, that everybody is pulling in the same direction."

For the Nov. 3 contest against Texas A&M, the first time ever the two teams will play at Mississippi State, the Bulldogs will wear special white uniforms to commemorate the last meeting between the two Land Grant institutions. In December 2000, Mississippi State won a 43-41 overtime battle in what became widely known as the "Snow Bowl," and head coach Jackie Sherrill and members of the 2000 team will be recognized at the game.


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