MSU Launches '09 Baseball Campaign Friday

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State University raises the curtains on its 119th season of baseball and ushers in the John Cohen coaching era Friday when the Bulldogs entertain the Northern Illinois Huskies at Dudy Noble Field, Polk-DeMent Stadium.

The game is the second of the day in the BankFirst Baseball Challenge for NIU, which opens the three-day, six-game event with a 1 p.m. contest against North Florida. State plays a pair of games Saturday, testing North Florida at Noon and Northern Illinois at 4 p.m. The Bulldogs close out the weekend Sunday with a 2:30 p.m. matchup against North Florida.

Head coach John Cohen returns to a Mississippi State baseball uniform for the first time since concluding his playing career at MSU in the 1990 College World Series. He earned All-SEC honors as an outfielder during his three-year State career (1988-90) and has coached on the collegiate level the past 17 years, the last five at the University of Kentucky. Cohen was named MSU's 16th head baseball coach last June following the retirement of longtime Bulldog skipper Ron Polk.

"I am sure that when I walk out there on that field through that tunnel, there will be a little bit of emotion," said Cohen. "This is where I have always wanted to be. It's a very special place to me."

Cohen has tabbed junior right-hander Ricky Bowen for starting mound duties Friday against NIU. The Jasper, Ala., native led the Bulldog pitching staff with 73.1 innings pitched, 64 strikeouts and 13 starts in 2008.

Mississippi State returns 20 lettermen and 21 of the 30 Diamond Dogs that drew starts at various times during the 2008 season.

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