STARKVILLE, Miss. - A possible berth in next week's Southeastern Conference Softball Tournament will be on the line this weekend as in-state rivals Mississippi State and Ole Miss close the regular season with a three-game league series at the MSU Softball Field. The teams open the series Saturday with a doubleheader beginning at 1 p.m. Sunday's final game is also set for a 1 p.m. first pitch.
Saturday's twin bill is being hailed "Strike Out Breast Cancer" day at the MSU Softball Field. Sunday will be Senior Day at the MSU Softball Field, with Bulldog seniors Gina McCloud, Kelsey Nurnberg and Sammie Jo Bailey being honored prior to first pitch. Admission to all home Bulldog softball games is free, and the games will be broadcast live on WMSV 91.1 FM and online at www.wmsv.msstate.edu.
Both teams enter this weekend's series fighting for the final spot in the SEC Tournament, which will be played May 7-9 in Knoxville, Tenn. Head coach Jay Miller's Bulldogs currently sit two games back of Auburn for the eighth spot, while the Rebels are a game back of the Tigers.
State (24-26, 6-19 SEC) holds a 26-17 overall advantage against the Rebels. Ole Miss (23-27, 7-18 SEC) won its second straight against the Bulldogs earlier this season in the M&F Bank Fastpitch Classic in Madison, but MSU has claimed five-straight victories over UM in SEC play. The Maroon and White holds a 14-5 advantage against the Rebels at home.
Mississippi State is looking for another big weekend from junior Chelsea Bramlett. The Cordova, Tenn., native hit .500 against Kentucky last weekend to improve her SEC-leading and NCAA third-best batting average to .485. Bramlett has hit seven doubles and two triples this season while driving in 11 runs and scoring 47 times.
Bramlett tied Iyhia McMichael's career stolen-base record (141) against UK last Friday, two days after setting the school's single-season record against Auburn. Bramlett has stolen an SEC-best 49 bases this season, an average of 0.98 per game that leads the nation.
Freshman Ka'ili Smith continued her stellar rookie campaign against the Wildcats, hitting .444 with three RBI and two runs scored.
The Kapolei, Hawaii, native enters the weekend hitting a team second-best .319. Smith's nine doubles and four triples lead the team, and her 30 RBI are tied with sophomore Ali Bainbridge for tops on the squad. Bainbridge, a .302 hitter, has hit seven doubles and a pair of triples while tying junior Jessie Bailey for the team home-run lead with four.
Another freshman, Lindsey Dunlap, hopes to close the regular season on a strong note. The Hueytown, Ala., native has won four of her last six starts en route to a 15-14 record. Dunlap, who owns a 3.36 ERA, has struck out an MSU freshman-record 146 over 193 2/3 innings.
Nurnberg enters her final home series 9-10 on the year. The Ankeny, Iowa, native has tossed 111 1/3 innings this season, allowing 88 runs (65 earned) with 76 strikeouts.
Ole Miss makes the trip to Starkville after splitting a pair of mid-week, non-conference games at Louisiana Tech on Wednesday. The Rebels rallied to claim a 5-4 win in the opener before dropping a 9-1 decision in game two.
Lauren Grill paces Ole Miss in nearly every offensive category this season. Grill enters the weekend hitting .314 with 10 doubles, 10 home runs and 32 RBI, but she has not played since the Rebels' 7-6, series-clinching win against Tennessee on April 19.
Lisa Conchos and Ashley Dowdy both homered to lead UM to the rubber-game victory over the Lady Vols. Conchos (.302) has driven in a team second-most 25 runs while tallying seven doubles, a triple and four home runs. Dowdy, a .238 hitter, ranks second on the squad with seven round-trippers and has contributed 21 RBI on the year.
Becky Nye's 15-18 record and 2.78 ERA lead the Rebel pitching staff. Nye has allowed 117 runs (89 earned) and struck out 139 over an SEC second-most 224 innings. Lindsey Perry has appeared in 23 games this season, compiling a 6-8 record and 4.19 ERA with 56 strikeouts.
Track & Field
STARKVILLE, Miss. - The Mississippi Open begins Saturday, May 2 at Ole Miss with Mississippi State's men's and women's track and field teams looking to solidify their positions for the upcoming SEC Championships.
"It's our last open meet of the year, and we're really wanting to refine our skills before heading into the SEC Championships," coach Al Schmidt said. "Plus, we still have one or two events where we need to get some qualifying times."
Two athletes in particular Schmidt is referring to are Robert Scribner and Allen Cassell. The two seniors enter Saturday's meet vying for qualifying marks in the 5,000-meter run and high jump, respectively.
Other notable contenders are Crystal Wilson in the 400-meter run, Matthew Cameron in the 800 meters and Trey Charles in the 400 meters, as well as the long jump.
After a solid showing in last week's Penn Relays, senior Marrissa Harris ranks eighth in the heptathlon and 19th in the women's 100-meter hurdles. Freshman D'Angelo Cherry ranks second in the men's 100-meter dash.
Area teams participating in the event include Birmingham Southern, UAB, Memphis, Southern Miss and UALR, as well as SEC opponents Alabama, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt.
With the SEC Championships set for May 14-17 in Gainesville, Fla., the 37th-ranked men's team and 69th-ranked women are hoping to use this weekend as a final tune up and a chance to continue training in their respective events.
Saturday's activities in Oxford begin at 11:30 a.m. with the men's hammer and the women's javelin.