A Belated Monday Morning Coffee Break

This past week was a week of hills and valleys for the Mississippi State sports program.

The Hills.....

Men's Basketball

In NCAA Tournament action, the MSU's men's basketball team, an 8 seed going in the tournament, defeated the 9 seeded Oregon Ducks Friday night 76-29, then faced No. 1 seed Memphis Tigers - ranked 2nd in the nation coming into the tournament - Sunday afternoon, losing 77-74 in a hard fought game that went down to the last second of play.

Sophomore Jarvis Varnado blocked five shots to finish the season with 157 blocks, which tied him for the Southeastern Conference's all-time single-season block record with current NBA all-star Shaquille O'Neal.

The team - which started three sophomores, one junior and one senior - finished their season 23-11 and earned a SEC Western Division title, the Bulldogs fourth in the last six years. The Bulldogs have now won 21 or more games in six of their last seven seasons.

Softball

The 21st ranked softball Bulldogs went on the road last week and won all four games, defeating in-state rivals Southern Miss on Tuesday and Ole Miss in a three-game SEC series Friday and Saturday. The softball team is now 26-9 overall and 4-5 in SEC action.

Freshman pitcher Misty Flesher won three of the four game, giving up just 3 runs (earned) on 14 hits and 3 walks while striking out 9 in 16.1 innings of work. Her ERA for the week was 1.65.

Hitting-wise, four players hit .400 or better for the week, led by freshman Courtney Nesbit who hit .600 (6-of-10, 5 RBI) and senior Hayle Guess who came in at .583 (7-of-12, 6 RBI). Following them were senior Courtney Bures with a .500 batting average (7-of-14, 3 RBI) and sophomore Chelsea Bramlett at .400 (6-of-15).

Up next is a Wednesday double-header against the 10th ranked LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge.

Track and Field

The men's and women's track and field team won overwhelming victories Saturday at the Jace Lacoste Invitational track meet held at Mississippi State. The women won their side of the meet with 93 points while the men earned 98.5 points to record their victory. Coming in second was UAB's women with 42 points and Tennessee State's men with 45.

Individually, senior Golden Coachman, the MSU 800-meter record holder, took first place with a regional qualifying time of 1 minute, 49.19 seconds. Freshman Emmanuel Mayers earned his regional qualifying mark with a first-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles (52.05). In the men's distance events, freshman Ben Blakenship finished first in the 3000-meter run with a personal-best 8:31.74. A third freshman, Ed Wesela, picked up two new personal-best marks in the shot put (53 feet, 3 inches) and discus (150-00), finishing first in both events. He was slightly less than 2 feet short of making a regional qualifying time in the shot put.

On the women's side, sophomore Bridgette Rose placed first in two events (100-meters, 100-meter hurdles) and second in a third (200-meter dash). Freshman distance runner Simone Domingue picked up a second place finish in the 1500-meter run and a first place finish in the 3000-meter run.

The track and field teams participate in the Alabama Relays at Tuscaloosa, AL Thursday and Friday, then come home to host the Bulldog Invitational next Saturday.

Women's Basketball

The MSU women's basketball team earned a first-round bye in the WNIT and will play Southern Miss on the campus of Southern Miss tonight. Gametime is set for 7 pm.

Hills and Valleys.....

Men's Tennis

The 47th-ranked Mississippi State men's tennis team, which has won 4 of its last 5 matches, defeated 70th-ranked South Carolina 4-2 at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre Friday afternoon, then traveled to Gainesville, Florida Sunday where they were defeated by the 18th-ranked Florida Gators 5-2. The Bulldogs moved to 8-6 on the year and improved to 2-4 in conference play.

Seniors Ivan Bjelica and Philippe Frayssinoux were undefeated in doubles play, while, individually No. 37 ranked Bjelica and No. 50th ranked Frayssinoux both went 2-0 for the week. Bjelica is now 12-5 overall and 4-1 in SEC play this spring while Frayssinoux has a five-match win streak, four of which are against SEC opponents.

MSU will continue action on the road next weekend as the Bulldogs travel to Lexington, Ky., Friday to face Kentucky, followed by a matchup Sunday with Vanderbilt in Nashville.

The Valleys.....

Baseball

The baseball team was swept 3-0 at South Carolina this weekend. While the pitching staff continues to battle injuries, it was the offense that didn't fare well during the weekend, scoring just 5 runs in 27 innings. While the rest of the lineup went 10-of-71 for a .141 batting average, three hitters - Mark Goforth, Grant Hogue and Jet Butler - were a combined 11-of-22 for a .500 batting average.

On the bright side, pitchers Lee Swindle, a junior college transfer from Meridian CC, highly touted freshman Forrest Moore and sophomore Tyler Whitney, who is coming back from an early-season injury, had excellent outings. Swindle, who drew the Saturday start, threw 6.1 innings, allowing 4 runs (earned) on 5 hits and 3 walks. However, going into the 7th inning, he had only allowed 1 run on two hits and 2 walks. Moore, in relief, threw 3 scoreless innings in the Sunday game. In 5 relief outings his year, he has now thrown 7.2 innings, allowing 0 runs on 2 hits and 5 walks while striking out 12. Two of the five were against ranked teams - Baylor and, of course, South Carolina. Whitney, who was appearing on the mound for only the third time this season due to the injury, threw 1.2 innings, allowing no runs on 1 hit and no walks while striking out 2.

Mississippi State is now 9-12 overall and 1-5 in SEC play. They are at home against South Alabama Tuesday and Wednesday and play a home weekend series against Georgia.

Women's Tennis

The 59th ranked Lady Bulldog tennis team were defeated on the road by 33rd ranked South Carolina and at home by the 4th ranked Lady Gators of Florida. The Lady Bulldogs dropped to 7-7 overall with the losses and 0-6 in SEC play.

Mississippi State has two home matches this coming Friday and Sunday against No. 23 ranked Kentucky on Friday and No. 11 ranked Vanderbilt Sunday afternoon to close out the 2008 Super Bulldog Weekend.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


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