STARKVILLE, Miss. - After 50 consecutive campus meetings in either Starkville or Hattiesburg, the Mississippi State-Southern Mississippi baseball rivalry makes a series-first stop at Trustmark Park in Pearl, Miss., Tuesday when the Bulldogs (12-5) take on the Golden Eagles (11-5) in a 6:30 p.m. neutral site matchup.
It's the first of two games in 2009 for the Bulldogs at the 5,500-seat home of Mississippi Braves, the Class AA affiliate of the Atlanta Braves' stadium. State returns to Pearl Apr. 14 for the third annual Governor's Cup game. MSU is the designated visiting team for both of its 2009 games at Trustmark Park, where State owns a 5-0 mark since 2006. MSU and USM are scheduled to meet again this season, an Apr. 8 date at Dudy Noble Field.
The Bulldogs won four of five games last week, including an SEC season-opening weekend series win over No. 17 South Carolina at Dudy Noble Field. State's 2-1 showing against the Gamecocks helped the Bulldogs climb back into the national rankings this week. Tucson-based Collegiate Baseball newspaper ranked the Bulldogs at No. 25 in its latest weekly poll, State's highest ranking since the 2008 preseason national polls.
Junior right-hander Ricky Bowen (1-0, 4.30) has been tabbed for starting mound duty against the Golden Eagles. USM is expected to counter with a split pitching crew led by sophomore righty Todd McInnis (2-1, 3.66).
State second baseman Jet Butler (.458) enjoyed a productive week at the plate for State, hitting at a .588 clip (10-for-17) with four doubles and a team-best 11 RBIs. Butler, who notched his first career four-hit and four-RBI games and tied a school mark with three doubles in last week's 9-2 win over Valparaiso, enters the week riding his second six-game hitting streak of the season and paces State at the plate with 22 hits, five doubles and 18 RBI.
The Golden Eagles' batting order is paced by senior shortstop Brian Dozier (.441), who leads USM with 30 hits and shares the team RBI lead with 19.
USM claimed both meetings in 2008, winning11-7 and 12-7 in Hattiesburg.
Mississippi State owns a 72-34 all-time series lead, including all three games played at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson from 1987 to 1989.
After playing 13 early-season home games, the Bulldogs will be on the road for nine of their next 12 games. After Tuesday's trip to Pearl, the Bulldogs return to Starkville to host the UAB Blazers (10-6) Wednesday before resuming SEC competition with a three-game weekend series Mar. 20-22 against the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, Ga. The Friday and Sunday games of the MSU-Georgia series will be televised live regionally on Comcast Sports Southeast.
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi State softball team opens the home portion of its Southeastern Conference schedule on Tuesday, welcoming the Arkansas Razorbacks for a three-game series at the MSU Softball Field. The two teams open the series with a doubleheader beginning at 3 p.m. The series finale is set for a 4 p.m. first pitch on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs (14-9, 0-3 SEC) opened the conference schedule last weekend, dropping three games to second-ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Arkansas (13-9, 2-0 SEC) comes to Starkville fresh off a sweep of South Carolina in which they out-scored the Gamecocks 11-0 in the two games.
The two teams have met 43 times previously, with MState holding a 26-17 advantage. Arkansas claimed last season's series two games to one, but State holds a 14-6 lead in games played in Starkville.
Junior Chelsea Bramlett paces a Bulldog offense that enters the series hitting .293 as a team. The Cordova, Tenn., native extended her hit streak to a career-long 16 games last weekend, and she meets the Razorbacks hitting a team second-best .513 with three doubles, six RBI and 24 runs scored. Bramlett continues her hold on the conference's stolen-base mark, improving to 29-for-32 on the year.
Sophomore Ali Bainbridge leads MState with 21 RBI. The Vestavia Hills, Ala., native has hit at a .329 clip this season and is tied for the team home run lead with junior Jessie Bailey.
Freshman Lindsey Dunlap saw all three starts for MState against the Crimson Tide. Dunlap enters her second conference series with a 6-5 record, and she leads the team with 64 strikeouts and a 2.39 ERA over 76 innings.
Dunlap will face a UA team that comes into the week hitting .258. The Razorbacks rely on Whitney Cloer to spark the bats, as she leads the team in average (.368), doubles (8), home runs (4) and RBI (16). Jessica Bachkora can present problems on the bases for opposing teams with her 11-for-11 stolen-base tally. The .338 hitter has notched six doubles and three home runs while driving in 13 runs and scoring 17 times.
Miranda Dixon is expected to see most of the action in the circle this weekend for an Arkansas staff that has been touched for a 3.48 ERA. Dixon leads the unit with a 7-2 mark on the season, and she also tops the team in ERA (2.38) and strikeouts (58).
STARKVILLE, Miss. - One week after being named first-team All-SEC by the league coaches, junior forward Jarvis Varnado received the same honor from the Associated Press.
The Brownsville, Tenn., native leads MSU with a 13.1 scoring clip and 9.0 rebounds and was instrumental in leading the Bulldogs to the SEC Tournament title, where he was named MVP after averaging 13.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and blocked 22 shots in four games that ended with an inspirational 64-61 win against Tennessee.
Varnado, who was also named the league's Defensive Player of the Year last week, leads the nation with 165 blocks, the most ever recorded by any player in the SEC in a single season.
The Bulldogs (23-12), who own a six-game winning streak, are back in action on Thursday in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Portland, Ore., where they'll face Washington (25-8) at 3:45 p.m.
MSU announced earlier on Monday it had sold its entire allotment of tickets.